, ,

Or: the one when I planned a tiny note of motivations and I ended up starting a chain of thoughts probably not so short.

The original idea for this post sounded more or less like “Why you should watch web series” and wasn’t meant to be a public blog post but a list of  “plusses” to convince my friends to pay more attention to this exploding entertainment sector. It ended up quite differently, for some reasons I’ll explain in a minute. In fact, it came out that I had may topics to focus on than a tiny note would accept, and a blog seems the natural place to put them down.
But… Since now I have in mind a series of posts, it somewhat feels right to scribble down a sort of introduction. Forgive me. I’m an old thinker. I often lack pragmatism. And I sometimes cannot resist the temptation of taking the long way, especially when I’m writing.

These are interesting times for web entertainment.
After years of growth, YouTube (despite the large conception of it being a primary source for lolcats and music videos) has taken a new direction, aiming on professional entertainment (YouTube Stars included) as a privileged source of content to push towards the audience in order to attract advertisers (and to profit upon); somewhat, putting in the background his native vocation of self-produced amateur content container (role that it still retains, even if not promoted on the home page like in the good old days).
Aside the giant YT, other realities like Koldcast, Blip, DailyMotion, Vimeo, and many thematic portals constantly grow and get better; even if some soldier died during the battle (the promising video-social network Bebo, the meta-portal VeeHD…) but the army is alive an well.
On the other hand, the amount of “web viewers” is increasing, with jumps around 70% and more in a year and 25% between November and December 2011, while more and more people consume video entertainment through the web (we’re talking about “legal” streaming, not any megavideo-like stuff, just to be clear).
Hollywood (after years of dismissive policy and snobbish distance) has started to approach the medium, Paramount and Sony heading the chase with some good or excellent products (LXD among everything else); and “stars” that certainly don’t lack exposure and don’t need to revamp careers, like Kiefer Sutherland or Tom Hanks, got involved in first person, with personal projects, following other (sometimes not so) less famous colleagues already exploring the medium; these projects doesn’t sound, though, like a tryout, a bizarre experiment; they express commitment, vision, awareness, decision . And even a guy like Michael Eisner, after leaving Disney, has successfully reinvented himself (among the other things) as a web producer, with his company, Vuguru, being so far (or one) the best point(s) of convergence between old business and new medium.
[And that’s enough for showing you that I did my homework.]

It’s time to notice. It’s time to care. And it’s a perfect time, if you’re not already, to start observing, learning and enjoying.

If you already know what I’m talking about, most likely you’ll agree; and the fact itself that a guy like me, traditionally quite reluctant to embrace the changes and to accept the news, has become not only aware but (even worse) a so-called enthusiast of web entertainment “revoution”, should give you a hint that what’s happening online cannot be ignored anymore. If I notice, everyone is doing it; or they really should.
Maybe, then, this is a perfect time for me to start a series of articles about web series. Not only to try to convince my reluctant friends to watch some of the good stuff out there while trying to put everything in the right context (that I couldn’t do by just saying “watch this, it’s so cool”); also in the hope and wish to reach out people that could find useful a kind of introduction in form of free and imperfect thoughts or even “expert” guys and gals, still willing to discuss this topics.
If ever, I’ll just try to fix down the overwhelming flux invading my mind these times. I’ll be doing therapy, again.
It’s not easy, though. More: it’s almost embarrassing talking about web series the way I’d like. Because if the listener/reader doesn’t know what I’m talking about, it’s quite likely (if not certain) that the profile that his mind starts to draw, hearing that infamous label, gets stained by prejudice or wrong references. On the other hand, for long time watchers (not to speak professionals), all of this could be really naive, of worse. After all, there’s a reason if most of the web series related blogs I’ve seen concentrate on news or reviews (with the exception of the creators communities, of course).

And here we come back to the beginning of the post. “Why you should watch web series” is not only a too complex topic for a single short post. Worse: it’s formulation is wrong.
“Web entertainment” and “web series”, even more “web TV” are eluding concepts (despite the false sense of certainty that you can find on Wikipedia) and even creators themselves constantly discuss about the nature, the specifics, the vocation of web entertainment. It’s too easy saying that “it’s something made for the web”; it’s like saying that “television” is “something you watch if you turn your set on”, with no difference between a game, a quiz show, a movie or a tv series. The Internet, like the radio waves or the cable, is just a medium; even less, it’s just a delivering technology. An episode of “New Girl” streamed on Hulu it’s not “web entertainment”; it’s traditional entertainment delivered through the web. Battlestar Galactica “webisodes” are not web entertainment, as well: they are snippets of a tv product, delivered through the web for marketing and fans engaging proposes.
And they’re not synonyms. There’s much more than web series to fill the universe of web entertainment (vloggers, youtubers, videoartists, web artist, transmedia projects, and so on…); while “web tv” can be referred to news, netcasting services, and some (academics at most, it appears) use it like this…but It’s not certainly an universal concept, especially, it seems, among creators.
Truth is: web entertainment is still a niche-like environment, and web series a niche inside it, from the audience point of view. You’re in, or you’re out. You can’t stay in the middle. You cannot be a casual observer. You love it, you hate it, or you deliberately ignore it. If you don’t belong to any of these categories, it’s quite likely you don’t know what you’re talking about. No offence; you just don’t. Like I didn’t, until not so long ago, when each time I heard the label “web series” I immediately dismissed it like a sub product of some sort (and I’m not saying I’m an expert now… but I’m getting the taste of it, so to speak).
And watching web series, specifically, is not a passive act like, say, watching tv; it’s more active dynamic, aware. It’s based on direct search among tons of material available simultaneously, with no schedules (if not for the new releases) and very niche oriented (which means: if you’re not in that niche, you won’t like it). It’s based on a sense of exploration, discovery and at the same time, experience (you need to know where to search, otherwise your findings can be extremely frustrating). Let’s exaggerate: watching web series is an act of faith; faith in the medium, in what it could be in the future; faith in the independent creators that put their best into them despite the little budget, the short timings and even their own inexperience, at times.

After all I’ve said, it’s quite clear that if I tried to write down, say, the usual “ten reasons why” about web series”, I would commit an act of conceit: to take as given  that my opinion and my tastes are the bush for everyone else. Which, alas, no matter how I would like it, it’s sadly just not true.

So, my first approach will be an act of self-analysis: before telling you why (and if) web series are so great, I need to make clear why I’m into them, what drives me to them, what I see in them, what they make resonate in me. So the new topic will be, for starters, “Why I came to watch web series”.

But the space I allow myself for a blog post is largely over. So that’s what I’ll be talking next time.