Anything that can make it easier to discover great content on the Internet is always welcome. I've been having a look at Blip, a video service that helps do this for web series. It offers many facilities to help viewers and producers of web series alike. Blip is more than just a video web site or a collection of apps; it is the concept of a TV channel reinterpreted for the web. Crucially, it promotes web series content through its own web site and apps and on major social media websites and provides a business model where web series producers can make money too. In this blog post I'll be taking a look at the blip experience and examining what is in it for viewers and producers alike.
Discovering web series
Blip has a website, apps for Android phones and tables, Apple phones and table, the Amazon Kindle Fire, Google TV and the XBox 360 and also a presence on various video sites such as YouTube. In the US there is also a Roku channel (but not in the UK, why oh why?!). This is great as it means you don't have to be stuck in front of your computer to enjoy what they have to offer. When you use their website or one of their apps the first thing you will notice is that they have quite a rich way to explore the different web series on offer. They offer pages for popular, featured and genre specific content. This makes you instantly aware of lots of series and will maybe tempt you to try something new. Unfortunately as you only see a picture, an episode title and a series title there isn't much to go on so for producers I imagine getting that picture right is vital. If you hover over an episode on the website or tap on it in an app you get a bit more information which might tempt you to play the video.
A wide range of content is available across a lot of different genres. Here you will find scripted drama, comedy, cookery programmes, fashion series and music shows as well as technology shows. I tried all sorts of searches and usually got a lot of results back suggesting a great deal of diversity was on offer. It was great to see the variety of content and spend some time watching different shows. Before a show starts you will probably see an advert, which can be a little bit annoying if the advert doesn't change!
I found a couple of shows that I liked so, not wanting to have to find them again through navigation or search I used Blip's facility to follow a series. To do this you will need to register on the site. Fortunately this does not mean having to remember another password as they use Facebook Connect for this function. Once you have logged in with Facebook you can follow series and the My Blip page will be populated with the latest episodes of the shows you like. You can also be sent a weekly email about these latest episodes. This makes it pretty easy to keep up with what's new.
The use of Facebook Connect for login is no accident. It links to the strong social strategy for the site. By default the settings on your account mean that an activity message gets posted to your Facebook timeline when you watch an episode, follow a series of "love" an episode. This might make some people uncomfortable, but fortunately it is very easy to switch off. Posting to the Facebook timeline could be a good way to make your friends more aware of web series but I don't think people form friendships on the basis of common taste in content so I am not sure how useful this would be. Also people aren't used to their choice of TV programming being automatically shared to the web for comment and discussion by friends so maybe it would be best if this feature warned you before it was about to post to give the viewer the chance to stop it.
Blip also promote web series through social media sites. They have a Facebook page, a Twitter account and even a Tumblr blog. This is really useful as it means that you can hear about new shows with very little effort. In a way this is a bit like when TV channels play a trailer for another show before the one you are watching. It all helps awareness. The social media presence is very active so well worth following.
This is no place for random cat videos. Instead Blip's aim is to work with a community of web series producers. Web Series who would like to be hosted by the platform must apply for approval. However in exchange Blip aims to offer producers quite a lot. Most notably advertising revenue is split 50/50 between the platform and content producers offering producers that chance to monetise their creations. They also get a dashboard offering audience numbers and demographics and provide tools to help producers promote their series themselves. Blip even have their own studios where they produce content for the platform and also host independent producers. Content hosting is non-exclusive which is great as this leaves producers free to reach more platforms.
Interestingly, Blip also have a presence here in the UK. They host a number of web series by some UK television personalities, have a UK specific Twitter account and have had a sales team for the UK since 2010. Blip told me that they hope to deepen their relationship with UK producers with the aim of increasing UK audiences for high quality shows.
Who watches Blip?
In their press pack Blip mention some interesting numbers. According to figures they quote dated July 2012 from Comscore and Quantcast they have managed 160m views on content from 17.9m unique visitors with 25mins being the average for a session. This seems pretty good for a web site. They have a 60/40 split of male to female visitors and an average visitor age of 32. It is interesting to compare this to a more technology focused site like Revision 3 which has a 71/29. This suggests that they are successfully selecting content that appeals to both sexes.
A TV channel for the future
I think sites like Blip will become increasingly important as video takes off on the web. Their ability to host and cross promote web series across a variety of platforms is very significant. Just as having a TV transmitter only in London isn't enough for a traditional TV network, having just a web site or an iPhone app won't be enough in the world of web television. Having a service that can deliver to a viewer's chosen platform is a powerful selling point and being able to use those platforms to help people discover new content will hopefully encourage the web series industry to grow.
Be sure to watch out for my Web TV Highlights series of posts for great content found on Blip and other video services!