How to Become an Online Video Star

by Ellen Lee on October 24, 2011
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Dina Kaplan (pictured) was holding down her dream job as a reporter for WNBC in New York City in 2005 when she received a call from a friend, Mike Hudack. He and a few engineers were building a platform that would enable talented producers to showcase videos online, and they needed her help launching the company. Kaplan soon joined the startup that would become Blip.tv, helping to shape the business, raise capital, and form critical partnerships.

Blip.tv now hosts more than 1,800 web-based programs, with the top ones earning close to $1 million in shared advertising revenues a year. Each show has a dedicated channel on the website, to which fans can subscribe so that they don’t miss the latest episodes. “There’s no question that the market for original web series is exploding,” says Kapan, who was named one of 18 female tech founders to watch by the Huffington Post. “Within a few years, it will be common for Americans to love their favorite television shows, but also have a favorite web series that they will watch just as religiously.”

Thinking about producing your own web show? Kaplan offers this advice to entrepreneurs who are pondering the Hollywood treatment.

  • Make sure your show is informative or entertaining. Marketing the business should come second (otherwise, you should just create an advertisement). Think about what value your customers will derive from your show. For instance, entrepreneur Rob Woodbridge interviews mobile-technology executives for Untether.tv, where they share their successes and failures — and the lessons they’ve learned. These helpful clips teach viewers the ins and outs of the wireless industry and provide inspiration.
  • Know your market and cater to it. “Don’t try to be everything to everyone,” Kaplan says. Tailor your show to fit your particular audience. For example, one food and drink show on Blip.tv, From A to Vegan, focuses on the vegan lifestyle, and has featured an interview with Gene Baur, co-founder of Farm Sanctuary, which rescues abused farm animals, and an interview with Issa Ostrander of Mompops, which makes popsicles with natural ingredients. That’s vastly different from another food and drink show, Beer Geek Nation Video Beer Reviews, which, as the name implies, are video reviews of different beers by a team of beer enthusiasts.
  • Keep a regular schedule. Though it doesn’t need to be a strict, it helps to establish a regular pace, such as posting a new video once a week, says Kaplan. That routine helps your audience know when to tune in again. Otherwise, it’s hard to build an audience if you only post videos sporadically. Beet.tv, which examines the changing media landscape, posts one to two short episodes almost every day. Beet.tv, which is also distributed to other outlets such as the Huffington Post and TechCrunch, has published nearly 3,000 videos since it started in 2006 and has 200,000 views a month, says founder Andy Plesser.
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