If the shoe fits, wear it.
YouTube grew into an 800-million-viewer platform on the strength of one-off uploads, spawned stars, niche genres and mostly dorky series like "Lonelygirl15", "The Gregory Brothers", and "Fred". Land on its Web splash page, and YouTube will show you the latest viral hit, then another, and another, and… But that was so five minutes ago.
YouTube is rapidly morphing from a world of stand-alone videos that live only on the Web into a world of channels that will play across the expanding Internet-ready screen spectrum of Web, PCs, tablets, smartphones, game consoles, and Internet-enabled TVs.
In short, YouTube is becoming a “play-anywhere, device-agnostic, multichannel network… a cable network for people who don't have cable," Wired's Mat Honan wrote last week for GadgetLab. Still there are many technological hurdles to jump in creating a seamless cross-platform experience, but we’re standing at the gates of the new video world.
Ubiquity is YouTube's goal
YouTube doesn’t want you to just watch videos and then get on with your life. It wants viewers to stick like glue, just as we did to the old broadcast TV model -- to see what’s up next -- while it reels in the big advertising bucks. Soon, backed by a $300m investment, we will find we can tune in constantly, watching as soon as we awaken to check our bedside smartphone, stay tuned via our smartphone or tablet as we grab breakfast, enjoy some stolen minutes on our PC at work, and return to our couches for our evening TV, before nodding off to more YouTube in bed. And what will we be watching? You could call it “niche-TV,” where there's a channel for every topic imaginable.
For instance, there's Nine West's (the Jones Group) just launched Channel 9, exclusively for shoe lovers compliments of the billion-dollar mass market brand. Nine West is taking the bold step of producing its own video media featuring programming that covers seemingly every aspect of footwear, from how to walk in stilettos, shoe self-repair tips to in-depth reports on overflowing shoe closets.
The Shoe Channel, all the shoes fit to…
Nine West will feature original programming on YouTube, as well as its own Web site to build a community around the brand. “We want to rewrite the rules of fashion marketing so it’s not just about a shoe -- it's about a conversation. We want Nine West to be a place you want to shop because you love shoes, not a place to shop when you need shoes,” said Richard Dickson, president and chief executive of the Jones Group’s Branded Businesses.
And so we have it -- video is the quickest path to brand love, the key to emotionally bonding with people (still consumers) via an ongoing, entertaining visual conversation. And what can we expect to constitute this conversation?
The debut Channel 9 programming, which can be seen on the new Web site and on Nine West’s YouTube, Facebook, Twitter and Tumblr pages, will feature 10 hours of original programming each month, including fashion publicist Kelly Cutrone in a series called “You’ve Been Prom’d” that follows a group of high school seniors who applied to a Nine West contest and won gowns, shoes and makeup sessions.
Then there’s more of Ms. Cutrone, and other style advisers, in a series called “You’ve Been Schooled,” which will teach students about the fashion industry. One episode explores makeup and wardrobe styling for a fashion photo session, and another offers help for younger viewers who need to learn how to walk in their first pair of heels.
“Shoe Fix” will give tips on choosing the right shoes and caring for them, followed by “Confessions,” in which celebrities talk about their favorite shoes. There’s more to come, including: “Nine and the Gang” and “Shoe Hoarders.” And viewers can submit their own “shoe confessions” via channelnine.com or the YouTube channel beginning Aug. 28.
The programming appears to be an ongoing bonanza for ad agency Lloyd & Company, New York, and the well-shoed Hollywood production company Hud:sun Media, producer of Bravo’s “Pregnant in Heels” and Oxygen’s “I’m Having Their Baby.” Sigh -- we were unable to locate the name of their external PR agency, if any.
However, the Nine West PR Gals (6731+ tweets, 3,155 followers) are already busy supporting the launch (we’ll soon see how that grows), which is supported by a Fashion Week advertising and pop-store campaign.
Whither the future of "TV"? Will it look like director George Lucas’ Orwellian cult hit "THX-1138," in which the eponymous factory worker played by Robert Duvall returns home to his cell to watch TV where cops deliver endless beatings to some unfortunate? Truly the fulfillment of niche programming.