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When it comes to creating sketch comedy and spoofs for web video, the guys at Landline TV are relative newbies, having only been working together since August 2008. But since that time they’ve become a dominant force in creating incredibly topical yet notably creative viral video with high production value — including recent million-view baby Little Jersey Shore and most recently, a parody of Google’s first Super Bowl ad.
I spoke to co-creator Jared Neumark over IM about the differences between working with partners Babelgum and Revision3, the realities of low-budget production for the web and the secret to creating the classic viral video. An edited version of our conversation is below.
NewTeeVee: So when did you three [Paul Briganti, Saj Pothiawala, and Neumark] first team up?
Jared Neumark: Shortly after the Sarah Palin nomination was announced — which was pretty good material. Our first video, Hockey Moms For Truth, went viral and got on The O’Reilly Factor — which was a sign to us that this voice we were trying to create had a place on the web.
NewTeeVee: How would you define that voice?
Neumark: I think we wanted a satirical, slightly edgy voice. Something a little older than College Humor and more Internet-friendly than Saturday Night Live.
NewTeeVee: So 2008 was the first time you guys had really done any web video?
Neumark: For the most part. When we started with the first video, we hadn’t formally decided to make it a business. After making a few and seeing some success, we started trying to do it full time.
NewTeeVee: When would you say that came about?
Neumark: Probably about three months in. We kind of used the first year to establish ourselves. We weren’t making much money — I think we only had one five video deal with Atom and sold a couple of sparse videos. Most of our videos we released on YouTube independently.
NewTeeVee: Was a five-video deal with Atom in 2008 enough to live on at that time?
Neumark: Hah, no, since there were three of us. Paul had a part-time temping job, I was working part-time at a humor blog and Saj had been laid off from his law clerk job, so he was on unemployment for a little bit.
NewTeeVee: So when were you able to go actually for-real full time?
Neumark: About October of ’09. We got a two-video-a-month deal with Babelgum which is great because there’s some stability there. Then we did a branded campaign for a shared office space company called Regus that allowed us to put some money away. So we’re trying to do a few more branded campaigns to help supplement our revenue. They’re a little difficult to get as a small outside company. But we have a few agents and ad people trying to help us out, so I’m hopeful we’ll land something.
NewTeeVee: What’s striking about your web presence is that because you don’t have a consistent cast, and you play with so many different styles, I don’t immediately recognize one of your videos when I see it.
Neumark: Yeah, that can make it a little difficult to have a clear brand.
NewTeeVee: So how have you worked to develop your brand, given that obstacle?
Neumark: I guess we’re hoping that the more videos we have that go viral and get posted on blogs, the more people will retain our name.
NewTeeVee: You currently have at least two regular distribution partners — Babelgum and Revision3. Do you approach creating content for them differently?
Neumark: A little differently, yeah. Babelgum doesn’t distribute on YouTube and they’re more concerned with getting views. So if we think an idea is funny but doesn’t have viral potential, we’ll probably keep it for Rev3.
Rev3 is more of a partner than a client, because we get to keep our YouTube page — which is very important. In future Internet dollars, I think having a large subscriber base will be the key metric. So I guess we don’t want to only direct our big hits to Babelgum, since we want to keep building our YouTube fan base.
Also, Babelgum pays a flat fee while Revision3 is a revenue share deal, so it’s conflicting models. But Rev3 hasn’t sold premium sponsorships for our show yet, so it’s really important for us to keep Babelgum happy. But it’s hard to sell us because one video will get over a million views and the next will get 10,000 — as opposed to DIGGnation, which constantly gets 100,000s of views. So we understand why they haven’t sold it yet.
NewTeeVee: But between Babelgum and Rev3, you’re doing OK?
Neumark: Yeah. We could use a little more capital to grow — we want to hire this part-time Landline member, who is our animator, to do that full-time, but need to find another deal to afford it.
NewTeeVee: How do you go about cultivating relationships with blogs who might help spread your videos?
Neumark: I just email them when we have a video that relates to something they might post about, and try to foster good relationships, not annoy them too much, thank them, etcetera.
NewTeeVee: But at this point, that traffic is key?
Neumark: Yeah, for the most part. We try to make content that appeals to blogs because now, with so many videos out there, it’s hard to get enough critical views for something to go viral, unless it’s distributed on some well-trafficked sites.
NewTeeVee: What would you say is the biggest video you’ve ever done, in terms of viewcounts?
Neumark: Our Megan Fox one. That has over 6 million but I think a decent portion came from 18-24 year old dudes. The Jersey Shore one might be next. Not sure the exact count but that seemed to be passed around the most.
NewTeeVee: So if you were to disclose one secret to creating a viral video, what would it be?
Neumark: I’d say it’s a two-part answer. First, the topic should be something people care about and has some buzz. Second, the format needs be unique and interesting — or you need to be making a point that people agree with but haven’t really voiced yet.
Or you put BABIES IN IT!
Agree with LandlineTV’s tips? Tell us in the comments!