VON: Andrew Baron Rockets In

    September 13, 2006
    WebProNews Staff

Rocketboom’s stormy breakup with host Amanda Congdon captivated the blogosphere. Baron started over with a new host, Joanne Colan, and arrived at Fall 2006 VON to talk about his view of the nascent online video industry.

VON: Andrew Baron Rockets In
Delivering Web Video The Rocketboom Way

Our men on the scene, Rich Ord and Mike McDonald, continue to feed us reports from the conference. These notes come from Baron’s industry perspective chat on The Implications for Media in a Global Internet Culture to attendees, which we’ve excerpted for presentation here.

VON organizer Jeff Pulver welcomed Baron to the conference, and effused on how much he enjoyed being around “a bunch of people who really get it. I want to thank all of you for making this really cool.”

Baron thanked Pulver for his welcome and opened his talk. (Readers: please note this is a raw cross-section of Baron’s talk; we’re giving it to you this way to give you a feel for the impression he makes. Any perceived deficiencies in the flow or content are the fault of your humble scribes, not Andrew. – David)

Quickly, Rocketboom is a 3 minute blog style program where Joanne … our host … does quirky stories. One of the things that made Rocketboom so popular (about 350000 views a day)… is because we were one of the first adopters. I took an approach that I didn’t have fear of people grabbing RocketBoom and redistributing it.

By letting this go these people are becoming aware of Rocketboom as a brand. I feel that people online are inclined to come to us at the home page if they liked the content. We don’t allow commercial use without something worked out, but for any other reason I have no problem with that. Essentially, Rocketboom is like a big catcher’s mitt. We don’t do press releases or PR.

I found that if people want it over here I think we should make Rocketboom available …. So, we have an obnoxious number of file types.

Another thing I noticed is that the mainstream media does a good job with mainstream entertainment. Then there is the other side, and that is more about information. The qualify of production and effort for those kinds of programs is somewhat incidental.

So I thought ‘why not put entertainment and information together?’

Another element of a successful web video site is the sense of belonging. At least 25 percent of the content comes from viewers. We also have barely filtered comments off of every video cast. If you are watching a video on your iPod or on TV you can’t comment.

If you noticed we kind of have a Google aesthetic to the site…. websites are like your house or office…. it is a space where you want people to feel comfortable to watch your content.

Over the next year I will probably become a real proponent for wikis. This allows my audience to come in and really belong, really take ownership of the site. So far we only have 24 articles in the wiki I just set up. I showed which camera I used, and what happened is that the audience came into my wiki and corrected spelling and formatting and sort of cleaned it up.

We recently posting a question in the wiki; one was ‘where were you on September 11, 2001?’ It was fascinating to watch and see how people are reacting to it.

Imagine you come onto someone’s website, suppose you are a fan of the show… oh here’s Steve Garfield in my wiki…. it is interesting that the audience can come in and mess with this …. the audience feels like it belongs. That’s really powerful and important.

Now lets jump into monetizing web video. I have a sense that monetization is what people are interested in …

So far over the last 2 years because we all know that the level of entry is so low, you don’t need to raise money or even have money, but what you need is time. So then, where am I going to make my money?

I say set that aside and focus on building your audience. If I have 200,000 people or 400,000 people viewing, anyone on Wall Street will say that there is value there.

We charge $60,000 for a weeks worth of ads. We aren’t yet selling many ads because I am selling them myself at this point. I’m good at making the sale but I don’t have any feeling for it. I’m sorry but that’s me.

We like to create ads for our advertisers because I feel I know our audience best, and I know what works and what doesn’t work.

Our advertisements increase in value over time. As an example we used a Guinness commercial at the end of a segment on a brewery called Brooklyn Beer. Now here it is a year later, and because Rocketboom has a good link value on Google, there are over 6 million links in. It is more likely if someone is searching for a brewery in this area Rocketboom will come up. I see this as value for the advertiser.

We have a larger audience than many TV shows.

Another way to monetize your content is a premium subscription. For the hardcore fans, we will give you extra content and our newsletter, and ask them to pay $3.50 a month. For 10,000 people that is $35,000 per month.

Another method of monetizing is merchandising. At CollegeHumor.com these guy were making $400,000 per month. It’s crazy. At Rocketboom we are lousy at this, but still make $3,000-$4,000 per month from our one T-shirt.

Later I may plug in other shows to my huge catcher’s mitt of Rocketboom.

Blogging is so important to Rocketboom. How does blogging translate to video blogging? The answer is making the videos compelling and interesting. If you can find bloggers with a lot of authority to talk about you, that prompts the thousands of other bloggers to comment and take action.

Then journalists who feel threatened by bloggers notice what bloggers are saying; their big megaphone talks about you.

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David Utter is a staff writer for WebProNews covering technology and business.