Apparently, many people start broadband video Web sites by asking the same question: What is a really good way to fail at this? Of course, business visionaries from every background have risen to this challenge, providing us with models of Web sites that have successfully, even spectacularly, tanked.
We’ve moved to take all the guesswork out of this process and drawn up a road map for failure, since it seems such a popular pastime.
>> Step 1 for failing at a broadband video Web site: Start a broadband video Web site.
The field is wildly competitive, everyone is still trying to figure out an economic model for it. It’s the rare hybrid of cutthroat and unrealistic that makes it possible for you to trounce the competition the very day before going bankrupt.
>> Step 2: Set up your Web site with a lot of fancy graphics.
Flash animation, busy backgrounds — YouTube doesn’t have any of that stuff. So that’s how you’ll make yourself stand out. People will no doubt pant, “Why, that’s the site that takes a lot of time to download. I love that site!”
>> Step 3: Develop original videos, in the naïve belief that people can watch them only on your Web page.
With screen-capture software, stealing your product is as easy as watching it. Post an original video. Wait a month, and, if it’s catchy, you’ll find a version of it on YouTube. Strike that, you’ll find five versions of it, four of them from people who didn’t bother checking that someone else already posted it.
Remember Will Ferrell’s “Landlord” video on Funny or Die? Which later became Will Ferrell’s “Landlord” video on eBaum’s World? Anyway, now it’s Will Ferrell’s “Landlord” video on YouTube.
How do you prevent that? Why not follow the lead from DVD makers: Produce a very nice note or advertisement asking people not to make illegal copies. That seems to work.
>> Step 4: Make it user-generated, but ask users to generate what you want, instead of what they want.
Yes sir, there is nothing people like more than using their free time to develop someone else’s vision. It just makes you wonder why people have paid producers and writers all these years. They could have just asked people to go out and make specific films, and by golly everyone would spend time, money and effort producing them.
>> Step 5: Presume that user content will be professional quality.
The lighting won’t be terrible. The sound won’t be muddy. Scripts won’t be awkward or unoriginal or way, way too long. The entire film will not, in fact, be a third-generation copy of a videotape. And the videotape won’t be just an episode of Family Guy.
>> Step 6: You know what makes people visit a site that doesn’t otherwise interest them? Contests.
How can this possibly fail? Offer a slim chance at a million dollars to people who watch your videos or produce them. Then send out e-mails telling everyone about this extremely lucrative opportunity. Now that the Internet has been around for a few years, people have come to trust e-mails and offers like this. They’ve learned not to delete them or block them or report them to the Federal Trade Commission, but instead to open them and give them the careful, respectful attention they deserve.
>> Step 7: Expect huge profit margins — and expect them right away.
Whatever investment capital you raise, spend all of it up-front on infrastructure rather than keeping any in reserve to sustain the company while the online community discovers it. Don’t worry. People will find you pretty much right away. After all, how many other Web sites can the Internet possibly have?