5 Questions With…Ask a Ninja‘s Kent Nichols


Kon’nichiwa! It’s another Five Questions With…, and today we’ve got Kent Nichols, who co-created one of web video’s truly old-school series, Ask A Ninja. After a period of dormancy, Ninja is beginning daily updates on Monday, Oct. 4; here, though, Nichols discusses “buzzlingo,” fear of change, scalable content and the Olson Twins.

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

I would say fear of change. Online audiences are so quantifiable as compared to traditional TV audiences that it’s stupid not to pay more for them. If you look at the scale of audiences that people like Ray William Johnson, Fred and Annoying Orange have created and maintained week in and week out — it’s bigger than all but the biggest mass culture phenomena. When Fred can open the biggest movie on cable TV for the year, something big is going on.

The sad thing is that the jump to established/traditional media needs to happen at all. If this were a just universe, Fred and the rest of us would already be making much more money online than in TV. But right now that’s not the case and won’t be for a few more decades, when the current generation of young ad execs get to much higher positions in the industry and new models of revenue are fleshed out.

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

I love buzzwords and lingo, or buzzlingo. I think the puffery of buzzwords is rampant right now mostly because we’re all still just figuring it out. The danger is believing in other people’s buzzlingo — they are just as clueless as you are.

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.)

I’m interested and excited to see what George Strompolos is up to — he was in the catbird seat at YouTube and saw so much come and go and fostered such growth in the space. He’s got to have something special up his sleeve to leave that place.

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

The Olsen Twins Pizza song slowed down will haunt your dreams.

5. WILD-CARD: Ask A Ninja is one of web video’s oldest active brands; what’s been the biggest thing to change in the industry since you began the show, and how has that affected your approach?

I’m really proud of our work and the path that we helped trail-blaze. And a lot of that reflects on the relaunch now — from the beginning we designed Ask A Ninja to be a repeatable format that didn’t rely on fancy locations or high production values. It’s a show about ideas and strong point of view. Looking around the top shows on YouTube, you see a lot of those values reflected. Strong POVs, relatable characters and simple productions. Things that you can repeat and scale up in volume.

The real change is just the sheer amount of shows out there. Our next and biggest challenge is to re-engage our superfans and community and take on creating real life events around our content. I think what Pete Rojas says about pageviews and blogging is quickly going to apply to video views and shows.

Successful shows will have large and hypermotivated fans that will go to see and support you and your work. That means a move away from CPMs as the end goal, and towards viewing your audience as people who want to be involved with you.

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