5 Questions With…EQAL’s Miles Beckett

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This week’s Five Questions has a timely nature, as EQAL’s Co-Founder and CEO Miles Beckett and his team just had a big anniversary. Four years ago, lonelygirl15 debuted, changing what people thought about online video forever. Below, Beckett talks up Foursquare, shares a profoundly moving video and considers what he might have done differently with the seminal web series he co-created.

1. What’s the one big issue/law/attitude/restriction that you think is holding back the industry?

I am most passionate about the creative side of the industry, and I think the biggest thing holding us back right now is a lack of imagination. Everyone is focused on making money, and I’ll be the first to admit that I’m guilty of this as well. On the distribution side of the industry, we’re trying to create repeatable formats that we can sell to advertisers and guarantee a return on their marketing dollars. I don’t think this is a bad thing. It’s necessary to advance the industry, and I think we’re making good progress.

But, on the content creator side of the industry, it seems like people are still trying to use the Internet as a way to get noticed and break into TV and film, or they’re copying “things that have already worked” in the hopes that someone will buy it or sign them to a deal.

I think it’s a shame that we aren’t thinking more creatively. The thing that’s so awesome about this moment in time is that you have the freedom to create whatever you want and post it for the world to see. Digital cameras are cheap, YouTube is free, and you can use Twitter, Facebook, WordPress, and a variety of other services for next to nothing. There’s no reason to hold yourself back. Take a moment and think about how you could use the multimedia and interactive nature of the Internet to tell a familiar story in a completely different way. Unlock your creativity. How could you tell a story on Twitter? On Foursquare? On YouTube? How about using all three in some interesting new combination? That’s what I’m most excited about seeing.

2. What industry buzzword do you never want to hear again?

Viral. It drives me nuts. I just picture an out-of-touch marketing executive shouting, “Johnson, make this video go viral!” Building a brand online isn’t about being viral, it’s about sustainability, consistency and authenticity.

3. If someone gave you 50 million to invest in a company in this space, which one would it be? (Mentioning your own doesn’t count.)

From an investment standpoint, both financially and in terms of supporting entrepreneurs, I’d actually much rather use that money to start a fund that would invest 50-500k in a bunch of pre-financing bootstrapped startups rather than put it all into a more mature company.

But, if my hands were tied and I had to put it all in one place, I’d bet on Foursquare. I think that mobile location-based services are just going to get bigger and bigger and there are a variety of potential business models that will make them incredibly profitable.

4. What was the last video (that you weren’t personally involved with) that you liked enough to spread to others?

The Nashville Flood. May 2, 2010. Beautifully shot. Haunting music and imagery. It captured a tragedy and managed to convey both the human heartbreak and the powerful beauty of a flood.

5. Last week marked the fourth anniversary of Lonelygirl15. What do you think the show’s lasting legacy will be, and with the benefit of hindsight, is there one thing you would have done differently at the beginning?

Wow, I can’t believe it’s been four years. Time flies. I think that lonelygirl15‘s lasting legacy will be introducing the world to this new medium. I’m additionally hopeful that it will inspire new creators to produce innovative social shows that truly take advantage of the interactive nature of the Internet. We didn’t write lonelygirl15 as a movie or a television show and then chop it up into shorter pieces and post them online. The story could only be told on the Internet, and more specifically on YouTube, and we intentionally wrote it in a way that broke the fourth wall, incorporated audience participation into the narrative, and used website features as plot points (like video responses and mobile uploads”).

With the benefit of hindsight there are many things we would have done differently many different times over the past four years. I guess most of all I wish we had planned out lonelygirl15 as a recurring series from the very beginning. When we first wrote the story, it was meant to run for a few months and end with a cliffhanger that would lead into a feature film which we were planning on shooting at the same time. When we saw the massive recurring audience that formed around the show online, we decided to retroactively change the story and broaden the LG15 Universe into something that could continue indefinitely and support multiple story lines.

Needless to say, that wasn’t an easy process and it was particularly stressful because we had to do it on the fly with a very small team. I think the show suffered as a result, and I’m bummed about that. But, it was something we had to do in order to continue the story, grow the brand, and build a company.

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