about this episode
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On this episode of TWiST @jason talks with Jim Louderback of Revision3.
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Jason: Hey, everybody. Hey, everybody. It’s Jason Calacanis. Today on ThisWeekIn Startups, Jim Louderback, the CEO of Revision3 and an old friend of mine, journalist, etc… We’re going to talk about web video, selling your company, life after the sale, a lot of great entrepreneurial stuff. And just the booming YouTube ecosystem. Stick with us. It’s going to be a great hour.
TWiST title sequence.
Jason: I just want to take a moment to thank my friends at SquareSpace. As you guys know, Launch.co, our blog and our website all hosted on SquareSpace. They do a great job. 24 hour support, exceptional looking sites, beautiful templates. You know, all the great stuff about SquareSpace. It starts at only $24 a month when you sign up for a year. So it’s incredibly affordable. But boy have they done a game changer, something incredibly disruptive. I mean this is pretty amazing. They are now doing commerce. You no longer need to use Shopify or Majesto or whatever this stuff is that people are using. You can just get your website and your commerce engine in one place. Go to SquareSpace.com/TWIST. I can’t believe they did this. What a brilliant idea. SquareSpace.com/TWIST to try it out for free. No credit card required. Which means they’re confident in what they’re doing. I always say, “If you’re doing no credit card required it means you know people are going to convert in a very large way because your product stands on its own merit.” If you decide to keep your site after the free trial, just use the offer code TWIST3 and you’ll get a great discount. Everything you need to create an exceptional website, SquareSpace.SquareSpace.com/TWIST. Only $24 a month. They do an amazing job. I’ve been using it for 4 or 5 years now. I love the product. What I love about it is I could just scream over my shoulder, “Ay. Put this on the website,” and they don’t have to go to the designer, they don’t have to go to the technical person, they don’t have to go to the server. They just log in. Anybody logs in and they fix it. They get a new page on the site, etc… That’s what this new shopping thing is. I’m predicting that’s going to make SquareSpace explode. That’s a really great startup, by the way, in New York. So thanks again to our friends at SquareSpace. Go ahead and visit SquareSpace.com/TWIST to try it for free. No credit card required. Use the promo code TWIST3. Let’s just all say thank you @SquareSpace for making independent media and awesome interviews like this one available for free to the community. I love doing the show. I just love using SquareSpace. I’m really thankful to them for supporting this program that we all love so much. Let’s get back to the interview. What are we waiting for?
Jason: Hey,everybody. Hey, everybody. It’s Jason Calacanis. This is ThisWeekIn Startups. You know the program. You what it’s about. The topic is in the title. If you don’t know what it’s about we’ve got a serious problem people. ThisWeekIn Startups is about starting companies, growing them, putting a dent in the universe. Today on the program, I’m really thrilled to have Jim Louderback with me. He’s an old friend. We’ve known each other for well over ten years but I knew him when he was the editor of TechTV and before that PC Magazine. Which was my bible in the 80s and 90s. If you were coming up in tech, reading PC Magazine, it literally was the bible in the 80s and into the 90s. Of course, he then went on to become the CEO of Revision3, the famous startup founded by Kevin Rose, Jay Adelson and David Prager. Which did Diggnation, had a billion viewers or so…
Jim: Or so.
Jason: Or so. Just about a bil, a billion viewers and was acquired by Discovery Communications in May of 2012 for a reported $35M. Welcome to the program, Jim Louderback.
Jim: Thank you. I’m glad to be here finally.
Jason: I know. We’ve been trying to do this for like a year or two.
Jim: I remember seeing it live at SouthBy. It was great. It was such a great line up. Everybody was really in to it. I mean, people applauding. It was awesome.
Jason: Yeah. It’s like a mini version of Diggnation.
Jim: Yeah. Diggnation doesn’t exist anymore.
Jason: That’s a fair point.
Jim: So you’re carrying the torch.
Jason: Well in a way. Diggnation was about… What a great place to start. Diggnation was an incredibly innovative program. Wasn’t it?
Jim: It was in many ways but in many ways it was the traditional format. It was a buddy movie. It was really two guys hanging out, talking about things that were interesting to them. The reason why people wanted to watch was because they just wanted to hang out with them.
Jim: Same reason people like to hangout, watch, listen to this show. They just want to hang out.
Jason: Right. But, boy did it become huge. Huh? It went from… I remember when Kevin started Diggnation. It was a marketing vehicle for Digg the website. But ultimately I think it became… Did it become a bigger business than the website? It certainly at the peak would be bigger than now.
Jason: It imploded.
Jim: I don’t know. You can do the math.
Jason: It must have done $5M or $10M in revenue a year or something like that?
Jason: Millions of dollars.
Jim: Millions of dollars a year in revenue.
Jason: Low millions of dollars.
Jim: Certainly. Look. It was a pretty solid, healthy business.
Jim: It really was the foundation that we built Revision3 on.
Jim: So you can draw the parallels on what happened to Revision3. We sold to Discovery. What happened to Digg.
Jason: Right. Yeah. It’s a little bit of a rough run there for Kevin, I think, with Digg imploding.
Jim: Yeah. Look. Kevin’s done amazing stuff with everything he’s done.
Jim: He’s managed to do great stuff with Digg and took that to a certain place, did great stuff with Revision3 and took that to a certain place.
Jim: Has done great stuff. Is now at Google Ventures doing great stuff.
Jason: What was it about that show though at the time? I remember meeting Kevin and he said he was losing money on the show because there were so many downloads. Bandwidth was killing the business in the early part of the business. That was the big challenge. Wasn’t it?
Jim: For a little while it was bandwidth. One of the early things was getting on Torrent. So we Torrented it out as well. There were a couple of different things that early on… This is 2006, 2007, distributed on BitTorrent. There was an early release program where we would charge people $50 a year, $5 a month, $6 a month and they would get Diggnation two or three days in advance.
Jim: Which was a good idea and it brought in some money. Enough to pay for the bandwidth. It was a lot tekkie fans. They would take it and then put it on BitTorrent and everybody would get it on BitTorrent.
Jason: Oh wow.
Jim: The problem with that was we started doing sponsorships. Really, with the sponsorships we put on Diggnation where Kevin and Alex would talk about products, integrate them in, very native advertising before native advertising was called ‘native.’
Jim: The problem with all those guys putting it on Torrents was we were telling the advertisers, “We’ll guarantee you 200K listens or 200K views.” We knew that 20K people were watching on BitTorrent. We couldn’t count them.
Jim: So we shut that off. We were like, “Stop it. We’re not going to do the early release program anymore. We’re just going to give it to everyone at the same time. We’re not going to put it on BitTorrent as a legit thing that anybody can pick up if they wanted to.” Because we needed to be able to track the views.
Jason: Has that problem even been solved to this day of like tracking ads? Everybody uses promo codes. When I do an ad or Leo does an ad on ThisWeekIn Tech we all have to use promo codes to give some sort of idea. But the measurement problem hasn’t been solved. Has it?
Jim: It hasn’t been solved at all. Everybody’s got different ways to think about it. Really, if you’re on YouTube you can say YouTube’s has got their own measurement. Trust it or not. How many pre-rolls have you served? That’s one way. But YouTube only serves a pre-roll that you can monetize once every 4 or 6 views. You’ve got the usual suspects, comScore and Nielsen, coming out with their own ways to do it. The comScore one we’re all following along to see what’s going on with that. Nielsen claims they’re going to be even bigger than comScore. We’ll see but nobody’s got it figured out yet.
Jason: Yeah. It’s sort of a big problem for the industry.
Jim: Part of the problem, by the way, if you want to go back to history.
Jim: Even with a download it was very hard because it was coming off of your server. Do you count a play start? Do you count a 200 or 202? You know, an HTTP code. Which one of those? Because we you used to see this. You used to have people… I won’t name any names… will come and say, “We’re doing half a million downloads on our show everyday.”
Jason: That sounds like an Adam Curry impersonation.
Jim: No. It’s not but it would be close.
Jason: No. Adam Carolla. Who knows?
Jim: It wasn’t Adam Carolla believe me.
Jason: He’s got huge numbers.
Jim: No, no. What would happen is people we would test would say every time you request and start the file downloads they would…
Jason: Count that as a view.
Jim: … the ticker would go up. The infrastructure’s a lot better now than it was in 2006. In 2006 you’d have to restart 6 or 7 times.
Jason: Oh, right.
Jim: For one fully completed download they would be recording 8, 10, 12 views.
Jim: We know… I knew it was a problem. Even back at Ziff Davis when we were doing stuff with DL.TV with Patrick Norton we were counting fully completed downloads but our friends at CoOp, in the game group, were actually coming out with these outrageous numbers. It turns out, as we looked into it, they were actually counting that way on Play Stars.
Jason: That’s a problem because then the promo code gets used 5 times for 500K views and it seems pathetic. When if it were used 5 times for 5K views that would seem impressive.
Jim: Exactly. It reduces the overall effectiveness when you go to an advertiser. Or you go to an advertiser where it’s not something that you do with promo codes, but it’s a branding advertisement and you say, “Hey look 500M people are going to see it.” You know what? They really only reached 50K.
Jim: You sour a whole class of advertisers on the entire category.
Jim: That happened early on.
Jason: Now it seems like there’s a certain group of advertisers who are addicted to podcasts, who are addicted to shows. I mean we have Citrix as an advertiser. I think you guys had them for a lot of stuff.
Jim: Yeah. We still do. We still work with Citrix. We work with a bunch of… The reasons why is that they’re radio advertisers.
Jim: Because look, when I talk about web video and the way that we built it out… You’ll appreciate this because you’ve done all the same stuff. I look at it, it’s not just television. Right? It’s really we take sight, sound, motion and emotion from video. We take the intimacy and authenticity of talk radio.
Jim: Right? Like you love Howard Stern. You love Adam Schein from NFL Radio. You love Leo. You love Jason. You love Kevin. Then you take the ability from special interest magazines to go deep into a topic for the people who are absolutely passionate about it, roll that up together into something that’s really brand new. But the advertising that works the best in many ways are the ones that used to work on radio. Or still do work on radio.
Jason: Which is the…?
Jim: Which is the you know me, I’m your friend. I’m going to talk to you about a product or service. Then I’m going to say, “Hey, go sign up. Here’s the code.” And they do. It’s like 1-800-FLOWERS. Valentine’s Day is huge for a lot of these advertisers cause you’re listening to your ESPN Radio or your NFL Radio…
Jason: Right. Howard Stern and Stephen A. Smith are reading the ads. That old time ad read just seems to work so brilliantly.
Jim: It does because of that intimacy.
Jason: Yeah. It feels like it keeps the continuity going on the program.
Jim: Well the reason why it works, I think, more than traditional television is television has a lot of barriers, a lot of walls. There’s teleprompters, there’s agents. Television’s a long way from being authentic and intimate. If you look at what we’re doing right now, the people who are listening to this program or watching it, there are no walls, there are no barriers. They all… I’m sure you see this… You’re their friend.
Jim: Right? They meet you at SouthBy, they meet you on the street, they meet you at Launch. They’re like, “Jason, man, it’s so great to see you again.” It’s not like, “Oh, my God. Can I have your autograph?” I’m tongue tied. “It’s Jason. I know you.”
Jason: Right. It creates a level… I call it asymmetrical intimacy. It’s like they know so much about you from you talking so much. So people feel like they know Veronica or Patrick Norton or whoever it happens to be.
Jim: Exactly. Because they see you as their friend.
Jason: Right. Which is super cool, I think.
Jim: Early on the guy who ran our user group and our fan base group in New York, a big Diggnation fan, he said, “I’m not calling it a fan base I’m calling it a friend base.” I think that’s a really good term because fans are the people… You go see a famous person in the restaurant and you go, “Wow.” I was in Mill Valley recently, going to a concert and I walked by Bob Wehr on the street. I’m a big dead head. I didn’t go up to him and say anything. It wasn’t like, “Hey Bob. I’m your old buddy. How are you doing?”
Jim: Because he was a star and I was a fan.
Jason: There’s like this huge gap between the two of you. The stage, there’s a big pit between you.
Jim: Exactly. Barriers, barriers, barriers. This medium there are no barriers. In radio there are no barriers either.
Jim: Think about Howard. My wife loves Howard Stern. She’s like, “Howard this and Howard that.” It’s like Howard is not your friend.
Jason: Yeah. But it feels that way.
Jim: That’s the connection.
Jason: Yeah. This has changed dramatically because of mobile? The business itself? You know, the usage and the views. It seems like it was really hard for people to tune into these shows and figure out how to subscribe to a podcast. I mean let’s face it, podcasting was a very niche thing. Now that you have YouTube and TuneIn and Stitcher, I feel like the audience is sort of just making a huge level up.
Jim: I think that there’s two different things that you’re getting out there. I’ll take one first cause I’ve been thinking a lot about this. You just bring up the turn mobile. Cause I think YouTube sits in a different space although it intersects, like those venn diagrams from school. But, if you think about mobile a lot of people lump mobile tablets and phones into mobile. Where they’re very different experiences. If you think about it, a phone is something that you carry around with you all the time. You’re using it to seek and search out little snippets of things you may get. A tablet… To me tablets are as revolutionary to television and video as Tivo was. Because a tablet is like a paperback television. It’s a personal television. Think about it. Think about… A really good example is… Think about the Kindle. Right? One of the biggest books of 2012 and still is, is Fifty Shades of Grey. It’s porn. Right? Let’s face it. Before the fact you could read it on a Kindle. On a Kindle no one knows what you’re reading.
Jim: You could be reading ‘War and Peace’ or ‘Fifty Shades of Grey’ and nobody knows.
Jim: In the old days the books would have a book cover. You’d have like the bodice ripped and somebody would be showing half their nipples or something.
Jason: Yeah. Fabio.
Jim: Whatever. Nobody wants to be associated with that. I think you see the same thing with tablets. Watching video is a personal guilty pleasure. You can watch whatever you want. It’s not like it’s on a big screen TV and some of your family wanders in and says, “What the heck are you watching?” Instead it’s like it’s just sitting there in your lap. I also think it’s a much more intimate experience because you’re holding it in your hand.
Jason: Yeah. I call it the curl up. Not the lean back or…
Jim: Right. You were saying that, the curl up. That was really smart. Really smart. Cause by naming it that way you made people think of it as a different product and a different experience.
Jason: Right. And it is. It is.
Jim: It totally is. So that’s the mobile thing. I think, on the YouTube side… YouTube, Stitcher etc… It’s getting better at surfacing things that people might like and getting better at helping them to subscribe to it so that they can then watch it multiple times. You’ve seen the new YouTube interface right?
Jason: Yeah. Explain it.
Jim: Really what they’ve done is, amongst everything else, they’re putting everything you subscribe to now lives in a persistent left nav on the screen. So that everywhere you go on YouTube there is always the left nav of the people you subscribe to and their latest things. That will go on mobile. It will go on smart TVs. It will go everywhere beyond just the PC.
Jason: Yeah. I noticed that. It’s on the mobile and it’s also on the tablet already. I haven’t seen it… I just got my new Samsung TV. Like literally I buy a new Samsung every 6 or 12 months for the office. It didn’t have the same interface yet. I guess that’s going to be the last one to fall.
Jim: Yeah. Interesting. I think YouTube is taking over control of their apps on all these platforms. They haven’t rolled it out on YouTube.com on the PCs or the Macs yet. On the browser side some of the channels have it. Like if you look at…
Jason: iJustin has it.
Jim: iJustin, Rated RR. One of the guys we work with has it. I saw Justine’s stuff. It’s gradually getting rolled out.
Jason: The home page has it. The permalink pages have it.
Jim: Do you guys have it on any of your channels?
Jason: We haven’t moved our channels to it. But because we’re a partner I think they gave us the ability to do it. But I think it’s going to roll out to everybody in the weeks to follow the airing of this program.
Jim: You know what the important thing to do is on that, by the way?
Jason: The welcome video?
Jason: Which is awesome.
Jim: We’re now cutting… You know stupid us.
Jason: Explain what it is cause we’re talking shop here.
Jim: OK. Basically it’s a promo. Cut a 15-30 minute promo that talks about your channel. It used to be if you went to a channel… You go to that channel page…
Jason: On YouTube.
Jim: … on YouTube. Sorry. You would see whatever video the owner of that happened to put up. It was probably the latest video in most cases or the biggest one. Now you get a promo video. So you go to that channel you gotta cut a really good promo that’ll entice people to subscribe. The sort of currency about YouTube is subscriptions.
Jason: Why is that? The young people…
Jim: The subscriptions show up in the left hand nav. It goes everywhere with you.
Jason: Gotcha. Right.
Jim: That’s how you get people to watch.
Jason: In a way it’s like the new DVR. Isn’t it? Because it shows you the number of shows… This is what I always thought was particularly interesting about it. It’ll say like ThisWeekIn Startups, 2. Or Epic Mealtime, 3. Or Tosh, 2.
Jim: You know what it looks a little like?
Jason: What? Email?
Jason: It is like iTunes.
Jim: Like iTunes with podcasts.
Jason: iTunes with podcasts.
Jim: They kind of borrowed a fair bit of…
Jason: Or email. Like folders.
Jason: But I love the fact that you can like clear out your videos. It’s almost like getting to inbox 0. It’s getting to YouTube 0.
Jason: I’m going to just get through my videos.
Jim: Yeah. Totally.
Jason: I don’t know if you’ve had that experience on your DVR? Where you’re like, “I’m two behind on…”
Jim: I still use Speed Demon to read all my stuff on RSS.
Jason: Oh, my God.
Jim: This is how…
Jason: You are old school.
Jim: It’s great because I read all the blogs. I travel. Every now and again it’s like, “You’ve got 5,700 unread stuff. Would you like to make them all read?” Sometimes I’m like, “Yes.”
Jason: Yeah. Speed Reader 0. We do kinda keep ourselves busy. Advertising though is starting to happen in a big way that it didn’t in 2006/2007 when you guys were started. Hasn’t it?
Jim: Well what we’re seeing… I think in many ways we just have to live with it. Whether I think it’s a mistake or not or right or wrong. We’re starting to treat online video as if it’s an extension of television from an advertising perspective. So there’s a lot of sense of how they measure television, GRP or gross rating points. Basically it’s just a measure of how many people are watching. We’re starting to see that come into web video. Which I think is wrong because I think web video in many ways is a different medium. The good part about it is we’re actually using methodologies… This gets back to counting that is very similar to the way television does it. Which makes somebody who buys television ads much more likely to put ads of a similar type on web video. So that’s led to a bunch of money coming into web video.
Jason: Right. But it’s been not even close to the consumption level.
Jim: Not at all.
Jason: What is it? Like 40% or 50% of video is now watched online but only 1% or 2% or advertising is shifted over. Why is that?
Jim: It happens with every new medium. Remember it happened with the web. Remember you were probably complaining about it with Silicon Alley.
Jason: Of course I was.
Jim: You were like, “My God. You’re putting all those ads in PC Magazine. I’ve got a bigger audience. Why aren’t you advertising on my website?” Come on. We were all saying that at the time. Right?
Jason: Sometimes I have to ask questions I know the answer to. You’re the guest. I’m the interviewer.
Jim: No, no. But seriously. New media…
Jason: Let me ask it another way.
Jim: When do you cross it?
Jason: Yeah. When do we catch up?
Jim: That’s a good question.
Jason: When do we get half way there? What’s taking so long? Or is it moving at a nice pace for you?
Jim: I’ll tell you what’s taking so long. One is we’ve all been… It’s been really difficult to count the size of our audiences in a way that’s consistent where we can go back to an advertiser and say, “Here’s how big it is.” Two, we’re not very good yet as an industry in proving the ROI of their investments in our media. If I am an ad buyer it’s really easy for me to go out and buy Discovery Channel all day long and then go have drinks. It’s really difficult for me to put together a plan with online video that will deliver results where I can go back to my client and say, “Look at these results I delivered for you.” We are still too hard to buy.
Jason: Yeah. Still too hard to buy. But you can do things online that you cannot do on TV.
Jason: The metrics on TV… I mean let’s face it. They’re a little… I know you work for Discovery now so you can’t go trash it. It is a little fugazi how they measure stuff. Right? Like these sample sizes.
Jim: The way you measure on television? Totally… FUBAR.
Jim: I didn’t want to use your little swear jar.
Jason: No it’s OK. The swear jar you put $10 you can afford it.
Jim: No, no. I don’t swear anyway.
Jim: I was going to say…
Jason: It’s F’d up beyond repair.
Jim: It’s screwed up. It’s screwed up. The thing is it’s a fiction that everybody believes. With Nielsen everybody believes this is the way it is and everybody plays by the same rules.
Jim: We don’t even have the same set of rules across everything. That’s the problem.
Jason: But it’s getting there it feels like.
Jim: The other thing we don’t understand is… Traditional advertising has an OTS measure, an opportunity to see and OTV. An example is the reason why, if you watch football or sports, you see the same darn Budweiser ad 50 times.
Jim: Because they don’t know if you got up to go to the bathroom. They want to make sure… They’ve got to run that ad against their target sample a certain number of times to make it statistically significant that they will hit the right amount of people to make it worth their investment. It’s an opportunity to view or an opportunity to see.
Jim: Billboards. Put a billboard ad up on the freeway. “I want to reach X number of people.” Well you pass by that same billboard 20 times a month. You had 20 opportunities to see.
Jim: We don’t even know what the right opportunity to see quotient is on web video. I’ve been thinking a lot about this and putting some plans together. We know… For Revision3 across all of our shows… According to comScore. comScore is a fiction we all believe or many of us believe. Our uniques to overall video views is about a 1 to 4 ratio. So we have X uniques and X x 4 overall views. So I’m putting together plans where on an individual channel level someone says, “Well if you’re going to give me 1M impressions how many unique people am I reaching?” We’re like, “We don’t have the reporting to go down to that level. But I can take the math that we all agree on comScore and apply it over here.”
Jim: I don’t know if that’s valid or not but it’s a heck of a lot more valid than saying, “Just believe me because I’m frustrated.”
Jason: Well we can also track that people then bought something or signed up for an email. That does seem to be a big, big benefit that we have over mainstream media.
Jim: Right. It works for certain things but it doesn’t work for… For example Ford. We’ve done a lot of stuff with Ford.
Jason: You’ve had them.
Jim: No one is going to put a code in and buy a Fiesta. Right?
Jason: Yeah. Fortunately you have to go through a dealer. Ring this car. Use Revision37. Use Veronica15 and get 15% off your next…
Jim: Your next Fiesta.
Jason: Off your next Fiesta.
Jim: Throw out your current Fiesta and buy a new Fiesta.
Jason: Hey everybody. Hey, everybody. This interview is going great. I wanted to take a moment to thank my friends at ShareFile by Citrix. Why ShareFile? Larger attachments bouncing back is a waste of your time. Dropping files into online boxes that are not secure is pretty dangerous. Don’t do it. With ShareFile you can easily, easily send files of almost any size. I’m talking about really big ones and access those files from any computer or mobile device. It’s safe and secure. It’s built for business. This is industrial strength file sharing and control. You can track the progress of your files. You can control who has access with them to those individual files with password protections. You can even sign in and edit the files for streamlined collaboration. We use it at ThisWeekIn and Launch. Like when we have to request files we say, “Hey…” Whether you’re using this file service or not I can request a file from you. Then you drop it into ShareFile and we get it. We get email alerts when someone uploads or downloads those files. We share really big video clips from our partners from the show. Like if someone wants a clip from the show that is really too large to just put up in other services. So sign up for your free 30 day trial today. Yes. Sign up for your free 30 day trial today. Visit ShareFile.com, click on the radio microphone button and use the promo code TWIST. ShareFile.com, radio microphone button, promo code TWIST. You know what to do. 30 day free trial. No credit card required. That really shows that Citrix is very confident in the ShareFile product. We’ve been using it daily at the program. It’s a really great product. Really. Check it out. It’s got a lot of power user features. It’s very business and secure. Designed for business and security. Thanks so much to my friends at ShareFile. Let’s get back to the program.
Jim: But some of the stuff we do there is around… There is a lot of things we can do. We show a lot of social lift. I mean we do pre- and post studies, how you sow ROI. If someone’s going to spend enough money with us we’ll do it. We’ll survey our audience before hand, survey them afterwards.
Jim: Hopefully have some statistical significance in there.
Jim: I was a math major so I understand a little bit of that. We know what their key characteristics and criteria are and we show that we moved the needle. Again it’s very intensive and hands on. It’s not cheap to do but you kind of have to need to do that to show that ROI. Because it’s not easy that’s another reason the money has not flowed in as much as it will.
Jason: Right. You guys were part of the YouTube funded program I believe?
Jim: We were on the second round.
Jason: The second round?
Jim: We did not do the first round.
Jason: Which I think was us too. I think Mahalo was in the sort of second group.
Jim: Yeah. We launched in October.
Jason: Oh yeah. We did the same thing. We had a staggered launch. August, September, October, November. So how many shows did you do with them? Explain to the audience what that program was. How do you look at YouTube funding original programming? That was a watershed moment. Was it not?
Jim: Yeah. So YouTube… Take a step back. Why did YouTube put 100M then another 100M in? Or however much it was. I’ll tell you what they did and why I think they did it and why I think it was super successful. So a lot of great content on YouTube but not a lot of great content on YouTube about 2 years ago, from anybody that media people would know or anybody that advertisers would know.
Jason: Got it.
Jim: I love Shaycarl and Justine. All these guys. I think they’re brilliant. But if you walk into BBD&O they’re like, “What? Who?”
Jim: So YouTube said look, we’re going to fund a bunch of channels. We’re going to go out to major media companies and we’re going to go out to people who’ve built television programming and magazine publishers and say, “We’ll give you $1M, $2M, $5M, $10M. Launch a series of shows with your brand and we’re going to go out to sell it.” The goal for them, I believe, at the time they were getting a very small CPM. Yield per view on like the $2 or $3 range. After doing this they increased… They turned YouTube from… The public perception of YouTube was funny cat videos. Cats riding skateboards. Then after a year of putting this money in it became, wow, there’s quality content that’s worthy of advertising dollars on YouTube. Along with the cats riding skateboards of course.
Jason: Sure. It’s both.
Jim: So it really helped get the yield per view up for their premium content. So that’s what they did and that’s why I think that they did it. Now they funded I guess 100 channels or something like that on that first round. Dropped like $100M or whatever it was. They only renewed about 30%.
Jason: Right. Which seems to be the right number. Why would you invest in the bottom third or the bottom half? They must have a model where they’re saying, “These people didn’t get it. They didn’t get subscribers. They didn’t get any views. Why don’t we double down or triple down with the people on top.
Jim: Well do that and fund some new folks. So what they did with the next round, that you and I were part of, most of that money went to Europe.
Jason: Right. That’s true.
Jim: Because I think they face the same issue in Europe where their average yield per view is down and they wanted to go out and get quality content in Europe and fund it. So that advertisers in Europe would look at YouTube as a place for quality content. A safe place to put your advertisers.
Jason: Right. How much of it is consistency too? Cause you know when you think about it, I think one of the biggest revolutions with Leo Laporte and ThisWeekIn Tech and Revision3 and Diggnation was consistency of publishing. I mean everybody started a podcast in 2003, 2004, 2005. Everybody thought they could do it. But then it got to week 5 or 6 or 7. Everybody’s podcast seemed to go away then they would come back in a flurry and do 3 episodes. Then they go away for six months.
Jim: You wrote a great piece about this.
Jason: I did. I don’t remember.
Jim: Oh, yeah. It was about actually… You were talking about shutting down ThisWeekIn.
Jason: Ah. Oh, yeah.
Jim: You were talking about how when things aren’t working. Putting in 4 years without really… You know. Without knowing that it would be a return but doing it every week. When we start something, we start on a schedule and we never stop.
Jim: It’s funny. On television now, Discovery. They do things in 13 week episodes. 13 episodes or 26 episodes then they stop.
Jason: Yeah. Take a break.
Jim: Then they pick it up a year later. We’re like, “No. We’re on the hamster trail. We have to feed the content monster every week.”
Jason: Yeah. You maybe can put out a compilation best of for two weeks a year.
Jim: You know what? I’ll tell you a store about how we learned this. A great, great… I mean fantastic show early on called Epic Fu.
Jim: It was the Jet Set Show before that.
Jason: Yeah. Zadi Diaz.
Jim: Steve Wolf, Zadi Diaz. Awesome show. It was on Next’s new network. Great. Did an awesome job. They took a 2 or 3 month break. We brought them onto Revision3. We were super psyched. We were like, “These guys are great.” We were just getting into YouTube. We’re like, “This is going to be awesome.” It never really got back to that same level because no matter how wonderful it was the audience had moved on.
Jim: So it almost like the online web viewing audience is so ADD that if you’re not in their face, on the subscription bar on the left, every minute of the day, every week… They’re gonna go somewhere else.
Jason: Yeah. I mean the problem for me was… I think when you’re going to go long form like we’re doing here or Leo does or… I’m trying to think about who else does long form. I think long form is so much harder. Like the half hour/hour long.
Jim: I agree. To do it well is much harder. We were lucky to… When we came into Discovery… the How Stuff Works guys have a great stuff you should know. Josh and Chuck.
Jason: Right. That’s 5 or 10 minutes.
Jim: No, no, no. It’s an hour long.
Jason: Isn’t it? Oh, that’s the TV show.
Jim: They do an audio podcast.
Jason: Oh. The audio podcast.
Jim: They do an audio podcast that’s an hour long.
Jason: Don’t they also have something like 3 or 4 five-minute videos?
Jim: They’re doing short form. We’re doing more short form stuff with them.
Jason: Yeah. I’ve seen short form.
Jim: The hour long audio podcast… they use PodTrack so we know… a couple hundred thousand people listen every week. Similar to what you have and what Leo has is they have this engaged audience that will grab it and… I don’t know how people… I don’t know how you’re all listening or watching but I will guarantee a lot of you have it running in the background while you’re doing other things.
Jason: Of course.
Jim: You don’t want to look at us.
Jason: Nobody wants to look at us. The video is like… I don’t even know why we do video because everybody tells. I don’t know why we do…
Jim: I’ll tell you why you do video.
Jim: Yeah. Because you can get a higher CPM multiple cause it’s a video.
Jason: It just seems to me… Yeah. I like doing video. There are moments when I can put my computer on the screen and show something. So it does add value. The truth is I think you’re right. Everybody puts it in a tab and they go back to work. Their boss doesn’t want to see them watching video at work. But they’ll listen to the audio in the background.
Jim: I’ll just tell you the funniest picture I ever saw on this world. You know doing Diggnation for so long, we knew a lot of people listened to Diggnation. Some guy actually took a picture of himself… He was driving. He took a picture of his dashboard. Speedometer, controls, phone right here, or portable media player at the time, showing Diggnation.
Jim: I’m like, “You’re driving… I hope you’re not watching that.”
Jason: Yeah. I hope that’s not the moment where they’re like chugging or smacking each other’s beer bottles off the top and making them explode because you’re going to look down.
Jim: You’re going to look down then you’re… He’s probably driving…
Jason: Hey. Self-driving cars are going to add another like… Think about all the…
Jim: A lot more viewers for us.
Jason: A lot more viewers. It’s going to be awesome.
Jim: That’s awesome.
Jason: Projected right onto the screen.
Jim: When’s your Tesla going to be self-driving?
Jason: I think… This is what I think. I think Apple and Google are going to make a run at Tesla in the 24 months. I’m going to write a blog post about this.
Jim: How interesting. The Apple’s an interesting one.
Jason: Here’s the thing. Steve Jobs said he wanted to do a car. When you get a car like the Tesla Model S where there’s an iPad in the middle and they’re getting over the air software updates, it’s a different experience.
Jason: In that my car… I get a new car every 30 days. It’s like when you bought the Mercedes this year and last years’ Mercedes didn’t have the SD card you could plug in or didn’t have voice controls. You’re like, “Which year did you have your Prius?”
Jason: “Oh. You don’t have that feature yet. Buy a new Prius to get the feature.” I was like, “What?” Now it’s like… They just added… “Let’s add traffic to Google Maps.” So the second update had traffic. Then they’re like, “We forgot to put satellites on this. Let put satellites on there.” There putting turn by turn navigation. They just keep adding stuff.
Jim: Have they added Waze in yet?
Jason: They haven’t. I told Elon to buy Waze. But I think Waze is too expensive. I think Google has Waze data.
Jim: They got a lot of it yeah.
Jason: This is what they’ll do. They’ll put Waze in the dashboard as an app and you’ll buy it for $10.
Jason: Now they’re going to have a revenue model. That’s just to me… Google has self-driving cars. Think about it. Is Google going to be able to convince Toyota and Ford to use their self-driving technology? Maybe. Maybe not. Those guys are so slow to adopt. So what they should do is… I think Google should just buy Tesla. Then they’ll get those self-driving cars to market 2 or 3 years before anybody else would. They’ll put the fire to the feet of the other auto people cause they’re not going to be able to compete.
Jim: You know they should have bought Saab. I’m a frustrated Saab owner.
Jason: I used to love Saab. I never owned one but I love them. So tell me, you sold the company and you’re…
Jim: Part of Discovery.
Jason: … part of Discovery. Were you guys too early to make it a sustainable business?
Jim: Yeah. When I look back at it we thought we were right on time. We were too early.
Jason: How many years too early were you?
Jim: 3 or 4.
Jim: If you look at Maker, Machinima… I mean us, Next New Networks. We were all around the same time. A couple of other people as well. You saw, we all saw at first.
Jim: Mevio. Maybe they’re still out there somewhere.
Jim: They changed their name to something else.
Jason: They keep changing it.
Jim: But we were too early. Because… I’ll say why. This is a great lesson for startups… is we raised a bunch of cash. I didn’t know what I was doing at the time. We went out after the opportunity. By the time the real opportunity had come up… You know YouTube was starting to grow, we saw some of these networks starting. We didn’t have the cash to really go after it and take advantage of it.
Jason: You used up all your ammunition.
Jim: Yes. My powder was not dry enough.
Jim: But the good news is we built a strong enough company that someone wanted to buy. We’re doing great things for them. The flip side is you look at companies now that are similar to what we were: Maker, Machinima, Full Screen and Big Frame. Those guys are going to have big exits. They’re going to do great.
Jason: Yeah, absolutely. Those companies are worth $200M or $300M right now. They’re raising… I think Machinima raised… Not Machinima.
Jim: Maker raised $40M from Time Warner.
Jason: Maker raised $40M from a bunch of people including Time Warner. I think that was at a $200M valuation.
Jim: Yeah. Something like that. Same thing with Google, just dropped a bunch of money into Machinima.
Jim: Those guys are building… Look at Full Screen. Full Screen is doing great. They built a somewhat different model but they’re apparently… Last I heard which was a year or 2 ago… they were profitable already.
Jason: What’s the right model? Is the right model to build a network like Machinima has done and Maker has done? Or to create original shows like my company Inside.com and I guess Full Screen does their own. All original programming or are they representing.
Jim: Full Screen’s representing.
Jason: Full Screen’s representing right.
Jim: Full Screen does technology and assistance. They also have a broad network. They have a long tail network.
Jim: Right? Full Screen and Machinima have kind of a mid tail network with some top stuff. I think things are changing. Frankly I think the owned/operator model more and more will be the way to go.
Jason: Oh good. I’m making the right decision.
Jim: I think you’re on the right track.
Jason: Cause last year I was like, “I think that this… Why is that?
Jim: Because there is not enough money to go around for everybody who wants to squeeze pieces out of what’s there. Done intelligently, it’s good. But it’s going to be hard. YouTube is a great platform. They want to make money. Creators want to make money. It’s a real margin business. It will be harder over time to ride those margins to profitability.
Jason: Yeah. I heard that some of the networks are offering over 100% with the artist. So in other words you’re making this amount. We’ll guarantee you 110% of that amount or 120% of that amount to get them to sign up for their networks. Then other people told me these networks are really about getting all these unsuspecting YouTubers to give you their traffic so you can go raise money from some big valuation.
Jim: It used to be that way. I think that those days are over.
Jason: And you can redirect the traffic to your owned and operated property. That’s the negative stuff that I have heard. Probably from people that are bitter. Having not been represented properly.
Jim: There’s a little bit of that. There was a lot of that out there early on.
Jim: I think less and less now. Certainly the interesting thing about bringing somebody in… It’s all just math. Right? If you’re doing 1M views a month and I think that if I bring you into the network I can bring in sort of cross promotional capabilities and annotation capabilities that we’ll drive traffic and I can assign a value to that and it makes sense mathematically, maybe there’s model of paying someone 110%. But you gotta make sure you get something for it. But I still think margins will be squeezed. It’s going to be hard to make money on the margin. So there is a lot of value in owning your own content and your own audiences.
Jason: Yeah. I think that’s right.
Jim: I think we’re seeing a swing. I think we’re seeing a gradual trend towards that. But we’ll see. It could go the other way. It’s all about monetization as well. If you believe that the yield per view… Let me give you the perfect example. I sign you up for a 3 year deal. Right? You’re making a $3 CPM right now. I say I’ll give you $3.30 for 3 years. I can bet on the come too. You know?
Jason: Right. Cause you know it’s going to go up.
Jim: Maybe it’s going to go up to $6. Maybe in 18 months it’ll be $6 and I’m making bank on it.
Jason: You’re free rolling.
Jim: Yeah. So, you can bet that way too.
Jason: Interesting. Let’s talk about production budgets and what people are spending. What did you spend per minute of programming in the early days? Where is it at now? Where do you think it’s going? Especially now that you are inside of Discovery where… Gosh. You know looking at the quality of the program they’re doing… I’m guessing they’re spending hundreds of thousands of dollars a minute.
Jim: Not that much a minute. At least tens of thousands of dollars a minute.
Jason: Tens of thousands. Where did you guys start? Where did you guys end up?
Jim: We’re pretty much where we started. I mean although our stuff’s a little bit shorter so it’s a little bit more expensive. We’re in the $100-$200 range.
Jim: As Diggnation got more and more profitable, bigger and bigger, we ended up sharing more and more of that revenue with the creators.
Jim: Which you want to do.
Jason: That was the deal.
Jim: So that made the costs go up. But roughly in the $100-$200 range a minute. We can push some of our stuff closer to $300 but not much more than that. I think…
Jason: Just for talk show style stuff.
Jim: Yeah. We’re still doing hosted talk show oriented… If you look at the scripted stuff that’s going on. I don’t know if you follow the Video Game High School.
Jason: Yeah. That was $5K a minute.
Jim: Yeah. I did the math on it. It was in the $3K-$5K a minute.
Jason: It was $5K. I had Freddy W. by here. I just had lunch with him. He posted that great infographic. $600K. I said, “How many minutes did you do?” He said, “We did like this many minutes.” So…
Jim: I rolled in the behind the scenes stuff into my minute cost.
Jason: Oh, OK. So that’s why it’s
Jim: I brought it down. It’s still $3K-$5K a minute.
Jason: Still, giving the fact that he’s doing all that… What do they call the special effects? Those scenes? Special effects.
Jim: Yeah. 3D effects.
Jason: So he’s doing all those effects. Still that’s ridiculously low.
Jim: Yeah. But if you look at the way he costed it out… It’s really interesting because there are holes in there. I wrote this and I still haven’t published my column cause I had… I will at some point. But they spent very little on talent.
Jim: So talent was a really small fraction.
Jason: People are working just for the credit.
Jim: For friends and credit.
Jason: They’re doing it for credit.
Jim: But that’s not going to last forever. They spent very little on pre- pro, preproduction, on what you would do in a normal production.
Jason: Of that magnitude?
Jim: Of that magnitude. So in the end they spent $630K. Somewhere around there. They raised a couple hundred thousand on KickStarter. They’ll end up making money. They brought in sponsors. But they probably ended up spending close to $800K.
Jim: If you think about the incline value of what they receive. Now they just raised $800+ thousand for the next version.
Jason: Right. On KickStarter.
Jim: On KickStarter. Which, Freddy says he wants it to be the Harry Potter of… Which I’m siked to see. It’s a good show.
Jason: Have you guys tried KickStarter for a project? Or do you just think that’s…
Jim: We may. I mean if we were still independent I’d totally do it.
Jason: Yeah. I’d been thinking about it.
Jim: Why not?
Jim: Make sure it’s something that you wouldn’t do normally and it’s got a lot of sizzle. Make it something amazing.
Jason: It’s got to be something amazing?
Jim: You’re Jason. You can make amazing things happen.
Jason: Yeah. I don’t know.
Jim: You have to come up with that idea.
Jason: I’m also tired. You know? I like doing my show. This is the thing. I think when you get older and you’re doing one of these shows you kind of click in to what you want to do. Like, I like to sit here and have a conversation with another entrepreneur or founder. Maybe a VC sometimes.
Jason: And I want to do it for 45 minutes or an hour, hour and a half. I don’t want to go like… Come up with something and ask people to pay for it. That’s not my… I’m not interested in that.
Jim: Well do it under one of the auspices of the company that you’re doing.
Jason: Yeah. Of course.
Jim: Under Inside. You know.
Jason: We might do that. You have to find a very powerful idea. Though I think you’re right.
Jim: Or do another event and kickstart it. Right?
Jim: Think of that cool event that you always want to do but you didn’t know if there’d be an audience.
Jason: That’s a good point. That’s a good idea. I’m gonna… Take a note somebody. Bryce. We should come up with an event and then email everybody and say, “If you want to do it put in some money.”
Jim: Put in $100 or $50 and you’ll get… Front row seats are $500. That sort of thing.
Jason: Yeah. I like that.
Jim: So the other area where I think KickStarter can be really cool… I mentioned this to the YouTube guys. They’re talking about doing subscription channels right? So what I want them to do is make kickstarter for subscription channels. Say, I will go cover the Tick Festival in Heeney, Colorado.
Jason: Oh. So genius.
Jim: If I could raised enough money. Then only the people who put in go into that subscription.
Jason: So it’s like a subscription inside a subscription.
Jason: But you could pop up a channel to do that but it would be easier if that was seamless.
Jim: It was all seamless. Exactly.
Jason: Oh. That would be so great if you could say, on a per episode basis. Here are the 10 people I want to interview for the show. So I want to interview Masa in Japan and it’s going to cost $20K to do that. I want to interview this person in London. It’s going to cost $15K to do that. It’s going to cost $10K to interview this person. If it hits that threshold of donations then we charge you and I’ll go do it.
Jason: Like Kevin could do that with Foundation. Whatever.
Jason: That’s a great idea. Are YouTube subscriptions going to work do you think?
Jim: I have no idea. I only know what I’ve read about. I know it’s coming out. I don’t know. You know what I like about the idea…
Jason: Do you have any fan subscriptions or have you ever tried it?
Jim: We don’t right now.
Jason: Have you ever tried it?
Jim: Well we did the Diggnation thing I talked about early on.
Jason: Right. That’s like a donation.
Jim: It was a donation. Exactly. It was a tip jar. We talked about it. We want to explore alternate revenue. We haven’t done anything yet. Discovery’s been really good about… One of the nice things about coming to a big company like Discovery was they had people in there doing things that we were doing so much better than we were. Like on digital distribution. There’s a group of people that do digital distribution at Discovery who are… You do not want to be on the other side of the desk from them. I’m so glad they’re on my side. I cut my distribution group. I said, “You guys handle it.”
Jim: These are the ones who did the deal with Netflix and did the deal… They are making money that way. So we’re talking about doing things.
Jason: So they’re already in discussions with Netflix over the 500 different shark episodes that they have.
Jim: They’re already up there.
Jason: And they’re already up there I noticed. A lot of Discovery content.
Jason: Then they can just say, “Do you want some Revision3 stuff?” And they’re negotiating that for you?
Jim: No. They don’t really want our stuff.
Jason: Why doesn’t Netflix want shows like ours?
Jim: Because they’re on the internet for free.
Jason: What if I said to Netflix, “I’ll put my archives only on Netflix.” Do you think they would be interested? Would they pay me?
Jim: I think… I don’t have any solid knowledge on this. I don’t think that’s a conversation that they’re even willing to have for a couple of years.
Jason: Cause why? They perceive some difference in quality?
Jim: No. Because I think they’ve got too much else going on.
Jason: Ah. Too busy.
Jim: They’ve got to do more things like House of Cards. They’re big international. They’re doing all their international expansion. You look at a company like that…
Jason: Low hanging fruit.
Jim: It’s a lot of low hanging fruit.
Jason: It’s too difficult. Too long tail.
Jim: How do your archives do?
Jason: Yeah. Obviously the show is… I gotta say the YouTube thing is the thing that’s really starting to grow. What I started doing is I started logging into YouTube, my Google+ account. Which has like 600K followers some how. I’m interacting with people in the show. What I realized about YouTube is when I post a comment to them they get an email. Some of these YouTubers check their emails and then they instantly respond.
Jim: Oh cool.
Jason: So now like those really stupid comments on YouTube are getting pushed down and the intelligent threads are going up. So what I do is… Somebody says that was a great interview with Shervin. Then I’m like, “Yeah. That was great. What was your favorite moment?” Then a day later or 12 hours later they put their favorite moment. Then I’m like, “Oh yeah. That was a great moment. My favorite moment was this. Have you seen this episode?” So I always end it with a question.
Jason: Now I’m starting to get, “Oh. There’s something intelligent going on in the comments.” It brings people back to the show.
Jim: The integration… For all the stuff that YouTube is doing I love that they are experimenting and trying new stuff. The integration of Google+ as they do more and more of that, to me, that is so smart.
Jason: My understanding is that your Google+ identity and you’re YouTube identity will sort of become one thing. I think is sort of the goal.
Jim: I’ve kind of heard those rumors too. It makes sense to me.
Jason: It would be great. Because if I have a channel called something. OK now it’s Jason Calacanis. It’s ThisWeekIn Startups. It really is the same identity. Right? Then I could be… It just seems like it would make more sense. It is a social network. YouTube is a better social network or bigger one than Google+.
Jim: I heard it’s the third biggest. I don’t know where this stat came from. So don’t hold me to it. The third biggest social network out there.
Jason: Absolutely. Even if you just think about it. They have 800M people a month using it. If 5% were involved in social activity, just 5%, that would be 40M people.
Jim: That’s huge.
Jason: That’s pretty huge. If it was 10% it would be big. Big, big.
Jim: So Facebook… Is Twitter a social network? I still don’t even know if it is or not.
Jason: I think it is.
Jim: Or do people kind of call it that?
Jason: So why did Discovery buy Revision3? What was the… Everybody has got to have a thesis.
Jim: Here’s the thesis and rationale.
Jim: Discovery was #1 in nonfiction video on linear world wide. Discovery is very much a world wide company.
Jason: Why is it?… I know the answer. I’m going to ask you to see if you know. I heard a speech from the CEO at that Allen Company at the conference.
Jim: Oh cool.
Jason: What is the reason why it’s so international? Or so easy. What is there advantage? There’s a secret why it’s so international.
Jim: OK. Well maybe you can tell me. Cause you know the answer. Though I will tell you the reason why is… They started thinking about this 17 years ago. But it’s very… It’s great visual content that people want to watch.
Jason: Yeah you got it. You basically got it. Here’s the thing. This is probably the most brilliant thing I’ve heard from… What’s the CEO’s name?
Jim: David Zaslav.
Jason: Yeah. So I saw David speak. He’s like, “When MTV went global they needed to do a localized version of The Real World. When they went to Spain they needed to do another one. When they went to Italy the people of Italy didn’t want to see Spain they wanted to see Italy. So I had to pop up production. When we do Shark Week and we do great white sharks all we have to do is subtitling.”
Jason: “We don’t have to do a local version of sharks for Italy and Spain and for Japan. That’s why it was just like Boom! International.
Jim: That’s true but I will also say that many of the arrangements in the local countries require a certain percentage amount of localized content.
Jason: Yes. I think that’s growing.
Jim: We ran into this when we did TechTV Canada. It was like 70% or 30%. I can’t remember the percentage. We had to do… This is why Leo had to go up to Vancouver every couple of weeks to do Call For Help Canada.
Jim: It’s also why after TechTV was gone he still did Call For Help Canada.
Jim: Yeah. He still would go to Vancouver and do Call For Help Canada.
Jason: Cause they just wanted to have canadian…
Jim: Canadian local content.
Jason: So they’re just like, “Hey. We’re going to keep paying you for this.”
Jim: “We’re just going to fly Leo up to do the show up here.”
Jason: So their thesis was their number one… I cut you off.
Jim: That’s fine. That’s cool.
Jason: What was the thesis? Let’s go back to that.
Jim: So the thesis was we’re #1 in linear nonfiction in television. We went to 100M homes in the US to one billion homes world wide. We built… I didn’t describe it this way cause I wasn’t smart enough… arguably the top nonfiction web original company.
Jason: I would say so yes. Next New Networks was probably…
Jim: They were off the table at the time.
Jason: They were like very short lived. You guys sustained twice as long.
Jim: Right. So we were #1 nonfiction web original. The goal was to merge us together… And to keep going by the way… but to build the #1 nonfiction video company across all screens. So 100M US, a billion world wide, 100B screens over the next couple of years. We want to be the #1 nonfiction video company across all of them. Every glowing rectangle in your life everywhere in the world.
Jason: Does that mean they will take shows they’re doing and give them to you to do online?
Jason: Are you guys coming up with new show ideas that will go online? That will go upstream?
Jim: No. Because they know how to make really good television.
Jason: Right. They don’t need you.
Jim: We’re not good at that. They bought into sort of the vision that this is a new medium. The thing that’s confusing about digital distribution of video on the internet is it is both a new medium and a distribution mechanism for the old medium. They tend to get confused. So you take traditional television. We have digital cable and now you can take those same shows and put them on Netflix and Hulu and Amazon Prime. They’re essentially the same old medium just distributed in a new way. And there’s new consumption models coming out because people are binge viewing. Watching 100 episodes over a weekend.
Jason: But the product is the same.
Jim: The product’s the same. Then there’s the ability to do what you’re doing now. What you’re doing, what we’re doing right now could not be done on traditional television. But you couldn’t find an audience that’s strong enough and passionate enough and will watch this and will make it profitable. So in many ways there’s new models coming out. So go out and do those new things. Make it work. We don’t want you to make television for us. Now what we are doing though. We’re currently poking around. Just like MTV did. They took all their old catalog and they made VH1 out of it. Discovery has 25 years of great video. We’re in there digging around the archives… We’re routing around in the attic looking for cool things that we can repurpose. We’re not going to just run them. Cause that has value in selling to Netflix. What we’re going to do is we can take the clips of stuff and a great video… Not that we’re going to do this but I can do like, “The Amazing Explosion of the Day.” I could have 10 years worth of explosions that I could put in front of you.
Jason: You could do a predator channel on YouTube. Cause I know my daughter likes certain genres in… Like she’ll say, “I want to see a dolphin.” If you just made like Discovery Channel’s Dolphins on YouTube and it was just a channel of dolphin footage and you just did 60 second or 90 second clips of dolphin footage you would have a million subscribers. Then you do that for turtles and then you do it for sharks. You just have Discovery Shark Week. You put up all that B footage that they must have that hasn’t even been edited. You could make all kinds of interesting short videos about shark facts. If you just did sharks, a Discovery Channel for sharks… Why doesn’t that exist?
Jim: You know it’s interesting. The actually isn’t that much shark footage. There is but it’s not as much as you might think.
Jason: But even still. There’s got to be enough to put out 2 episodes a week.
Jim: You’re right. There is all of those things and yes. Yes, yes and yes.
Jason: Everybody’s stealing it anyway and putting it up there. You guys claiming all that stuff? Has that process started? To claim.
Jim: It’s started.
Jim: I’ve been trying to accelerate that. So we’ll see where it goes. But the guys at Zephyr… There are a couple other guys who are really good at helping with the claiming process. So we’re integrating that sort of functionality in.
Jason: How does that Zephyr… Explain to the audience what the claiming process is. Cause I don’t know that everybody is aware of how sophisticated this is.
Jim: So what they do. YouTube has built this whole content ID system that matches audio and video to clips that go up. Let’s say for example the clip that you watch right now of me saying this. YouTube can take that, if you’re on the content match system, and they’ll look at the image, they’ll look at the voice, then they’ll do a match. Then they’ll just… Everything that gets uploaded they do pattern matching on all of it. If something hits… You can set a threshold. I’m 70%, 80%, 90%. Either let me send them a take down notice or file a claim against them or say, “You can keep it up there but every advertisement that runs against it, I get the money not you. That’s my video.”
Jim: So that’s the claiming process.
Jason: It seems like a lot of people are embracing this. I think the NBA and the soccer leagues are like, “If you want to remix the Nicks’ playoffs or something like that go ahead. We’re going to claim it and take the money.”
Jim: That’s the way it should be. Right? The people who try to stand in the way of it… It’s like trying to stick your finger in the dyke and 100 other holes show up over there.
Jim: The NFL does that a lot. They really control their product. I think we are in this… If you’re not setting your stuff free and let people remix it and do their own thing with it and do add-ons and fun stuff… You saw Mark Suster’s column, I’m sure, earlier this week or late last week. He wrote a great, great column about sort of the Harlem Shuffle and the remix generated. Being able to just do new things on it. Riffing of it.
Jim: We should be giving people the tools to do that and celebrating when they do it well and making money off of it too.
Jason: Yeah. What about this next generation of talent. I mean you have the iJustine’s of the world, you have the Veronica Belmont’s, you have the Kevin Roses, whatever. Or Leo Laportes or Adam Carollas. Are these top level talent just going to be sustainable independent productions? It feels like Chris Hardwick and a lot of them have a certain artistic vision. They can get to sustainability with small teams. Like ThisWeekIn Startups has a team of like 3 or 4. It’s got a half million in revenue which I think makes it probably 1 of the top 10 podcasts? Probably.
Jim: That’s great.
Jason: We’re not actually working on it that hard. We’re not like investing doubly. We just want to make it sustainable and great for the community. Is that the future of this or is it going to be people collecting a bunch of shows?
Jim: That’s a really good question. I think there is an ability to collect some of this kind of stuff but there aren’t a lot of really talented people in this medium who could do a really good job at it and make it successful. Now… I don’t have a good answer for you.
Jim: You look at some of the stars that have come up on YouTube and you wonder, are they able to translate that into broader success. So Justine. Love Justine. She’s awesome. I really believe she’s a great talent and can do that. Annoying Orange. Dane has done that. Created a great show on Nickelodeon.
Jim: Wait. Cartoon Network. One of or the other. I don’t watch that network very often. You look at Fred and Fred was able to do it. I’m not sure how many people are going to be able to do that.
Jason: To make the jump up.
Jim: To make the jump. I believe that in this medium that we’re in now, just as we saw with magazines and newspapers it’s almost like it’s a lowest common denominator where people are going to be able to make money. It’s going to be hard to build a really big business just focused on this.
Jason: What do these YouTube stars make, in your estimation? The top 100. What do they make a year if they’re getting 100M views a year? Or a billion views a year.
Jim: I was thinking about this. I think if you’re doing 20M views a month you’re probably clearing about $50K.
Jason: So $2 CPM or something.
Jim: I don’t know. Something like that.
Jason: Yeah. Low single digits.
Jim: Figure if I’m doing 20M… So the top YouTubers are doing 20M right?
Jason: A month.
Jim: A month. So you’re making a half million maybe $600K a year.
Jason: Which is huge.
Jim: You can buy a Tesla.
Jason: Sure. Buy two. Buy a new one every year.
Jim: But there aren’t that many people who are doing 20M a year.
Jason: 20M a month.
Jim: But there are expenses involved in doing that. Right?
Jim: So it’s not just…
Jason: So if half of it goes to expenses and you’re making a quarter million dollars a year. Which is great.
Jim: Then you’re paying half of that in taxes.
Jim: It’s a nice living.
Jason: It’s sustainable.
Jim: It’s a life style business.
Jason: In 3, 4 or 5 years it could double or triple.
Jim: Could or maybe it will plateau. So a very small amount of people are doing 80M or 100M. You look at Jenna Marbles and a couple of others who are doing more. So they’re maybe grossing one and a half million.
Jim: So I’d say that upper range is somewhere around there.
Jason: Which is pretty phenomenal if you think about it. Somebody looks into the camera, edits it briefly and…
Jim: The great thing about it is you control it all.
Jim: You think about the traditional role of Hollywood is everybody takes their pieces. You get your fee and it’s not a lot. In that world it starts at 50%. I already get all this. If you want to help me you’re going to give me at least that. That’s a lot of power.
Jason: Yeah. Cause they’re paying 45% to YouTube. They get 55%. But you don’t need a manager to take 10% of that. You don’t need an agent to take 15% of that. Whatever that is.
Jim: Right. What you need is, can you do brand extensions? Can you do the book? Right? Where is iJustine’s Guide to the iPhone?
Jason: Yeah. She did do like… I think she’s doing video game stuff. She dabbled in video games.
Jim: I haven’t talked to her for a little while.
Jason: It’s going to be hard to wrangle those people I guess. Maker had that huge blowout…
Jim: With Ray.
Jason: … with Ray.
Jim: Ray William Johnson.
Jason: So did you guys try to collect a bunch of shows? You had Epic Mealtime for a while.
Jason: So it that you guys gave up on that strategy of trying represent a lot of the big names?
Jim: No the strategy with big name remain the same. Which is let’s find people who can build really big, strong engaging communities around themselves. Then drive brands around those communities and have us both benefit.
Jim: We had great success with Epic Mealtime. They decided that they wanted to go in a somewhat different direction. That’s fine. We continue to do that with folks that we work with outside of Revision3 that we bring on as affiliates but also building our own stuff.
Jason: Yeah. I think that you and I came to the same… Or perhaps we did. You tell me. With ThisWeekIn I tried to do a bunch of shows. It was always like God, it was so hard to find somebody talented. Then if you do there’s so little money in it. It takes such a multi year commitment to actually… It took me 4 years to get this show to where it is. It took Leo 8 years he’s in, I guess? 7 or 8 years. It took Kevin…
Jim: Leo’s been doing this since ’92 but…
Jason: I’m just saying he started TWiT seven years ago.
Jim: It’s an extension of what he did. Exactly. 7 or 8 years.
Jason: It takes a long time.
Jim: And you gotta be committed to it. Diggnation, Kevin and Alex, they were done with it. Right?
Jason: Yeah. I think Kevin was like how many more years are we going to sit on the couch and drink beer.
Jim: And pretend that I’m 25.
Jason: Right. It was actually getting a little bit sad. It got sort of a good line about it. It’s hard to do a roll up of that. It’s interesting that Adam Carolla even went into this. What do you think of what he’s doing?
Jim: I like what he’s doing. I think he’s brilliant. I think he’s really smart. I like what Kevin Hardwick is doing.
Jason: Yeah. The Nerdist stuff.
Jim: The Nerdist stuff is really interesting. Remember Kevin came from a television background.
Jason: Did he? What did he do before?
Jim: He was at G4.
Jason: Oh really. I didn’t know that. Oh.
Jim: He was on, I think, Attack of the Show. Ryan Vance who runs our program production was there for a long time. He worked with him.
Jason: It’s quite an alumni now. Because of… Who’s the one who went to go do the newsroom show? Who’s the girl who was on Attack of the Show? Woman I’m sorry. I gotta stop saying girl when I mean women. Who was the woman, Olivia…
Jim: Olivia Munn was on it. She was on the Daily Show and has done a bunch of stuff.
Jason: Now she… I think she was in a movie. She does… She’s definitely on the newsroom.
Jim: Yep. Look at TechTV.
Jason: They got Leo Laporte from TechTV, Kevin Rose from TechTV, you were at TechTV.
Jim: Erica Hill.
Jason: Erica Hill.
Jim: Erica Hill was our PC intern and then was our anchor at TechTV.
Jason: Veronica Belmont. She wasn’t TechTV. She was…
Jim: Right. Veronica was at CNET. Also before TechTV we had The Site that we launched with MSNBC. Soledad O’brian was the host of The Site. Remember Soledad?
Jason: Soledad was… Yeah. She was a web person. The TechTV alumni is white a group now.
Jason: They’ve all gone on to… In a lot cases… What happened to the guy who was Olivia Munn’s partner on the show? What was his name. I forgot his name.
Jim: That was post my time there.
Jason: Yeah. Famous guy.
Jim: So Adam Sessler just came back to Revision3. When we launched ZD.TV which became TechTV. There were 4 or 5 shows. There was ScreenSavers with Leo Laporte, there was Extended Play TV with Adam Sessler which was our video game show. There was a show called Fresh Kid which I hosted. Of course I lasted a couple of years and then I was done. Leo’s still doing his Leo thing. Adam went off to G4 and did… It was GameSpotTV actually. We owned GameSpot when we launched. Then it became Extended Play then X-Play. Now he’s back at Revision3 doing his gaming coverage again. So a lot of interesting people out of there.
Jason: What do you think the reaction of Hollywood is gonna be to what’s happening on YouTube? They seem to be waking up to it a little bit. There’s a little bit of dabbling. The TV business seems to be doing so well that they’re not really engaging that much. Am I right in thinking that?
Jim: I think you’re right. I think what we’re seeing now is that certain parts of Hollywood are seeing that there’s money in there and they’re all starting to come in and say, “How do I get a piece of this?”
Jim: “I gotta figure it out. How do I get my agent 10%? How do I get my manager… How do I get my package on this?”
Jason: Yeah. So they’re thinking in a mercenary sense there might t be a quick hit to have here.
Jim: Or a longer term thing of how do I go to town and grow with them and build that up?
Jason: Got it.
Jim: I think on the TV side… I thought for a long time that TV was going to fall fast like we saw with magazines and music.
Jason: Yeah. Me too. But it didn’t.
Jim: It didn’t.
Jim: In part it’s the entrenched way that we consume television and part they saw the mistakes and didn’t… Think about it Discovery does not release it’s full episodes for free to watch online. What do we do on magazines? We’re putting all our articles online for free.
Jason: Yeah. They like free.
Jim: What about music? Napster just took it over. So there was some learning there. Also the infrastructure is different. I still think that it’s going to… I think now it’s going to be a slower ramp. It will be disintermediated but it’s going to take 10 or 15 years. There are people at Discovery… Other people I talk to who think it’s going to happen much more quickly. That we will see it fall apart in the next 2 or 3 years.
Jason: See I think the quality has gone up. I mean just think about 10 or 20 years ago. It was like, oh there was the Soprano’s. There was like one good show on TV. Maybe 2 or 3.
Jason: Then everybody saw The Shield or The Sopranos and all these innovative programs do very well. Now it’s like The Walking Dead and Boardwalk Empire. Just so many great shows. You can watch them… With binge viewing they’re available everywhere.
Jim: The thing that I think we’re seeing is, this is the really interesting pivot starting to happen, is what Netflix did. Right? With…
Jason: House of Cards.
Jim: … House of Cards.
Jim: They released all 13 episodes at once.
Jason: Yeah. Who wants to go through this painful weekly egeda?
Jim: Why do I need a network that I watch every week when I can just go watch all of them all at once.
Jason: If they’re good.
Jim: If they’re good.
Jason: Or I could move on.
Jason: So much better.
Jim: So there’s so much change happening. I’m not smart enough to be able to say where it’s going to go to. Cause I thought it was going to go one way and it didn’t go there.
Jason: Yeah. I think it saved it. I think this binge viewing saved it cause what happened, it used to be that you’d miss a show. It was like, “I missed a show. How am I going to see it again?” Buy a bunch of DVDs? It’s a pain in the ass. But then you think about it now. “Oh you’re just hearing about Downton Abbey? It’s season 3. It’s almost over.”
Jim: Watch 1 watch 2.
Jason: “Oh. We can talk about it next week. You can binge view the whole season 1 this week and I’ll talk to you about it at next week’s poker game.” That’s what happens at my poker games.
Jim: I saw the head of AMC talk recently. He was saying when The Walking Dead right. What happens is they put The Walking Dead out on Netflix. They find that when they do that people watch the first couple of seasons and their premiere for next season goes through the roof.
Jason: Of course.
Jim: Because everyone wants to know what happens.
Jason: It’s caught up. All these idiots I play poker with they keep talking about Justified.
Jason: The Wire and Justified. Back and forth. Then they were talking about girls. I’m like, “OK fine. I’ll go watch it.” Then I go start watching these shows and these things are fracking addicting.
Jason: And they’re just taking over my life. I don’t have time to watch all of these shows. I watched the first 3 episodes of Justified. Do you watch Justified?
Jim: No, no but…
Jason: Then don’t start it. The first 3 episodes is so goddamned good now I’m sitting here like I gotta get the Launch Festival done. I’m like, “I can’t wait to watch these next 20 episodes. I put myself on a ban. A Justified ban.
Jim: So let’s go back to the cost per episode thing. Because it ties into what you were just saying. What we’re seeing is we’re seeing so many great programs that are so expensive to create. I was watching Game of Thrones. The open of Game of Thrones has to have cost more than my entire budget for content last year. Right?
Jim: Amazing. That’s just the open. So we’re seeing this bifurcation I think of media. Where going to have a few of these really beautiful, amazing things that happen. Then there’s going to be a lot of stuff, like what we’re doing now.
Jim: That”s going to be much lower cost that we are going to have our binge viewing but then we’ll just have all these other things that we just kind of enjoy. So I see that bifurcation of media happening.
Jason: So you either win by having this massive amazing production value that soars past everything. Or long tail content that just connects deeply with a smaller subset.
Jim: Mid tail niche content or long tail niche content.
Jim: That’s the bifurcation that I think that’s happening. So what that means is, if you play that out, we’re not going to have as many cable networks anymore. The cable networks that do a good job on the high end stuff and can draw those big audiences in will survive. The ones that don’t we’re not going to pay for.
Jason: They’ll do better.
Jim: They’re going to do better.
Jason: So the AMCs, the Discoverys of the world, they’re just going to take over your logo. I don’t know. You’re HD TV or whatever it is. It’s going to have a harder and harder time because they don’t have the budgets to compete.
Jim: Look at AMC. They do a couple of great series a year. Maybe 5 or 10. Is that enough to compete as a network? I don’t know.
Jason: Yeah. They gotta do more. But they’re doing more I think. Like Showtime actually seems to be doing more.
Jim: People pay for Showtime so it’s a different model.
Jim: It’s Netflix.
Jim: Showtime and HBO are Netflix. Netflix they’re the same thing now.
Jason: They are the same aren’t they?
Jim: They just have slightly different ways to get customers.
Jason: They are the same exact thing. This House of Cards is going to embolden them.
Jim: Oh my God. So much.
Jason: I saw a statistic. 86% of people said House of Cards would keep them from unsubscribing.
Jim: Look at what happened to Netflix stock.
Jason: If that’s just 50% correct.
Jim: So I bought a little Netflix stock about a year ago when it was at $80 or $90 and I held onto it.
Jason: Now it’s at $300?
Jim: No it’s close to about $200.
Jim: I know. I didn’t buy enough of it. Stupid me. I’ve got to stick to the courage of my convictions. I’m not a gambler like you. Actually I’m not a smart gambler like you. You actually know what you’re doing.
Jason: That would be debatable.
Jim: But anyway, it only went up in the last really month or so. Because they reported better results but then it got the kicker from House of Cards. We were like, “Oh there’s something there.”
Jim: Really something there.
Jason: Luckily it seems like a good show. Arrested Development comes next?
Jim: Yeah. That’s right.
Jason: So it’s going to be like if Arrested Development is good and House of Cards was pretty good, that’s going to just… I think they’re going to tear the doors off…
Jim: Well they’re doing an Arrested Development movie as well.
Jason: Right. But they’re doing another series.
Jim: No the movie is going to be before or after I forget which.
Jason: Oh wow.
Jim: But both will play together.
Jim: Look at the other folks. So I call them the Four Horseman of the Streaming Apocalypse. So it’s Netflix…
Jason: Amazon, Hulu.
Jim: Amazon, Apple, Hulu. Actually take Netflix out. It’s Microsoft, Amazon, Apple and Google. Those are the real four. Right?
Jim: So Hulu and Netflix are kind of out there.
Jim: But you look at what those four are doing. Right? So Microsoft hired Nancy Tellem.
Jason: Yeah. She got 150 people in Santa Monica making stuff.
Jim: I know.
Jason: Nobody knows what she’s making. Do you know what she’s making?
Jim: No. I don’t know if she knows what she’s making yet.
Jason: Did you have a meeting with her yet?
Jim: I know her from her CBS days. We chatted in December and she was still trying to figure it out.
Jim: Which you can imagine. She was like in for a couple of weeks. What’s going on at this Microsoft thing?
Jim: Amazon is doing their own original stuff.
Jason: Amazon Studios. They’re optioning scripts?
Jim: Yeah. I think so.
Jason: Amazing. I saw that. No they are. They optioned the Zombieland for a TV show.
Jim: Right. Amazon’s doing it, Microsoft’s doing it. Google?
Jason: Not yet. Well through YouTube.
Jim: They put money in Machinima. They dropped $100M into… $200M now. Where’s Apple?
Jason: Where is Apple? $140B in cash. Apple is the largest hedge fund in the world with $140B cash. Did you know that?
Jason: They’re the largest hedge fund in the world.
Jim: That’s wild.
Jason: Yeah. You wouldn’t even… They could buy like… They could be like Blackstone buying SeaWorld and all this other kind of stuff and huge stuff. They are afraid to be in the content business. They absolutely should be leaning into this. W’hat are they doing? Why don’t they hire somebody?
Jim: Yeah. It’s going to be interesting to see what happens.
Jason: What about Yahoo too? Shouldn’t Yahoo be doing this?
Jim: Yahoo is doing it.
Jason: They do original programming.
Jim: Yes. They do original programming. They did that Tom Hanks thing. Remember that cartoon? Like incredibly violent cartoon.
Jason: Yeah. I never saw it.
Jim: I never saw it either. But AOL is doing it as well. AOL’s been dabbling here. So I think… This goes back to what you started off with which is you know you oughta own your own content.
Jason: The brand is where the value is.
Jason: Or have a network. One or the other. Either you own the Cosby Show or you’re NBC.
Jim: Right. But NBC… Again what you own then you can option it out. Then you can put in windows around the world. You can have your shark content and put it all over the world.
Jason: Jim this has been a great episode. Everybody follow jlouderback.
Jim: @jlouderb on Twitter. One thing I do want to say, I have started doing… With our YouTube funded channel Tech Feed. I’ve started doing a show every week.
Jason: You do?
Jim: Kinda getting back into it a little bit.
Jason: What’s the show?
Jim: It’s called Downloaded. It’s basically… It’s what I used to do at Ziff Davis with… It’s basically just talking about the top stories of the day. We sit around and talk about the top stories of the week. 3 or 4 of us and just kind of babble about it.
Jason: You ever Skype in a guest or GoTo Meeting a guest?
Jim: No. You have to be there. When you’re in San Francisco.
Jason: Well I’m in San Francisco. I’ll come in.
Jim: But no. I encourage people to watch it. So go to YouTube.com/techfeed. Download it. It’s one of the six or seven shows oh that channel.
Jim: But it’s fun. We just talk about what’s… You know.
Jason: Hey do me a favor Brandice. At this point in the show… Actually in the beginning of the show, somewhere in the first minute. Put a big annotation that says check out and link to Jim’s show. Put the annotation right here. No. Here. Put it here. Put it here. Put it over here. On the microphone. Click the microphone.
Jim: It’s kind of fun doing something again. I think I have so much respect for you, for Kevin, for Leo to be able to stick with it and do it.
Jason: It’s exhausting. I’ll be honest.
Jim: I’ve been doing it every friday for the last 3 or 4 months.
Jason: It takes a lot of energy.
Jim: It takes a lot of energy.
Jason: When you get out do you feel like you just ran a marathon? I get out of this show… I mean I am a little bit pumped but also it’s like the amount of creative energy it takes, people don’t get this, to host the show and you have to be alert. I have to listen to everything you’re saying. Got the follow up question ready. It’s an intense thing.
Jim: What we do though is we drink beer on the show.
Jason: Oh. A little hat tip to Diggnation.
Jim: I borrowed that from Diggnation.
Jason: Yeah. Exactly. You did learn something over the last six years of suffering through web video. It has been a little bit painful.
Jim: It has been. But you know what it’s been fun. We’re creating a new media right here.
Jason: Yeah. That does make it easier to get through the day. With all the challenges that you’re doing something so innovative.
Jim: Well look. If you’re not having fun with what you’re doing then don’t do it. Right? That’s the ultimate thing. You’re having a blast doing what you do. You always do.
Jason: I love what I do.
Jim: And you can tell. You write and everything is… It’s like Jason is poking the bear and he’s having fun with it.
Jason: Yeah. I wouldn’t do it if I wasn’t.
Jim: Well you’re good at it. The bear doesn’t like it but you’re good at it.
Jason: Listen everybody go check out Revision3. Continued success. Congrats to Discovery. I think they got the deal of the century to get all those great brains inside the organization.
Jim: Thank you.
Jason: It’s great to have you on the program. Thanks again to our sponsors. If you want to follow me on Twitter I’m @jason and if you want to follow the show it’s @TWIstartups. Go ahead and post to the comments because that’s a great thing to do, post to the comments. Thank you to our incredible sponsors @squarespace and @sharefile for their support. We’ll see you all next time on ThisWeekIn Startups.
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