I was reading today’s Sydney Morning Herald online when this article caught my attention. The article is about a new web-based soap that will launch on Bebo next month. Mind you, this is not the first time I’ve commented on this type of thing – see a previous post on snack drama.
The really interesting thing is the genre and the communication channel – both particularly suitable for the mobile world. To date, much of the production of the three minute soap (or snack drama) is by amateurs and budding film producers experimenting through sites like YouTube. The real deal will come when advertisers and professional media production professionals start to invest in a big way in the three minute soap.
The appeal for the three minute soap has so far been on the production side of things. Grab a video camera and start shooting, hopefully with a reasonable storyline that will attract some regular attention. Much of what is produced today and channelled through YouTube is from amateurs and low-budget film-makers wanting to get product out into the world wide web.
The market is being driven by supply. However, demand will grow as more of these soap videocasts become known and gain sufficient following. As the market and consumer awareness develops, the supply will include more sophisticated production elements that will enhance the viewer experience, either through quality of production and/or quality of story and characterisation. Digital word-of-mouth through social networking will be a significant driver of demand. New production and editing techniques may develop that become unique to this type of media presentation and distribution channel.
Commercialisation will come about in a number of ways. Firstly, the three minute soap can be used to promote upcoming television series, movies, or games – almost like a set of pilot shows. Secondly, advertisers will use these digital videocasts for product placement and digital advertising. Thirdly, as the technology allowing for videocasts to mobile telephones improves sufficiently, a new and ubiquitous market platform emerges; just the thing for time-poor and attention-poor viewers to engage in habitual soap alone and with friends. And, there is the ability to leverage characterisation and the soap brand via other digital platforms – social media, blogs and other interactive fora.
Pricing structure needs to be considered. So long as access to the content remains nominally free, demand will accelerate. However, if commercial hunger overshoots demand by charging video subscription charges, then growth will be stymied. My tip is to grow the market first and see what happens before even contemplating pay-for-videocast soap!
But that’s not all. It will be possible for magazines to have sections of the printed product linked to videocasts as part of the magazine subscription or purchased as a stand-alone item. Imagine the gossip magazines with their grainy video shots of celebrities juggling groceries at the supermarket being available via videocast on a mobile phone or laptop? Videocasting using mobile telephony is exceptionally well suited for segmenting magazine news stories, either as stand alone content or as an extra to the print version.
I believe the genre will develop and really take off in the next 12-18 months. The three minute “soap” is just the beginning of course. The genre can take different forms – news, profiles, and education being examples. My personal interest is in learning and development. Imagine a training manual with links to selected relevant videocasts viewable via your mobile phone for instance.
I will therefore be following the videocast soap (and any permutations) to see how the market grows in the coming year and where those learning and development opportunities might be be. And I’ll be watching mobile telephony technologies just as keenly over the same period.
Stay tuned….mobile digital video on your laptop and mobile telephone is coming your way.