For today’s Five Questions With…, allow me to introduce you to Casey Pugh! Pugh, an early Vimeo employee who also recently worked at Boxee, made history this summer when Star Wars Uncut, which enabled fans to help remake Star Wars 15 seconds at a time, became the first independent website to win an Emmy award. Below, Pugh talks about how the importance of scale and mobile platforms, as well as whether or not Star Wars Uncut could be financially viable.
1. What’s the one big issue/law/attitude/restriction that you think is
holding back the industry?
Lack of faith in having people pay for your product. Companies rise and fall all the time because all they care about is getting as many users as possible and coming up with the business model later. What most fail to realize is that perhaps their product was never meant to be successful at a massive scale. I want companies to realize the market for their own product and know that those users will pay for it. Xmarks is shutting down next month, a bookmark synchronizing service that I use. They’ve been around for years and have grown very large, but didn’t really have a business plan before it was too late. I would have happily paid them.
I look up to a company like Metafilter [which is] successful with [its] small, paying user base. For them it might have been accidental in hindsight, but then there is 37signals, [which has] built leanness and efficiency into their company philosophy.
If you look at the online video industry, Vimeo is playing it smart and doing well with their Plus subscription accounts. Meanwhile, YouTube is putting ads everywhere possible in order to cover cost therefore ruining the actual experience of their own product.
Then if you just glance over at the gaming industry, you don’t see them offering their technology for free. It’s an understood fact that you pay for the products.
Obviously, a subscription model isn’t the answer to all companies in the industry. There are many ways to financial success. I’m just personally interested in seeing more successful and efficient startups.
2. What industry buzzword do you never want to hear again?
HTML5. Technically it’s not a buzzword, but a lot of people like to use it as one. I think I’m tired of all the HTML5 vs. Flash rants. Just choose the right one for the right situation. I could go on for a while, but I’ll stop there.
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.)
Personally, I’m excited about making my life simpler via mobile platforms. I would probably split it between Venmo and Square. With Venmo, I absolutely love that I no longer have to run to the ATM to pay my friend back when I can just pay him or her via text message. Square has the ability to help out tons of struggling new local businesses and individuals, which is incredible.
Venmo has also created a new form of online friendship that I want to see implemented into other social sites. The fact I can officially trust a friend to withdraw directly from my account is very interesting (and scary). Imagine if the trust-connection was implemented into Yelp or Netflix. If I could trust my friends who I think have good taste in food or movies, those sites would now effectively have dramatically improved suggestions for myself. You would essentially develop subgroups of friends who have the same tastes as you.
Sorry, I’m off topic!
4. What was the last video (that you weren’t personally involved with) that you liked enough to spread to others?
All of Nathan Fielder’s videos are hilarious. His videos remind me of The Lonely Island guys back before they were famous. And turns out Nathan already has landed some success by becoming a writer for a show on Comedy Central.
5. WILD-CARD: Star Wars Uncut has proven to be a creative and technological success — but is there opportunity to take a project like this and make it financially viable beyond the LucasFilm copyright?
Definitely. If I went to LucasFilm first, Star Wars Uncut would have taken years to come into existence, if at all. Financial viability for Star Wars Uncut itself is iffy, but my idea has proven a point. Masses of people are excited about the project and even more for the film. Ted Hope said at the Vimeo Festival this past weekend that Star Wars Uncut is the best movie of 2010.
But its success is built upon a massive franchise, so in order to create a financially viable transmedia project, we would have to work with a film or TV studio from the beginning. The success hopefully has opened the eyes of the film and TV industry to show that their audiences are actually interested in consuming transmedia content almost as much as their own original content.
Thanks to the impending interactive set top boxes and video platforms (Boxee, Google TV, Apple TV, etc.) that are all debuting shortly, online video content and projects like Star Wars Uncut could actually start being monetized and consumed through the TV very easily.
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