Commentary

RIP 'Wallstrip'

Happy New Year and welcome to the 2009 edition of the Video Insider. I'm looking forward to connecting with the readership in what is shaping up to be an interesting year in online video. We are already seeing some analysts, like JP Morgan's Imran Khans, challenging eMarketer's bold prediction that online video ad spending is going to increase 45% in the coming year. We'll revisit that at the end of the year and see who was right.

 

In the meantime, let's continue talking about video and money, but from a slightly different perspective. The first week of 2009 brought some disappointing news to fans of the online video show "Wallstrip" when it was announced that parent CBS Interactive would be shutting production down.

For those unfamiliar with "Wallstrip," it was a lighthearted, "pop culture meets stock culture" (as described by the site) video site that examined "hot" stocks and tried to provide a real-world explanation of why they were so hot.

What makes this story significant for Video Insider readers is that "Wallstrip" was one of, if not the first, online video original-production success story. Launched in 2006 with little more than some industry buzz and promotion by noteworthy financial and technology bloggers and about $500,000 in funding, it was acquired less than a year later for a rumored $5 million by CBS Interactive.

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There's been little released about why "Wallstrip" was shuttered, but clearly difficulty in monetizing a site about hot stocks during the worst stock market since the Great Depression was the major reason. That is disappointing for a number of reasons, but there is still much to learn from the "Wallstrip" story. CBS probably agrees, as it was mentioned by those close to the situation, that the company planned to use "Wallstrip"'s "DNA and apply it" to its BNet property.

What is the DNA of "Wallstrip"? I encourage you to go to the site and sample an episode, but "Wallstrip," in short, "got it", at least from a user perspective. The creators took a fun, educational approach to what can be a difficult to understand or even boring topic and built a following among a coveted audience (higher income financial enthusiasts). Episodes were relatively short, averaging 3-4 minutes at most, always entertaining, and came out three times a week due to the low production costs involved. Finally, users were kept engaged long after the clip ended with discussion boards and voting tools.

Why, then, was it difficult to monetize such a hit? The economic environment was no doubt a factor and perhaps the biggest one. Traffic was a factor, too. According to Quantcast, "Wallstrip" only reached 14,000 users a month at its peak. Finally, advertising didn't seem to be the biggest focus -- original content was -- and this was compounded by the fact that repurposed content ala Hulu is still an advertiser medium of choice. We'll likely never know for sure, but in this blogger's opinion, history will show that "Wallstrip" was ahead of its time, and probably just a victim of this current financial recession. Let's hope that "Wallstrip"'s ending doesn't dampen the enthusiasm from niche content producers over the short term.

5 comments about "RIP 'Wallstrip' ".
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  1. Scott Broomfield from Veeple, Inc., January 12, 2009 at 3:21 p.m.

    It is always sad when a young, innovative pioneer in any industry fails. Certainly there will be a number that will also suffer the same fate as the market continues to evolve as do the business models. To the Wallstrip people - one can fail without being a failure. Keep this in mind when you start your new new thing.

  2. Nate Pagel from Podaddies, January 12, 2009 at 3:33 p.m.

    Too bad. It was a great show - but losing the initial host - lindsay did not help.

  3. Patrick Fitzgerald, January 12, 2009 at 5:15 p.m.

    The ability to produce quality content in and for digital distribution can be a double edged sword. The relatively cheap production cost makes it easier for traditional media decision makers to ditch a product. Of course this is counter-intuitive but when an executive has a big budget production under management they will tend to fight harder for it. Producers of original digital content should be wary of jumping in with traditional media producers as they move over to the digital platform. For many of us what makes this platform great is the ability to publish content and build an audience, if you are mindful of your costs you can build a franchise here. The traditional media model, and the metrics it embraces, will make the web and other digital platforms unappealing for some time. This can be an advantage for original content publishers. However, if the same psychology and status quo business models come with the traditional media groups onto this new platform then it will all be more of the same.

  4. Bruce May from Bizperity, January 12, 2009 at 6:02 p.m.

    4 minute shows? The television industry is bringing long form content online with Hulu, and others. The interstitial commercial is the key to generating revenue with long form content... That's the future of online TV... keep fighting it if you want to.

  5. Grant Crowell from ReelSEO.com, January 13, 2009 at 9 a.m.

    I never saw the show, but it sounds like it was an "excellent failure." Probably had the wrong type of expectations from its parent company, CBS. I find my preference is more the approach at BNet.com for their own Video segments. Its not long-format content (more like "snacks"), but you can easily see how doing a daily show can always pair up segments of this length, and throw in the mid-roll advertising. Yes, "interstitials," same thing).

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