Reviews, Views and Adventures in Content Creation

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Movie Moguls and YouTube Subversives

I recently finished watching TCM's seven part documentary, "Moguls and Movie Stars: A History of Hollywood," which traces the history of the film industry from its earliest days all the way up to the final fade out of the mogul era in the late 1960's.

While it didn't really cover any new ground, it did provide a great overall look at the evolution of the industry, and the unique personalities that built the early industry.  These pioneers - from Louis B. Mayer to the Warner Brothers, to Darryl Zanuck - not only invented (and continuously reinvented) the movie industry, but achieved success with pure tenacity.  That may sound somewhat cliche these days, but these guys (and women, the program illustrates) really did it.

For me, the most fascinating part of the program is the earliest episode, "Peepshow Pioneers"which looks at the industry in its very earliest days, from 1889 - 1907, when peepshows - those machines that individuals would peer into to view 10 or 20 second short films - became the craze.  The program reports that Thomas Edison's  studio (really, the first of its kind) produced close to a thousand of these short films in a single year.  In the beginning, these films consisted primarily of simple improvisational skits created by Edison's studio workers themselves.

I can't help think of parallels to the social media / YouTube world today, where so many are experimenting with a form of expression which is both an evolution of motion pictures, and it's own unique creation.  Of course, in those early days, a single man, Thomas Edison, who invented (or perfected) much of the technology that made the birth of the industry possible, and tried to hold onto a monopoly in the creation and distribution of content.  Today, media creation is open to all, and there are limitless variations on creating YouTube content - some for nothing more than self-expression, and others as entrepreneurial ventures.

The film industry wasn't invented by individuals from the theater world - it was created by people from unrelated worlds - or dirt poor kids  -  who created an opportunity that others may have ignored in their own sophistication.   If the social media platform does evolve, the driving forces that make it stand on its own will not, ultimately come from the existing media industries - but from the individuals who are creating audiences where none existed.

I suspect that most, if not all of the top YouTubers are individuals without filmmaking backgrounds.  Even though I'm a filmmaker, I love the subversive irony...

Friday, December 17, 2010

My Latest Vlog

In this vlog, I celebrate the debut of my documentary by comparing big studio films with my modest little film....

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Who Are Our Own? Defining the 'Industry' in the Age of Social Media

After I posted my recent blog on the Motion Picture and Television Fund, I received several comments on the fight to keep open the long-term care facility, which I mentioned only in passing, but which is a particularly intense and impassioned battle, sparked by the feeling that the Fund wasn't living up its charter that, in the entertainment industry, "we take care of our own."  The battle is still raging (for more information on what this is all about, check out, though I believe that a critical question in a fractured and platform diverse entertainment industry may now be, "who are our own?"

Where once recorded entertainment was dominated by a precious few studio entities, the world today encompasses a wider world of craftspeople serving not only the studio and television industry, but the developing new/social media platforms that are continuing the tradition.   Independents and contractors far outnumber full-time staff, and the economic and technological realities of society and this industry have forever changed the employment landscape.

So, who are "we?" What is the entertainment industry community today, as far as traditional organizations like the Motion Picture and Television Fund?  I wonder if the benefit and power of a being a cohesive like-minded community of (as opposed to the media industry itself), is being harnessed to it's greatest advantage.  Is the potential base actually much wider than ever before, but lacking simple awareness of their common interests?  Are the traditional protective/non-profit interests even considering what some call "Digital Hollywood?"  Does "Digital Hollywood" even recognize their place in the entertainment industry "community?" Who do they consider "their own?"  And, who are "they," anyway?  - Are "they" one of "us?"

Is there a potential power base somewhere in all of this confusion?

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Pondering the Motion Picture and Television Fund

I just took a survey submitted by the Motion Picture and Television Fund, a charitable organization that has looked after the health and welfare of individuals in the entertainment industry for 89 years.  It's an organization that encompasses a wide variety of services for industry members of all ages.  My father, throughout his industry career, took regular payroll deductions to contribute to the Fund.

Yet, as long-standing and respectable as the Fund has been (not withstanding some recent controversies), it's remained somewhat below the radar for most industry people.    In fact, after I took the survey, I wrote an email to the Fund, suggesting they include in their new outreach efforts a better definition of just what they actually do for industry veterans (i.e. retirees).   As the saying goes, "I wish I knew then what I know now."  In simply providing guidance, it seems that their extensive services could prove invaluable on so many levels - I know our family could have benefited from their help as my father's health failed - if only we had known.

Though the Fund hasn't employed social media as yet (judging by the website) - it seems that today, even with the volume of information that bombards us every day, service organizations like this would find social media particularly useful, if only to raise their awareness among their supporters.  Additionally, a few weeks ago, Kenrg called my attention to a new website, , which is somewhat of a Facebook-type site for following your favorite non-profits.  I'm not entirely certain whether that's a workable solution for most people (after all, it's another site to track), but I think it a worthwhile step in developing awareness among important non-profits about the critical importance of reaching out through social media.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

"Bollywood Steps" and Heightened Awareness

This past Sunday, I had a small screening for the subjects of my documentary, "Bollywood Steps," the story of transplanted Bollywood choreographer Yogen and the young American-born Indian boys who were some of his first students.

One of the challenges and responsibilities of creating a film like this is developing the trust of the people involved, and then (at least in the way I try to do things) creating a documentary that's respectful of that trust.  This private screening was the first time since I began the project in late 2007 that the families have had a chance to see the finished program.  Naturally, I was a bit anxious about the evening.  I knew they wouldn't find the film objectionable - it's a film with a solid, positive message.

However, even though it's a small film - i.e. it likely won't be seen by millions - it's still, to some extent, preserving and creating a legacy of certain people at a certain time in their lives - through my own interpretation.  Perhaps that seems a bit "deep" for a documentary project like this, but I've spent three years living, working and thinking about the people in my documentary.  It's not a relationship, of course.  Perhaps it's more of a heightened awareness that best defines my connection with my "Bollywood Steps" subjects -  added responsibility borne out of familiarity.

Sometimes, filmmaking is a strange process.

Friday, November 26, 2010

"Bollywood Steps" Approaches Release

First, thanks to all of you who in the "real" world who have mentioned reading my article here on my father - it's good to know that you're out there!

I'm finally approaching the release of "Bollywood Steps," my documentary about American-born Indian boys learning to connect with their heritage through Bollywood Dance, and their bond with Bollywood choreographer Yogen Bhagat.  Following the spirit of the film, which I wrote, produced, shot (mostly), and edited, I've intended for some time to distribute the film myself, as well.  In fact, that's the original motivation for my exploration through social media.

I'm very curious - excited, and a bit anxious about how all of this will come together - the people, the social media activity - and the practical results.  To be somewhat anti-social about it - It's an entirely new business model.

FYI - "Bollywood Steps" will initially be available early next year on and affiliated sites.

2011 could prove interesting....

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Pondering my Noob Hat

As I continue my journey through my various social media outlets, my "holy grail" is to reach the ease of expression that my mentors (you know who you are) have reached over years of full-fledged immersion into the social media world.   Reaching that elusive plane of existence is tricky though - I'm still trying to measure my effectiveness at creating informative content.

Numbers aren't as critical as engaged users - That was one of the first lessons I learned about creating in the social media world.  The second was understanding that this is a process that evolves over time.  I understand that, as well - though I have to admit that it's a challenge to create at times when my viewership seems stagnant.

My objective from the beginning of this process was to adapt these tools into my creative / career efforts. Over the past year, as my knowledge and experience in social media has evolved, I've realized that it can take a critical role going forward - and I'm puzzled with my associates who carefully remain "off the grid" as far as social media is concerned.  Even at this early stage, I can't miss the potential.  It seems short sighted to ignore it.

While I've created media for a living, creating effective social media is a completely different challenge - and one with which I'm still fascinated.  Most of the sort of work I've traditionally done is out the door and gone - there's rarely the sort of ongoing interaction that social media expression encourages.  I admire social media entrepreneurs who are incorporating the entire package - writing, producing, editing, distributing and promoting whatever they create.  It's subversive to traditional media - which interests me to no end!

I've always felt that the learning "social media" will one day seem archaic as learning the telephone, but speaking for myself, I know I'm not there yet.  I'm still wearing my noob hat!

Friday, November 19, 2010

My Dad's Good Name (Part 2)

I've strayed a bit from my traditional social media related topics here, but allow me one more note on my previous blog about the so-called film historian who questioned my dad's integrity (and intelligence) in an article about film preservation.

In response to the previous blog, a former colleague of my father wrote:

We submitted budgets to the head office and everytime they saw large numbers they refused" to spend the $ to preserve the prints.  It was the head office and their staff that made bad judgment calls. Sid and his staff knew the importance of preservation and did their best to influence the head office to no avail.

The writer of the offending article, who presents himself as a film historian specializing in the technical history of Hollywood, claimed that my father had would would have been a first in studio management - the freedom to act exclusively and alone.

Just a final note - my ability to connect with my father's colleagues and former staff is a direct result of social media.  A couple of years ago, I posted my father's retirement speech on YouTube, and over time, his former associates discovered the video, and through it, discovered me.  We've been in contact ever since.  It's been a priceless opportunity to learn about my late father and his management style.

...and to respond to an historian with poor habits.  "Just sayin'"

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Defending My Dad's Good Name: Accuracy in History

My father, Sid Samuels, Vice-President of Worldwide Services 
at 20th Century Fox, just before his retirement in 1987

History, it's worth reminding ourselves, is created through the prism of the historian's life, experiences and personal sense of morality.

I was reminded of this fact the other day when I was poking around the internet and came across an article on motion picture industry history that happened to mention my late father.


Apparently, this "editor/historian," a man by the name of Rick Mitchell, was particularly unhappy with a decision my dad made in the 70's: "*I have also seen film-outs of 2K restorations of "DOWN ARGENTINE WAY" (1940) and "LEAVE HER TO HEAVEN" (1945), necessitated by Seventies moronic Fox executive Sid Samuels' decision to have all the company's nitrate three strip Technicolor negatives duplicated to CRI stock and the originals then destroyed!"

I realize this is all somewhat obscure for most people, but it boils down to this:  In the early days of the motion picture industry, film was printed on nitrate film stock - which was not only flammable, but unstable and prone to deterioration if not carefully preserved. As a result, many early works have been irrevocably damaged or entirely lost.  Studios, always focused on the bottom line (yes, even in the early days), rarely saw the value of preserving their old product.  Today, there are countless outlets for such product, and the film preservation movement is a healthy force in the film industry.  That wasn't the case throughout much of the 1970's.

For many years, Nitrate prints of many Fox films were kept right on the lot, in special fireproof vaults - but an investigation, as I recall, showed that many of those films were beginning to deteriorate.  My father headed a department which, among other things, was responsible for Fox's film library.  He was given the directive to save these films - but with little or no resources (as my father would later relate the story).  He did the best he could, I think, under the circumstances, making an informed decision based on (at the time) over thirty years of experience at Fox.  Naturally, as he noted many times, he couldn't please everyone - particularly those who could only speculate on the realities of working within the studio structure.  

It won't surprise you that I wrote Mr. Mitchell an email, questioning his use of the word "moronic" in describing my father.  I also pointed out that my father was, in fact, appreciated for his positive contributions to film preservation.  I reminded him of the management structure under which my father worked.

To his credit, Mr. Mitchell apologized for calling my father "moronic," but at the same time offered a perspective that makes me wonder about the objectivity of this historian.  After mentioning that he worked at Universal during that period, "a studio whose executives were the most moronic to infest the industry to that time," he went on to insist that "every account I've heard, from several sources including one who was at Fox at the time and involved in post, blamed him exclusively for the decision." (his italics).

Mitchell, I believe, has completely ignored the realities of the corporate / studio world. I'm sure he would have preferred that my father sacrafice himself and his job to the sacred altar of film preservation, but his responsibility was to balance all of these concerns  and, at the same time, fulfill company policy.  

Ultimately, my father had a forty-five year career with Fox, and to this day, 23 years after his retirement,  I still hear fond memories from his former colleagues and staff members. 

Mr. Mitchell, history is made up of real individuals, not one-dimensional cardboard cut-outs.  You may not have liked the studio structure, but understanding it is key to understanding the truth about decisions and motivations made in that environment.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

A Really Messy, Overflowing Toolbox

My latest vlog asked the question, "Why Do We Create?"

I've been asking myself that question lately, in the midst of the various economic challenges we're facing - and no doubt enhanced by various political and news reports about the state of the things.  I generally try to avoid all the "sky is falling" hype, but every once in a while, it catches up to me.

Last Sunday, the newsmagazine "60 Minutes" ran a segment about an army of out-of-work engineers in Silicon Valley  - highly qualified specialists who nevertheless find themselves running out of unemployment benefits and without any real prospects equal to their employment history and education.

CNN's Fareed Zakaria wrote an essay in Time Magazine about his dreams of American growing up in a stagnant, depressed India in the 1970's - and how he feels that, for the moment, the situation seems reversed as we're in an era of pessimism and lack of (collective) drive.

But where are we, really?  There's no doubt we're in a  period of transition.  Our anxiety, of course, comes from a fear of just where we're going - both as a nation and individually.  Almost every self-employed person I know feels equal anxiety about their future.  The fully employed, also, wonder if they're adequately valued.  I've been in both situations, and it's one of the motivations that led me to my social media explorations (or Journey).

Still, I don't feel like I have any better definition now than I did six or eight months ago.  I have faith that we have better tools at our disposal than ever before to build and control our future.  My immediate goal is to learn to use those tools effectively.

I create to survive.  Whether it's my own projects, or as a "hired gun," it's how I make a living.  How I create, however, is changing and evolving as never before.  How I make a living - how I use the tools -  is evolving as well.  When you really look at it, perhaps we're not simply challenged by a bleak employment landscape - but a really messy, overflowing toolbox..

Sunday, October 24, 2010

The Era of the Reboot


It's a word I'm hearing more and more often, as professionals of all ages are re-thinking their current and future paths in their journey through the current economic hard times.

Rebooting isn't just adjusting to the current state of affairs; it's recognizing that the status quo in one's life needs to change.  Making a living, particularly at the behest of others, simply isn't doable anymore.   While the age of lifelong employment with one particular company is long gone, along with the assurance of a pension and even social security, the thought of long term survival is only now bubbling to the surface.  Simple understanding that you're likely to hold numerous jobs during your lifetime isn't enough; taking control of that future is now a priority.

Like it or not, we are becoming an entrepreneurial society.  Our individual survival will depend in large part on our ability to create a successful "personal brand" to keep us employed or moving ahead in our chosen profession.

So, in the sprit of rebooting and "doing something different," I'm going to try a bit of cross-platform "re-booting" theme - through YouTube, this blog, my audio podcast and perhaps even the Social Media Journeys blog, I'm going to create a complimentary series of media elements exploring this issue.  It's all part of my own personal reboot!

Sunday, October 17, 2010

The Dawn of Spamalot

With apologies to Monty Python, be prepared for an onslaught of spam brought on in the wake of "The Social Network."  Legions of the previously disinterested buisness people are diving into social media with an "if that punk Mark Zuckerberg can do it, so can I" attitude, and little more than a vague idea that they've got to get stuff out there.

They're jumping into Twitter, creating a presence on Facebook, and otherwise frantically attacking social media worlds with little more than a vague impression of the social landscape as little more than another billboard on which to post their wares.  In the next few weeks and months, you'll see (or in some cases, will be totally unaware) crude attempts at social media.  I've heard first-hand from some who were previously borderline hostile to the concept.  Now, a great piece of filmmaking has created a wider awareness of social media, but, in the short term, a lot of media garbage.

Yes, I know all this has existed before, but now it will explode as never before across the landscape.

 - The use of Twitter as little more than an advertising platform, with little interest in engagement, and little knowledge of how Twitter can be used for such engagement;
- The creation of a presence on Facebook with little understanding of how to build and maintain that presence; and
 - The attempt at building communities without the understanding of little more than a "build it and they will come" mentality.

The result?  A flood of new users, a rapid burnout, and a bonanza for social media "experts," and, finally, perhaps, a long-overdue shake-out in those who see this as a "get rich quick" scheme.

Despite all of this initial mess, the ultimate result just might be a better informed, wider community of users.

So, it's not all bad.  To quote Monty Python, "Spam, Wonderful Spam!"

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Content First. Tech Second!

In my filmmaking/moviemaking/content creating career, I've become aware of a distinct type of creator that values tech above everything.  Even the actual creation of something is second to having just the right equipment, or just the right software.  To these tech-nuts, it's an obsession that critically interferes with the creative process.   The tools are more important than anything else.   I've seen careers at a standstill for a perceived lack of "proper" equipment.

I remember one individual who had an entire studio and all of its equipment at his disposal for a couple of months - no strings attached.  He didn't take advantage of the opportunity.  Why?  They studio didn't have quite the right type of camera - and if he couldn't use that camera, he thought, what's the point of creating anything? The camera he wanted to use, by the way, was far out of his financial ability to rent.  Instead making the most of a substantial "grant,", he sat on his hands and let the opportunity pass him by, thinking the facility at hand far below his talents.  The chance to create content wasn't enough.

Once, I judged a documentary competition in which one of the submitted films was an incredible story of Bosnian and Serbian kids camping together away from the then-war zone.  It was a powerful, moving film - and it was shot with simple Sony Handycams.

I used to obsess about going to every tech seminar and convention - but I'm more selective now.  If you're in this to create, rather than operate equipment, you have to set priorities.   It's as if a writer spent most of her time attending book-binding conventions...

That's one of the things I love about the YouTube vibe - it's not based so much on equipment, but on content.  At it's best, there's some great storytellling with the simplest tools.  Of course, as there are horrible movies with the most expensive moviemaking technology, the same is even more common at the other end of the spectrum....

But I get a great subversive thrill at seeing YouTubers create great work with whatever is at hand.  Stuck "Professional" filmmakers, I think, can learn something from YT.

Content First.  Tech Second!

Saturday, October 2, 2010

New Blog: Social Media Journeys

I've just started contributing to "Social Media Journeys: Personal Adventures in a Wired World"  a blog run by Andy Gunton, known in social media circles as Andymooseman.   Andy's a veteran vlogger based in the UK.  I met him at a gathering here in Los Angeles last April organized by a mutual friend, Ken Goldstein (KenRG).  He's also contributing to the blog.

I love the concept of this new blog - while most blogs about social media focus on the commercial, this focuses on what is probably the more profound impact social media is having on our everyday, individual lives; it's already generated fundamental change in methods and frequency of human interaction from almost every angle. The very nature of friendship is being redefined.  With all of this technology just a few years old, we've only seen the beginning of the impact social media is certain to have in society at large.  Just ten years ago, we couldn't have imagined the nature of interaction in 2010.  I can't help but wonder about the reality of interaction in 2020.

Take a look at the new blog, and tell us what you think!

Monday, September 27, 2010

You Can't Measure Community

Gary Vaynerchuk, who wrote the excellent social media strategy guide, "Crush It" will be publishing "The Thank You Economy" in March of next year.  The product description on outlines his contention that "the people and companies harnessing the word-of-mouth power provided by multiplatform media - those that can shift their outlook and operations to be more customer-aware and fan-friendly - will pull away from the pack and profit in today's markets."

This is really the key, I think, to understanding the real practical purpose of social media.  So many people try to analyze the worth of social media by using old-school standards and measurements - "What's the ROI?" being the most common question. Social media, being a social strategy, can't be evaluated as a simple marketing tool. After all,  As this great video based the book Socialnomics asks, "What's the ROI of a telephone?"

Public perception sometimes is a brute; it doesn't invite subtlety. It demands simplicity. It resists change. The emergence of social media - and it's power to create a real personal connection with fans/followers/friends - is still a difficult concept to understand or apply.

Social Media is providing each of us the opportunity to create our own personalized community. How we use that community - from simple human interaction all the way to building product (or personal brand) loyalty (if that's your thing) - is entirely dependent upon our own individual imaginations - and our appreciation of our followers/readers/customers/viewers.  

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

It Takes a Story

I drove up to Santa Cruz for a “Social Media Meet-Up.”  It actually turned out to be a small event, but my conversations with KenRG and KevyNova were quite intriguing.

I’ve known Ken on and off since high school – I was a silent observer of his social media activity long before I dove in myself, and he’s one of the reasons I decided to take the plunge.  

I met KevyNova  at the meet-up  – Ken’s been chatting, tweeting and blogging about this talented musician for a while now.   In memory of his father, who passed away from cancer twelve years ago, KevyNova recently held a 24-hour marathon to raise money for cancer research – the entire event consisted solely of himself performing before his  Macbook iSight webcam.  Though both personal contacts, word of mouth, and social media, he raised over six thousand dollars.  It’s quite an impressive feat – and a great lesson in the power of networking.  He’s not a YouTube star- he doesn’t have a huge following. 

What he does have is a powerful story, the passion to make it happen, and the sincerity to make it real.  That almost sounds like the rules for a successful, meaningful life…

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Video Woes, Audio Goes!

My Flip Ultra HD died last week.  My iPhone 4 was born this weekend.  It can also shoot HD video, but it's much more light sensitive, and so less flexible.  I'll certainly use it as part of my vlogged efforts, but it doesn't return consistant quality (correctly light-balanced) video in anything but the most optimum conditions.  I'll need to purchase another HD cam of the Flip variety (though I'm not certain which as yet - I've been considering a number of recommendations).  As I'm attending the Social Media Meet Up in Santa Cruz this weekend, I'm hoping to see a few possible replacement cameras and make a decision.

Tonight, I tried to record one of my regular vlogs in my office, but my Iphone couldn't return a decently balanced picture.  It does it's best with sunlight, of course, and the low-energy lights that dominate our lives these days aren't a pure enough white to create good results.  I'll record my vlog tomorow morning when I have a nice morning sun.

One of the reasons I purchased the Flip was to have a camera that effortless - that I could simply whip out and start using at the slightest inspiration.  The Flip, after a time, failed - with battery issues, freezing issues, and just plain being undependable.  It's recently prevented me from being able to create as consistently as I'd like - where inspiration takes me.    It's downright depressing to be limited as I build my social media footprint.   I need a replacement that I can count on!

On the other hand, I'm loving my channel - it's great fun, and purely effortless.  Either I speak into a mike plugged into my laptop, and then instantly upload - or do the same with my iPhone.  Either way, it's a pleasure to use.  Once my camera issues are solved, I hope to return to my vlogs with the same ease that I've found with audioboo.

Here's my latest "boo," an interview with Patte Dee McKee, once a contract actress to Howard Hughes:


I encourage you to head over to my channel on audioboo and check it out.  If you like it, why not sign up for the site, follow me...and try it yourself!

Friday, September 10, 2010

New Podcast: "A Performer's Passion"


Check out my Audioboo channel at

You can subscribe via iTunes or RSS, if you would like - or join the audioboo and comment directly on each podcast.

Social Media - Using the Tools to Grow the Community

If you're a social media "enthusiast," (in other words, you likely don't make your living from social media), you've probably faced one of the most common questions of the curious, "Yeah, but can you make money with it?"

In a field full of pundits, how-to books, and a world of a bad economy, social media is too often presented as part of a modern gold rush - a quick and easy way to make a living - today's "get rich quick" gimmick.

Even my favorite social media book, "Crush It," by Gary Vaynerchuk, is accompanied by the unfortunate subtitle, "Why Now is the Time to Cash In on Your Passion."  In fact, I very nearly passed on the book because of the usually misleading words, Cash In.  As it turned out, one of the lessons of that particular book was that social media isn't a "thing" - it's a strategy.

You don't benefit from social media in and of itself.  You benefit from applying social media strategies to achieve your particular goals and ambitions.   If you don't know what your ambitions are, or if you don't have a clear image of who you are as an individual, it will be very difficult to find a "productive" purpose for social media.    Social media is simultaneously a tool and a means of self expression.  I think that's an exciting convergence; it also presents an entirely new challenge that changes and evolves from person to person and cause to cause.

The legions of the curious, though, still far outnumber active users.  YouTube viewers far outnumber active members of the community that comments and interacts (which, in turn, is much larger than the active YouTube content creators).  Most people, I think, are dabblers in social media.

Case in Point:

Last week, there was a fundraiser for UNICEF, hosted by a couple of top British YouTubers, including Charlie McDonnell (known on YouTube as Charlieissocoollike).  The numbers that viewed the 24-hour live streaming show were underwhelming by mainstream media standards (10,000 - 20,000 at any given time) though the funds raised wasn't bad given the viewers (about 20,000 pounds - twice their stated goal).  The program was promoted by a number of noted YouTubers on their channels, each of whom contributed shot videos that played at various times throughout the show.  The show itself consisted of the two YouTubers, talking, answering questions, interviewing guests, and performing various audience challenges...etc. - you get the idea.  Even with it's modest success, it seems to me that the numbers should have been much higher, considering the aggregate subscribers of all of the YouTubers involved.

To both social media and traditional media readers, I pose a question:  Using social media tools or traditional media approaches, how would you have embarked on this sort of campaign to create a wider appeal to the YouTube community and beyond?

If you happen to see any of this show, I'd also be curious about your reaction.

Friday, September 3, 2010

Teaching Social Media and the Personal Brand

I had a great time the other day talking to students in the television production classes at Arcadia High School, taught by my friend Bill Citrin.  One class taught television news production, and the other, single camera production.

We talked about some of the basics of storytelling - which cuts across all forms of media - a good story is a good story, whether it's a minute long news piece, a short film, or a special effects-laden motion picture epic.  Or, for that matter, a good vlog on YouTube.

We discussed social media in general, and YouTube in particular.  Students with YouTube channels ranged from 1/4 to 1/3 of each class - even fewer posted on their channels on any regular basis.  Interestingly, some were surprised that YouTube was just five years old - it's become such a huge presence so quickly that it seems like it's been around forever.

But it hasn't.  When YouTube began, the term "social Media" was virtually unknown - Facebook, a year old, was still a small, college-centric site, and MySpace, the first huge social media destination, was all of two years old.

Now, we're bombarded with social media tools and destinations from all sides.  It's social media strategy that's still being invented.  Despite libraries full of instantly published books on succeeding in social media most with 2009-2010 copyright dates), and endless online resources, the vast majority of teens and professionals alike still struggle to find a relevant career-related "use" for social technology beyond simple networking.   Solutions are being developed, but  there really isn't a clear path to learning these methods.

I think that's why more students in a media-related class aren't yet involved in using social media.

Maybe the answer isn't simply to teach site-specific skills, but to explore the entire concept of building a "personal brand."  In other words:  Consider the tools available (social networking sites, social media sites) and then create a public image strategy designed to achieve personal and professional goals.

Comments on this blog are particularly invited!

Monday, August 30, 2010

Building Community Online - Where's the Town Square?

I've been spending the last couple of weeks recharging my batteries, so to speak, in relation to my social media activity.   It's not exactly a creative block - I know, generally what my next several vlogs, audioboos, and blogs might be about - but I'm also after a more productive use of these resources.  

Productive, in my case, extends to both the practical (how can this help me really) to my more community-based interests.

The concept of community online is a bit difficult to grasp - especially as technologies change, new sites develop, and new concepts emerge.  In the real world, a group of communities form a city or, at least, common geographic area with common interests.   In the YouTube world, there are countless communities based on individuals (or more generally speaking, channels) - but few opportunities for the larger YT community to "gather" to explore common interests (to "grow" the overall community, for example).  

There have been and continue to be attempts - websites and attempts at limited community governance - to bring this world together for the "common good."  The "Common Good," of course, may be as hard to define as "common sense."  Still, I think there's a great opportunity in certain areas to act in concert to achieve individual goals, while at the same time preserving and expanding the vibrant individual communities each YouTuber builds.

One of my hopes for Vidcon was/is that it can offer the opportunity to create unified efforts to help build the community - an effort, perhaps, not based on the corporate YouTube structure, but on the establishment of vlogging as a platform (living largely on YT, but ultimately not limited to that world).  Combine Vidcon with BillTVMacon's online NoCon concept, and the result might be the beginning of a central community "town square."

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Do You Hear Me?

I'm intrigued with, the podcasting site (it's not a particular preference - just the one I came across).  With a blog and a vlog, why would I want to extend my activity into the audio realm?

I don't intend to duplicate my other efforts.  I believe that the audio format in some ways is more flexible and accessible than video, and lends itself to some pure, creative storytelling.  The casual podcast I include with this blog was a spur of the moment piece recording in a Denny's Restaurant;  if wouldn't have happened on video - my lunch friends wouldn't have been comfortable.  I can think of a number of potential interview subjects that might 

(Go over to the site and follow me there, if you're so inclined...)

I also love the idea of developing this as a storytelling platform.   I'm a big fan of the late Jean Shepherd, the legendary radio monologist (and writer/narrator of the classic film, "A Christmas Story").  I certainly won't stop telling stories on my vlog, but I'm intrigued with the challenge of creating an engaging audio program.  Remember, I'm a video guy.

I'm also curious about the opportunity to create a connected experience across all of these platforms - vlog, blog and audio podcast (audio blog? ablog?) - connected thematically, and each offering a different perspective on the subject or story at hand.  I'll be giving that some thought.

Of course, there is one major question that I'm curious about above all others - is an audio platform even attractive?  Will anybody listen?  

I Experiment with Podcasting!

BillTVMacon, a vlogger I enjoy on YouTube, recently tweeted a few podcasts he's posted on, which appears to be somewhat of an audio version of YouTube.  I thought I'd give it a try.  Tell me what you think, and if you're intrigued enough to check out the site, follow me there....


Saturday, August 21, 2010

The Entertainment Industry Still Misses the Point

[Check out my vlog on this topic for more]

As ubiquitous as YouTube has become, it's most engaging features have largely gone unnoticed outside of the "active" YouTube community. 

As I pursue my evangelistic shtick (how's that for a combo!) with the traditional media community, educating as many as possible about the reality of interactive social media, I've found a surprising lack of awareness of the ability to set up an account, comment on videos, and become part of a community of one's own design - even if one never posts a single video.  It's a real stubborn misconception that, I think, hinders growth in certain areas of this world.  

The other day, I received an email about the VARIETY Entertainment and Technology Summit, which will be held this fall at Digital Hollywood.  There is quite a list of noted "players" in the mainstream "digital world," from the studios, production companies, Google and so forth, but there's very little coverage of the developing social media model - more accurately, the YT take on social media.  Even a panel called "Web Video: The New Content Creators" completely ignores this world, and focuses on the web's take on traditional media - web series.  While that may be a viable approach, it's not the only approach, and far from the most exciting.  Perhaps it's so far out of the norm, and depends so little on the mainstream production structure, that it's beyond their perception.

The traditional media industry remains clueless about the potential of YouTube and YouTube-like content creation.  I perceive the sea of YT content creators today as a vast R&D for third platform entertainment.  I remain convinced that this will develop into a viable (ie profitable) form, but I suspect that opportunity will not come from the traditional entertainment sources.  

Don't look for Fox or Disney to become players in this world.  They may eventually create hugely successful web entertainment - but they're likely to remain distant from the ground-level "action."  After all, how does a studio fit into a world where a single person writes, produces, directs, performs, edits and markets their work?

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Technology, Gaming and the Age of Milo

While this blog generally ruminates about social media, I had to include this video, just released from by the people at, a unique non-profit dedicated to "Ideas Worth Spreading."  This video features an update on game developer Peter Molyneux's "Milo," essentially a video game incorporating advanced artificial intelligence, motion and voice detection, and a series of technologies that give the user the illusion that he or she is actually interacting with the character on screen - in this case, a 10 year-old boy who has just relocated with family from London to the USA, somewhere in New England.

While details of the game are still somewhat sketchy, it's similar in general concept to "The Sims," albeit on a vastly more sophisticated level.  The user takes on the identity of an imaginary playmate of sorts, and will have the ability to direct Milo's actions, and thus change his future path as a person.  Imagine a horror scenario in which Milo responds to threats with bravery or cowardice or even recklessness, depending on how you've treated him.

I've always found this concept incredibly amazing - and once available (or if - that's still unclear), I would likely buy the Xbox game system to experience this cutting edge technology.  Milo's a product designed to work with the new "Kinect" add-on for the Xbox, which allows for the video and audio interaction.

There's a great deal of skepticism about the reality of this product - even Molyneux admits that this AI (artificial intelligence) child incorporates "smoke and mirrors" to create the illusion of interaction - but viable or not, it's the future of interactive entertainment.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Avoiding the Periphery

One of the challenges in using social media is thinking social media - looking at everything we do from a perspective that recognizes the myriad of communications tools at our disposal - while at the same time, recognizing the possibilities that these same tools make possible.   The commercial world is particularly challenged by this concept.

Why blog?  Why vlog?  Why Twitter?  Why Facebook? Why social media?  There's plenty of advice out there - websites, vlogs, blogs and good old fashioned books - and all present lists and step-by-step instructions on how to best use the resources at hand.  The how's are pretty much taken care of - the why's really provide the greatest challenge for many individuals and firms that haven't looked closely at the social media landscape.

The legendary Sears Department Store maintained a thick general merchandise catalogue for over a hundred years, only to stop production in 1993, just short of the online retail revolution, and perhaps missing the chance to remake themselves into an Amazon-like retail giant.  A new concept - new blood - made online retail possible.  In the 80's, it would have been inconceivable to imagine that IBM wouldn't still be a primary force in today's home computer market.  Again, new blood was essential in building that industry.

Sears and IBM are still very much around - but perhaps their absence in areas that once would have seemed a perfect fit is a result of corporate arrogance, institutional lethargy - and the inability to take the risks necessary to push forward.

The Future is the Why of social media.   For many individuals, refusing to engage in social media technology may eventually relegate them to the peripheral reaches of their chosen profession.

Friday, August 13, 2010

What's 21st Century Literacy?

Once again, I'm reading and hearing opinions that the current generation in the U.S. will be the least read of any in recent history.  Generally, the argument suggests that the flood of technology and the world of 140-character tweets are making kids growing up in contemporary America are unable to maintain an attention span long enough to allow for the responsible accumulation of knowledge.

On the other hand, I would suggest that the current generation will be one of the most well-informed, best prepared generations to function in a diverse world society. Teens accumulate information faster and more efficiently than any generation before them;  they're absorbing information through multiple sources simultaneously - redefining the meaning of multi-tasking to an extreme.

I wonder if it's fair to call them the least read.  They certainly read differently - but are they really reading less?  Are internet-savvy kids growing in less-literate homes in fact more exposed to reading than their equivalents a couple of generations ago?  The teens today are the same kids that read through thousands of pages of Harry Potter over the last ten years - a series that flew in the face of the same assumptions floating around ten years ago.

Teens, of course, need to learn to responsibly process information - that's a function of quality education - which in turn demands teachers savvy enough to interpret the voice of this generation.  That's always a challenge, I would expect, but never more than today as communications technology surges ahead.

I still recall the doomsayers who condemned my own generation for our bad handwriting and excessive exposure to television.  Regardless of the predictions, I don't think we destroyed the world (yet!) .

The current generation will seem to read less in a traditional - but they'll absorb so much more.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Disconnect - Social Media and the Old Guard

I'm constantly fascinated with the extent to which  "traditional media" outlets are consistently misunderstanding the unique opportunities in the social media platform.

If you're reading this from my blog, you'll notice that I've added to the masthead, "Thoughts and Impressions Exploring the Third Platform."  As I've expressed here previously, I consider social media creation - in particular the most creative YouTube programming - to represent a developing third entertainment platform beyond Motion Pictures and Television.   My new subtitle is just the first part of my developing effort to express this particular concept.

Traditional Media sometimes seems limited in its perception of YouTube as a commercial resource.  In addition to a video sharing site, and a means to promote traditional media content, it might also be seen as a talent pool as well - there have already been a number of musical, special effects and other artists that have been "discovered" on YouTube (i.e. Justin Bieber).   Popular vlogger Hank Green reported on his Vidcon Blog titled "Crossing Over," that YouTube star Michael Buckley was contracted by Fox to host the online red carpet coverage of the Teen Choice Awards, where several YouTube stars were represented  (Shane Dawson, a top YouTuber, took home an award for his work).  

What seems very clear, however, is that, for the most part, traditional media doesn't yet recognize that many YouTubers are in fact successful (by any measurement you choose) not simply because of their onscreen persona, but because of their abilities as writers, producers, directors, camera people, editors and marketers.  Regardless of their objectives in creating on YouTube, they are an extraordinarily talented bunch - and they're uniquely connected to their audience.

When television began, it's worth remembering that the motion picture industry first ignored that platform out of arrogance, then fear of the new "threat"  - acceptance and involvement by the studios in creating television content didn't come until later.    It may be some time until traditional media truly understands and embraces the "third platform" - if they ever truly can.  They may continue to exploit social media - but I believe opportunities will continue to evolve for the individual as well.  After all, can mainstream media ever "create" a YouTube star?  

I recall Charlie McDonnell (Charlieissocoollike), speaking at the Vidcon YouTube conference, expressing his developing experience with traditional media and offline events (hosting live events, etc) - and his emerging recognition that only on YouTube can he truly create freely.   He wasn't giving up on a "mainstream" opportunities by any means, but social media was his home.  

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Common Nonsense

Again, I feel inspired by one of Kenrg's comments on one of my recent blogs, "Social Media: Are We All Frauds?", in which Ken concluded his comments with: It's not fraud or fakery. It's manners and common sense. And lessons we each need to learn the hard way for ourselves.

I generally agree with Ken, but tend to cringe at the concept of common sense, since it, in fact, doesn't truly exist.  Common sense is a direct reflection of the family, society and culture in which each of us is raised - and because our individual experiences are unique, so is our idea of common sense.

Ken's excellent metaphor of the classic neighborhood pub, in which individuals tend to maintain a standard of behavior with the awareness that neighbors and work associates are nearby, immediately brings to mind the clueless semi-alcoholics who throw common sense out the window and let it all hang out - sometimes ruining the evening for everyone else.

The odd factor in social networks is the illusion, even if an individual is fully identified, that interaction is somehow anonymous - or that the same rules don't apply on Facebook as those in "real life".   How much of what individuals share on Facebook would actually make the grade in a typical face-to-face chat with casual friends?

Of course, it's impossible to "block" someone in real life.  But you can ignore them.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Where the Unattainable Isn't

After uploading my two-part vlog, "Juvenile Hall: Connected!", I was pondering the practical impact that social media technology has had on the lives of teens that previously would have lived isolated, remote lives.  Today, many kids across the globe can interact and develop real friendships with other like-minded kids, regardless of where they are.

First of course, is the ease of communication, which extends from all of the usual social networks, to Skype-type face-to-face chatting, to collaborating on all kinds of projects, from writing to web creation to music and video.  It's really not a big deal anymore.  Even video conferencing with several participants isn't a problem.  For some, YouTube forms the center of that communications hub.

Engaging in Multi-player games isn't exceptional, anymore.  A kid in Los Angeles may be just as likely to be playing with friends from his school as friends in England.

Of course, not everyone has the high speed connection necessary to make such interaction routine - but that world is growing everyday.

I can't help but wonder where some of these kids would be without the means they have to communicate with the world.  It's intriguing to imagine that creative talent, personal confidence and a promising future might have been otherwise unattainable if not for the age in which we're living.  In my vlog, I told the story of a boy in juvenile hall who found community online - and I have to wonder how his life might have been different if that community had been there all along.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

New Section Added!

I've added a new section to blog - the new tab, "Juvenile Hall...Connected! (Supplements) is meant to accompany the two-part vlog I just completed on an early exercise in social media, which involved a computer bulletin board system in the early 1990's that allowed for kids incarcerated at Fresno County Juvenile Hall to participate in a specially supervised program that allowed them to become part of an online community.  You'll find the two vlogs embedded under that tab, as well.   Both use footage from my short documentary, "Simple Things: Letters From Juvenile Hall."

The supplemental information, pulled from an textual version of my documentary, tells the story of "Small Fry," a teen participant in the program during that time, and includes actual messages between he and other members of the online community, "Teen Outreach Through Technology" (or TOTT).

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Social Media...1990?

[See the Vlog at ]

My own experience with what we now call social networking actually goes back to the early 1990's, long before the term meant anything special.  In the days before the web, one of the ways like-minded people formed online community was through mailing lists, which were similar to today's forums, except a list of public postings and responses were emailed to subscribed members.

While researching a project on kids at risk, I posted a message on a mailing list focusing on social issues, and soon received a private email from an individual answering my question, and providing information on what just might be one of the most powerful applications of online social interaction, and the power of the individual using communications technology to make a difference - even more than twenty years later.

"Teen Outreach Through Technology," or TOTT, created a supervised program allowing kids in Fresno County Juvenile Hall to connect to a private computer bulletin board system and post messages, interacting with volunteers in the community. With interaction essentially anonymous (no real names, only "handles" (approved nicknames), participants felt free to express themselves more honestly, and were encouraged to do so by TOTT volunteers.  Some simply interacted with others, others wrote stories and even a bit of poetry - and still others offered advice to other kids.  For some kids, it was their first opportunity to become a positive part of a community.

At the end of my latest vlog, and in more detail in my upcoming follow-up, you'll meet "Small Fry," a particularly prolific contributor to TOTT.   At the time I interviewed him, he was far from the TOTT program in Fresno, locked up in Sacramento in a facility of the California Youth Authority - the state prison for juveniles.  Almost two years before, however, he began participating in the program.  This was his very first message:

Date: 08-27-90 20:28
From: Small Fry
To: All
Subject:: hellow

HI everyone.I'm Small Fry.Yes I am new in this program but thats allright I wont bight untill I know you better ok?I guess I should tell you a little abought myself but I wount.Yes I am locked up but dont let that wory you I'm a pussycat!
I was thinking does any one out there like HEARD ROCK ? If so right back soon because I'd like to get to know you . I havent benn out for five mo.

Over the next couple of days,  I'll share some of "Small Fry's" messages on the TOTT system, and those who interacted with him - we'll take a look, first-hand, at an early online community.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Social Media: Are We All Frauds?

I had a discussion the other night regarding the challenge in maintaining a social network persona that's acceptable to friends and family - and also work associates.  The traditional boundaries, it seems, have been blurred.  Is it possible, practically speaking, to maintain a Facebook profile, and not accept friend requests from everyday work associates?  With the "People You May Know" feature, the possibility of friending some but not others in the same work environment isn't feasible without causing potential friction in the workplace. 

Some people in jobs with sensitive privacy or security issues, as was the case with the individual with whom I was speaking, are compelled to remove themselves from the social networking environment - in some cases, they're forbidden from participating.   For others however, the idea of  a professional ignoring the social networking environment will soon prove extremely difficult and perhaps damaging in terms of career development.

I think most users of social media tend to find a middle ground, sharing information with a constant awareness of their mixed personal network - and constantly honing a personal brand that serves both work colleagues, friends and family.  Finding the limits of TMI - Too Much Information - is tricky.

In my case, while I might share some past and present family photos, I don't tend to broadcast family news on Facebook precisely because I recognize my audience includes colleagues.  Some Facebook friends include detailed family updates and expressions of their every passion and outrage.  I know more about the lives of vague childhood friends than some of my own family.  Others share details of bad work days or difficult colleagues to an extent that makes me wonder if they've thought through the possible consequences.

Are there compromises in creating a universal personal brand?  Does your online persona - from Facebook to YouTube to Twitter and beyond - reflect your personal reality?  Are we all frauds? Or have we simply been given the tools to present ourselves more accurately to the world at large?

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Vlogging For the Masses

In Andymooseman's comment on my last blog, "Why Do People Create on YouTube," he categorized himself as a hybrid of the first and third of the categories I mentioned - in short, someone who enjoys creating on YT for the sake of self-expression, but someone, at the same, who is open to exploring social media as an entrepreneurial opportunity.

It occurs to me that there may be a pathway to creating additional (monetary) value in the vlogs that Andy, Kenrg, OhCurt and many others create on a regular basis.  These vlogs are the modern equivalent of the opinion/commentary pages in your local newspaper (and now are as slashed to a bare minimum).  I'm not writing so much about the "Letters to the Editor" section, but the guest columnists that provided a community or individual voice on issues at hand.  These personal perspectives and anecdotes often provided the reader with a distinctly personal and  independent view apart from the "usual suspects" of reporters and paid columnists. 

Of course, guest columnists were never paid - but I still wonder if that concept can be adapted for the social media world.  Blogging, of course, has a robust presence on many news sites, but I would think that guest vlogs might even be a more attractive draw for the casual visitor.  

Guest vlogs on mainstream news and information sites, in turn, might help bring vlogs of this type to a larger (YouTube) subscription base - which in turn provides new opportunities for the vloggers themselves, reviving interest in this particular category, and widening the YouTube universe.

Saturday, July 31, 2010

Why Do People Create on YouTube?

In response to my recent post, "Talent in the Age of Social Media," which discussed the nature of fame on YouTube, Ken G. responded:

I think there's also a couple of distinctions to make here. While some people on YouTube are looking to build on that into traditional fame in movies, tv, recordings, whatever, there's far more who have no desire for traditional fame - only a creative outlet while they enjoy their "regular" civilian lives.

There are a range of motivations that lead individuals to create for YouTube (as opposed to those who simply use YT as a place to post home videos).   I believe that a large majority (though certainly not everyone) fall roughly into three major categories.

Some, as Ken suggests, enjoy YT strictly as a creative outlet.  Subscriptions and a YT "career" aren't a priority or even a consideration.   Regardless, some of this group might reach a level of recognition (perhaps including what might be called "fame") -  and may in fact include the best and most creative of those referred to as YouTube "stars." Sometimes, if you enjoy what you're doing, your audience enjoys it, too.  This group is probably the most diverse in terms of age, from the youngest to the oldest users, and generally include the majority of vloggers, artists and musicians.

Others hope to use this world as both a place to build YT fame and as springboard to wider fame - these celebrity culture addicts, perhaps, see YouTube as the best "shortcut"available.  They might have a level of skill in music or comedy, but their motivations are based more on growing a following than developing their craft or a quality video "product."  They might, in fact, succeed working the system to reach a level of visibility and even limited "stardom" for a while, but like any of those who seek fame for fame's sake,  that sort of goal could lead, inevitably, to personal disaster.  At the very least, they're the sort of YouTubers with a huge following, but few actual per-video views.  If you actually see their videos, you're likely to scratch your head and wonder why.

There's also a lively third group that looks at YouTube and the social media environment as both a means of expression, and as a platform offering an ideal foundation on which to build their creative future.  They're not looking at achieving fame necessarily - but at using the overall social media platform as an opportunity.  This category can overlap quite effectively with the first category - perhaps consisting of the best of the social media / YouTube entrepreneurs.

There are, of course countless sub-groups and fringe categories that make up the YouTube world - but I'd like to hear your opinion - are these fair definitions?

Friday, July 30, 2010

Fail: China's Success Ensures Google Ban Won't Succeed

The repeated attempts by China to ban Google's search engine [see yesterday's Mashable article] seem to be a futile attempt, to use the old cliche, to put the genie back in the bottle.

The steps that China is making toward the modernization of its economy and its desire to be technological leader continue to create conditions allowing forms of entrepreneurship that would have been unthinkable just a couple of decades ago.  The continued progress of Chinese society and the Chinese people, I believe, will require the same access to information and an understanding of online commerce that is critical in our own society. It seems as if the current Chinese government's attitude toward the control of information is almost archaic in the modern world, and doomed, ultimately, to failure as the entrepreneurial society continues to develop.

Unless a society is kept technologically primitive (as is the case in North Korea), it is virtually impossible to control information with the heavy-handed mindset that guided totalitarian regimes throughout most of the 20th century.  While it's true that this same free access to information may also allow for the spread of extremist thought [see "YouTube Banned in Russia" at Mashable], the overall advantages, I think, will far outweigh what is sometimes referred to as "the price of living in a free society."

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Talent in the Age of Social Media

[Accompanies a Vlog of the same name,]

At lunch yesterday, i was describing to a couple of friends the evolving social media landscape of the YouTube community, as contrasted with the general perception outside the community, and the ways in which of the most successful YouTubers are earning an income in that arena.  We discussed the state of the  current programming - which is, technically speaking, very creative but still fairly primitive as compared to television and motion pictures.  To some extent, that's part of the characteristic of this world - the availability of cameras and editing technology that allows virtually anyone to create and build a following.  Generally speaking, what an audience freely accepts on YouTube would be rejected in other platforms. In much the same way, a great television program wouldn't necessarily be considered a quality motion picture.

The discussion turned to the staying power of the top YouTube personalities - or any of the partners that have reached the minimal following necessary to qualify for that profit sharing arrangement.  With YouTube still being in its early childhood phase at five years old, it's an intriguing question to ask about the fate of popular YouTubers in a few short years.   Will they evolve with their audience and build upon their initial success?  Will they have the ability to maintain a following by keeping their channels creative and continue to provide features that make their channels successful?  Will some YouTubers prove to be fortunate reflections of their time, brief cultural icons of the YouTube community - but ultimately nothing more?

Even by looking at the rising and falling fortunes of popular YouTubers over the last five years, it's still a challenge to consider this world a few years down the line as it matures and brings in an even wider audience.  It's a greater challenge to take into account the young age of some successful YouTubers, as their changing lives and circumstance impact their ability to create relevant contact.

Ultimately, I think, talent will prevail.  Ten years down the line, we'll recognize some legendary talents unique to this platform, while others will exist only in faded memory - if at all.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Teens and Social Media: Real Human Contact

As someone who began making films at eleven years old, I have a special interest in the young media creators (the young filmmakers of today) that are creating so much of the content on YouTube, and the most enthusiastic of whom attended the Vidcon YouTube conference earlier this month.

When I was a boy, filmmaking was something with which my friends would participate, but few shared my passion.  Most of my friends would be along for the ride.  When the film was done, I'd present it to family and friends, and that was the end of the story.  We had a fun time, but the process ended there.

Teens who create on YouTube have an entirely different experience. Even the simplest cameras and editing software offer a level of sophistication that I could only dream about.  While many young directors still might work with their friends at hand, they also are part of an exciting worldwide community of like-minded teens like themselves - people with who they communicate regularly through chat, voice and video, and with whom they often collaborate.  The tools are only getting better, and their ability to work together is only improving.  I'm excited about where this will all lead - for everyone.

While many teens still dream of movie and television careers, many of the YouTubers dream of continuing to create online video for years to come.  Some have already reached the status of being a profit-sharing YouTube partner, and many, I'm sure, will take part or even invent new methods of monetizing online content.  

Many of the teens I saw at Vidcon shared a similar sentiment when they posted their summary videos on YouTube after the conference - it was the best experience of their lives.   Why?  As much as they worked with and got to know each other online, the time they spent together at Vidcon was the highlight of their experience.  As much as some adults may worry about the impersonal online world, I believe that most people - especially teens - don't perceive that world quite as disconnected from reality as some fear.

After all, social media is ultimately about real human contact.

[If you haven't seen it already, take a look at my video about making films as a kid, "Crazy Adventures: Why I'm Here!"]

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Forced Digitization?

I really think that the full digital transition of our society is rapidly becoming inevitable.

I've been  having increasing issues just trying to receive newspapers at my home.  I receive the Los Angeles Times seven days a week, and the New York Times on Sunday - yet the carrier who delivers both papers can't seem to dependably deliver them  - or mis-delivers the papers to another door - this despite the fact that I'm the only apartment in the vicinity that seems to receive a newspaper at all...

By contrast, I can receive the digital facsimile edition of both papers at a steep discount, , and be guaranteed delivery every morning.  With the Ipad (poor me may be forced to buy one!), I can read the papers as casually and easily as I can the paper edition.    I'm seriously starting to wonder why I'm bothering the hassle of fighting with customer service and paying a premium for it!

I wonder if the newspaper will one day go the way of the telegraph - and perhaps used in paper form only as keepsakes for special occasions....

Saturday, July 24, 2010

YouTube Pondered

One of the challenges of both learning and anticipating the social media world is the very fact that it's constantly changing and reforming.  Another challenge is the fact that the applications of social media are as varied as the individuals that use them.

In the case of YouTube, I've now created sixty videos of varied format (and, yes, quality), to better understand the environment - and what I might want for it (for that matter, where I fit in the YT universe). In some ways, I'm still not certain of my ultimate "product."  While I'm very much convinced of my theory that YT and social media is a third creative platform, I'm not entirely certain of my long-term destiny in this world..

As I was pondering this blog entry, one of my vlogging mentors, Andymooseman "liked" a video from a couple of years ago from another YT friend, Kenrg that perhaps best explains this difficulty I'm experiencing...

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

What's a Documentary on YouTube?

Having spent a years creating for traditional media, I find the experience of creating non-fiction for YouTube an entirely new challenge.  Though production and editing skills come in handy, the requirements of the genre are entirely different - for a wide range of reasons.  Almost ever genre appears on  YouTube, but in terms of offering audience-friendly documentary video, there are special considerations (Since many vlogs on YouTube are non-fiction by nature, I'll limit my discussion to the documentary form).

First, lengths are short in this world.  Though some create (or adapt) longer videos by posting multi-part videos, more effective programs are between 1:30 and 3:00 in length.

Effective YouTube videos offer a means of engagement, usually through the individual creator; in other words, the filmmaker is part of the story - he or she is taking you on a journey.  Even if the filmmaker doesn't appear in the video, the audience perceives this as a personal form of expression.  YouTube channels maintained by entities (i.e. corporations or comedy groups or otherwise more impersonal entities) can be successful, but are by their nature less engaging.

The technical considerations, for the professional, might seem difficult to accept.  Many successful YouTubers have only most rudimentary production skills - what they do have is the will and spirit to create.  While many are very interested in improving their game, production-wise, they're also interested in maintaining the ability to express themselves simply and directly.  To the YouTube audience, that is most important.

Renetto, whom I've mentioned here before, is a true documentarian in this world, and has developed a large, loyal following over several years on YouTube   He now shoots with the HD Cam on his iPhone 4 - he records and comments on his everyday life, including his family and his teenage kids.  He's honest, opinionated, and, after having had the chance to speak with him at  the "Vidcon" YouTuber's conference a couple of weeks back, I feel he's a true sage of the YouTube community.   Another YouTuber, ShayCarl, also records his family's life - he has a younger family, and offers a hipper take on the idea (think the popularity of reality television versus the traditional documentary).  He's currently one of the top personalities on YouTube.  Both offer a good representation on non-fiction in this genre.

Like everything in the YouTube world, the documentary world here is just taking shape.  Though I actually started creating on here with the idea that I was exploring a new world, I've since come to understand that I'm merging my old one, too!

Monday, July 19, 2010

Friday, July 16, 2010

Pathway Challenges

As new as I am to being an "active" member of the social media community, I have nevertheless become a passionate advocate - urging friends, associates, and industry contacts to learn and find ways of using social media to achieve their specific goals and ambitions.  Everyone's different, and individuals will find their own pathway through this forest of opportunities.

I'm constantly exploring and seeking out my own pathway.  Even as I urge others to take the time to understand how these tools work, I'm expanding my knowledge base and seeking out the right combination that will work for my goals.

Of course, my challenge lies in the fact that my goals are shifting as I focus on the emerging opportunities in social media.  I am already serving as a consultant to a number of clients and firms on social media matters; and in the past - even before my current YouTube efforts, I wrote several corporate blogs for a former employer and a number of individual clients.

Until I became active,  I didn't anticipate the clear opportunities that increased awareness and use of YouTube-type social media are making available.  To spread the word, as it were, individuals will need to use the tools.

Before you began using Facebook - did you "get it?"

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Me 2.0

[See the vlog]

I like to think of YouTube  (and really, social media in general) as personally directed, ongoing reality shows.  Like reality shows, the truth isn't quite what it seems.  We present to the world an interpretation of ourselves as we would like the world to see us.  Even the most honest skilled "lifestreamers" (as Renetto calls it), present a subjective view of their own lives.  A camera is as small as an iPhone, impacts those around it.  

Camera placement, editing and the very events the vlogger chooses to share create an online reality that is harsher, grittier, or simpler and more peaceful than the off-screen reality. 

That's the nature of non-fiction in any form.  In fact, it's the reality of human existence.  While some people are more honest than others, we generally adjust our behavior in reaction to the circumstances  that surround us.  Yes, some are truer to themselves than others, but living in a society of any sort requires a set of behavior in order to function successfully.

In my short YouTube history, part of the fun has been discovering my online persona.  I've shared similar experiences with a number of YouTubers I met at Vidcon.  Each related their own period of discovery as they tried a number of approaches as they developed their unique personal brand.  Many successful vloggers ultimately found an approach that incorporated and enhanced elements of who they already were, and in time found that their online persona and offline reality merged into what we might call "Me 2.0."

Social media and social networking in general has changed, at least for a portion of society, how people interact on both a daily and long term basis.  The concept of a personal brand is critical to understand for anyone hoping to use these tools to achieve specific goals.  

Obviously, I'm a big fan of social media.  I have to admit, however, that as I dig deeper and deeper into this world, I have to wonder if we was a society are entering a uniquely self-absorbed age.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

YouTube is a Secret

One of the most extraordinary facts of Vidcon was the fact that press coverage was almost non-existent.  The single article in the business section of the Los Angeles Times focused almost entirely on the partner program, and virtually ignored the many ways in which users are finding ways of making YouTube (and social media in general) work to achieve their goals.

Perhaps the fact that Los Angeles is essentially a company town explains the focus on YouTube stars, and the fact that there is a large concentration of them in Los Angeles.  It seems  as if it is becoming a mecca for the biggest stars.  Joe Penna, known on YouTube's MysteryGuitarMan, says in the article that "L.A. is like YouTube.  It's a place where I can do whatever I want.  Where else can you do that?"  He moved to L.A. from Boston.

The article is focused almost entirely on L.A. as the growing center of YouTube activity, and completely misses the bigger story of YT as an entrepreneurial tool.   Based upon the article, one would think that the gathering was simply one step above a fan convention.

There might have been other stories about Vidcon, but I'm not aware of any other media coverage.  Perhaps that's what makes my involvement and exploration of the YouTube so exciting - it almost seems as if it's still a big secret.  Without exception, anyone I speak with outside the YouTube world shares my excitement as I describe the unfolding opportunities.

I'm convinced that this will all change - I'm amazed that is hasn't already.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Vidcon: So, What Does It All Mean?

I could go on for days and weeks about the atmosphere at Vidcon, the YouTube conference that just concluded here in Los Angeles - but I was just considering the lasting impressions left from the experience.

After spending three days immersed in YouTube culture, I'm more convinced than ever that this is really the beginning of a widespread revolution in human interaction.  As huge as YouTube has become, it's true power as a community still remains largely unknown beyond those of us who have chosen to be content creators. The YT world is empowering on so many different levels, it's almost overwhelming.

The difficulty that many people still have with social media, and social networking in general, is understanding how to use it effectively.  I know many people that realize that they should be involved in social media, but don't quite understand yet what that means or entails.  Complicating the matter is the fact that the rules are being invented daily.  Social media and social networking are strategies, not destinations, so they require a customized approaching depending on who you are and your goals and ambitions.

Vidcon consisted of 1,400 people, each building their own personal brand - each brand as unique as each individual.  Some are singers or musicians - others have tech shows, and still others are comedians.  There are some developed strategies in building a following on YouTube, but professional strategies - how to make money on YT - are still being developed.   The most successful YT partners are making a good living - but many other YouTubers are finding ways to put the platform to work to achieve their individual goals.  It's the ultimate in niche marketing - figure out what your brand is, and how to get the word out to the YouTube population, and you will find your specific audience.  If you're really lucky, you'll engage your audience and find ways of sustaining their interest. To some, that extends only to t-shirts and CD's, but also includes books, professional services, and consulting.  As the old cliche goes, the possibilities are limited only by your imagination.

Having said all that - this is a world at the dawn of its creation.  To really be effective in this world, I think, content creators also need to help "spread the word" about the possibilities of social media.  After seeing the sea of talent (of all types and ages) at Vidcon, I'm convinced that the YouTube/social media environment (YouTube won't always be the only game in town) could be the most exciting entrepreneurial opportunity in generations.

It's not there yet, but  one way or another, it will be.

(and yes, I'm still on my Vidcon high.  Is it that obvious?)