Anyone out there who watches HGTV is familiar with the fact that it is storytelling that is crucial to making someone want to watch paint dry, or tile get laid. Not to mention the fact that having your face on TV can do wonders for promoting your business.
Well what if I told you that you could have both of the benefits above without having to beg a cable affiliate to make you their next celebrity contractor. What I’m talking about is the phenomenon of Microcasting, which could be coming to a PC near you.
Unlike cable TV, where a 30-minute program is equated with 22 minutes of video, online TV shows need to only be two to three minutes in length. Also unlike broadcast TV, online you don’t need to pay for a timeslot to broadcast your show. All you need to do is create a channel on YouTube for free.
Of course, if you want to build an audience, you will need to take a lesson or two from all those “Fix This House” shows. What this boils down to is coming up with programming that people will want to watch. More importantly, you want to produce shows that people will want to pass along to their friends and in so doing help you build audience share. Accomplishing this does not require you to pay for studio time or invest in CGI special effects. All it takes is a little imagination.
As a rule, there are three maxims for reality TV:
- Solve a Problem
- Eye Candy
Take for instance one of my clients, Bill Aldridge at Aldridge and Sons Plumbing. After extolling the virtues of microcasting to him, he was interested but skeptical.
“I hear what your saying,” he told me. “But how do you make plumbing funny?”
So I told him to think back to all the times he managed to narrowly avoid disaster (think flood), or anything that surprised him (like the time a cat got stuck inside the wall the one time I tried to fix a leaky pipe in the bathroom), or in short anything that would have visual appeal. So after kicking a few ideas around, we both decided to put our heads back together the following day.
Fortunately for me, it didn’t even take 24 hours to come up with an Eye Candy idea for Bill. After talking to one of my business associates, Andy Stansfield, about my interview with the plumber, he told me, “Let me pitch you a show.” It turns out that a couple of months back, Andy had called Bill for help fixing a clogged drain. Bill dispatched his son Billy to do the task. While he was there working on the drain, Andy told him that lately some rather rank odors had been wafting up from the kitchen sink. Billy looked at him and said, “It’s probably your dishwasher. What say we clean it out.”
Andy agreed and Billy proceeded to open the freezer and take out the storage compartment from the icemaker. Walking casually over to the disposal, he filled the contraption up to the top with ice. Then he drizzled a few drops of liquid dish detergent on top of the ice. Then he turned the disposal on.
“The disposal started churning with a noise like a sno-cone machine gone wild,” Andy told me. “A few seconds later up out of the drain came this column of foam. It practically filled up the sink. It was the craziest thing I ever saw. All I kept thinking was, ‘I should take out my I-Phone and videotape this for YouTube.’
Needless to say, not only did Andy get a sparkling clean garbage disposal out of the incident, but I also got my inspiration for Bill’s HGTV moment, which we are going to shoot as a reenactment later this week.
While this kind of programming is just the ticket for hooking viewers, you can’t rest on your laurels. Not if you expect to build an audience. To do that you need to feed the monkey. By that, I mean that you need to produce a series of microcasts.
For Bill Aldridge, what I suggested was that his son buy a low cost video camera and an inexpensive external hard drive (nothing eats space faster than video). His assignment is to follow his techs from time to time and shoot enough how-to footage to enable us to put together four episodes at a time. Since we are going to feed his audience a blog a week and a video every two weeks, this will mean that we can put together enough material for two months of broadcasting with one post-production session. Once he has the material, we can shoot the intros on our green screen and then produce four shows every other month. This way Billy won’t have to quit his day job and Bill Sr won’t have to break the bank to pay for post production.
Mind you, we aren’t looking to teach the audience how to do Bill’s job. What we are looking to do is show them some helpful hints and colorful stories, as well as cue the audience as to when it’s time to call in a professional before the task gets way out of hand. (Like my attempt at fixing the leaky bathroom pipe.) I also told both Bills to keep a weather eye out for any amusing anecdotes that either they or their technicians pass along as this is grist for creating enertaining reenactments, such as the disposal incident.
No matter what your business, by putting on your television producer’s cap and having a preproduction meeting with you staff, you too can create must-see-online-tv. It beats waiting for Hollywood to come knocking at your door.
Carl Weiss has been producing online and cable programming, corporate and how-to videos for more than 6 years. For samples of his videos, check out his Jacksonville Video Production website today. If you want to see some humorous programs, click on the "Commercials" tab.