Lindsay Campbell’s Next Act: Branded Entertainment

Lindsay Campbell, one of the early faces of web video as the host of Wallstrip, which was bought by CBS in 2007 for $4 million, is back on the PC screen today with a new show, Small Business Rules for Next New Networks.

smallbusinessrulesThe show is branded entertainment for American Express and will be distributed on the company’s “Open Forum Idea Hub” site. In a departure for Next New Networks, episodes won’t be posted on YouTube, with the thinking that the content is designed for small business owners coming directly to the American Express microsite, rather than random passerby video surfers. Each episode aims to provide a specific “rule” from a profitable or otherwise successful small business from around the country, including Thrillist, CafeMom, Etsy and the Myriad Restaurant Group. One to two new installments are scheduled to come out each week through the fall.

Given Campbell has been largely off the radar since her CBS web show Moblogic was canceled, we checked in with her today. She and the original Wallstrip producers Adam Elend and Jeff Marks have all left CBS at this point, and formed their own digital studio Bright Red Pixels earlier this year. However, Elend and Marks continue to work out of the CBS offices in New York through an overhead deal with the network. Though Campbell said her heart is in web content — with Small Business Rules and an upcoming branded show for CBS her main projects right now — she’s currently out on “sabbatical” in Los Angeles shooting television commercials, which has the side benefit of keeping her health insurance current through the Screen Actors Guild.

Campbell said in retrospect she felt the Wallstrip buy was overshadowed by CBS’ acquisition of CNET a year later. Of Wallstrip and Moblogic, she said, “It’s too bad we didn’t make the shows longer and better and I’m disappointed by that.” Of course, she said she is grateful the deal happened at all — it remains one of the most successful financial outcomes for a web show, ever.

By employing themselves independently at Bright Red Pixels, Campbell, Elend and Marks are getting closer to producing the kind of web shows they want to make, including branded shows as well as yet-to-debut original narrative productions made with an angel-funding model.

While Small Business Rules is, indeed, branded content, it’s the result of Bright Red Pixels’ learning from the branded series they pursued while at CBS. (Wallstrip and Moblogic were both standalone shows supported by advertising and brand integration.) Saturn’s Novel Adventures, she said, was a large driver of traffic to Saturn’s web site, but “As a content creator I was really frustrated that it wasn’t a good show, and we didn’t have much control over making good content. If you let your work be compromised by the advertising, there’s no point.” A later project, Heckle U for Procter & Gamble’s Head & Shoulders, gave Campbell et al a higher degree of control over their content, but not enough.

Can Small Business Rules successfully balance branding and independence? That remains to be seen, as American Express has yet to post the first episode. From what I’ve seen in previews, the show is snazzily produced, but a little vague on the takeaways for small business owners; Campbell says these will get clearer in later episodes.

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