How web series are going no where until a habit forming subscription model is found.
In May 2013 I found a new web series that I absolutely loved** but despite the fact that it was really funny and the topic was one that I feel like I live through every day, I could not keep up with it for the life of me. I probably watched 60% of the episodes published in the shows first “season” and I totally missed the boat when a second season came out.
Who remembers to go back to that publishers page (within YouTube for instance) to check if something new has popped out?
If you discovered the series early in its lifespan, the onus is on you to do the work to keep up.
If you found the series later on, awesome, binge away! But once again, when the next “season” (or whatever we are going to call bursts of episodes in the future) starts, good luck with that!
Nurturing a hunt and peck approach
YouTube has been pushing viewers to subscribe to channels they find interesting and they will show you video from those sources when new content becomes available.
This has one main flaw: it predicates that you are buying into YouTube as your source of episodic web video and checking back in on a regular basis. The issue: this is a very lean forward approach. You, the viewer, have to remember a lot. Remember that you had something that you enjoyed on YouTube. Remember that the show you watched on YouTube is episodic and might come out with a new video in the next week or two. Just too much to remember for a supposedly relaxing thing to do!
Blip.tv and Vimeo have similar offerings with episodic video series that you can “follow” and get actual notifications when new content is available. They realized that what YouTube is trying to do is too complex for the end user. The end user can’t be left responsible to remember to come back to try and find that video series they thought was cool. It has to be simple. KISS.
Episodic content exists because of habits
I would postulate for the average consumer Blip, Vimeo and YouTube are all too complicated when it comes to video viewing habits though,especially for episodic content where follow up views must become a habit. Author Nir Eyal points out in his book Hooked:
“Habits form when the brain takes a shortcut and stops actively deliberating over what to do next.”
What seems to be missing from the experience of trying to consume any episodic video on the web is that there are no shortcuts available to give the brain a rest. That little bit of rest is what most people are looking for when sitting back and watching something that is supposed to be entertaining.
Most people come home from work, sit on their couch, and just want to be entertained. They know that Monday night, Football is on; Thursday night, The Big Bang Theory is on; and Saturday night, SNL is on. It’s all a habit.
What does the future hold for episodic web video?
While the production quality of episodic web video is making tremendous improvements (really tremendous) there is still no product out there with the reliability or ease of television (as most people know it) to form habits that will stick.
The product that can simplify, unify, and make episodic web video a habit for the average viewer will instantly click with consumers and become the heir of the traditional TV model as we know it.
** The series in question is: “Convos with my 2 year-old” (Also available on Shelby.tv as a continuous stream of full screen video here.)
Here are a list of some other web series that are great: