So at this point I’ve conducted around two dozen interviews with nearly thirty individuals working in the market for original (mostly scripted) web shows. It’s been fun! I still have much more to learn, but, being an academic, have already started writing. It’s what we do.
Here is the first full paper I’ve written on the topic (UPDATE: Please email me if you’d like to see the draft). It’s pretty broad. The main point was to try and pinpoint how people talk about what web series mean and are for. Why make a series for an online audience? What makes it different from television or film? This essay is my attempt to put all those questions under one umbrella, while adding in some observations from the history of media (especially radio, surprisingly).
This is still a work in progress, so, as always, I very much appreciate comments, criticism, feedback, information, and even shameless plugs. Although I work at a university, I am far from all-knowing, and, in an area this new and constantly developing, I’m always missing things, sometimes really big things.
The paper is online here. Below is the title and abstract.
The ideal driving the making and marketing of original web series, however diversely produced and distributed, is quite consistent: connection. Producers – individual or corporate – want to connect with viewers, woo them to invest emotionally or intellectually in narratives or formats. Alongside quixotic personal investments and new age marketing speak, the aim is, chiefly, capital: money, notoriety, cultural significance or awareness of a personal or corporate brand. Yet fueled by technological advancements and broader cultural conditions, producers are flocking to the Internet, developing new ways of storytelling and information delivery, while investing considerable time and money all to reach and engage an amorphous and fickle audience. Using interviews with nearly thirty producers and executives, I argue this rhetoric of “connection” — with viewers and among producers — is fueling the development of this emerging media form.