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Rocketboom Enters Year 4

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What an incredibly interesting time this is. Rocketboom is entering into it’s 4th year today. I’m reminded of my favorite spacecraft, the Hubble. Nobody really knows what we will see with it, but we have a direction and we are going strong. The spirit is exploration and the foundation is our own human limits and the freedom to do so. That’s the main theme that gets me excited everyday.

The best things that came out of our 3rd year:

(1) Not “building another network”. We’ve seen alot of the popular content startups turn into networks of shows and I continue to be critical of them for operating like old record labels. There is a better way to grow a brand of content for the long term. I can’t believe how much money some of them have burnt through.

(2) Got the back-end shop together – payroll/workman’s comp, bookkeeping, advertising, legal (Amanda Congdon no longer has any interest in the business – I continue to wish her well and hope that she fares well in the future), accounting – an auditor could walk in right now and ask for everything down to the receipt for the last 3 years and we would smile and hand them everything. And yet we are still cost efficient.

(3) Rocketboom has also been working with CAA and we are very happy about the alliance.

The greatest asset we have at Rocketboom is our exceptionally creative and dedicated team. All together we continue to create a positive impact (I hope), we have kept costs really low which exhibits the message and the dream of our platform, we have maintained a strong independent nature with an international flair and we have big dreams for the future.

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Apple Web Apps

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On MSNBC and Apple iTunes

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The relatives filled up the ‘ol email box today because they saw me on MSNBC Nightly News last night. The story was about email bankruptcy. You can watch it here (doesn’t seem to work on Apple browsers). What’s my advise on how to deal with email overload? “Eh, not sure yet.”

Thanks to Apple for featuring Rocketboom on the front page of iTunes this week!! Ive been a quintessential Apple fan forever but for good reason, they have the best interface, best design and push innovation like nobody’s business. Ive yet to review my iphone though to give you some idea, I finally stopped carrying my blackberry last week (‘been using gmail and flipping the board sidewise for speedy thumb typing). A+++ I remember well when the idea was but a dream.

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Rocketboom Sponsorship Launch

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Tomorrow on Monday we will be launching a new sponsorship model on Rocketboom!

Just over a year ago, we ran out money for Rocketboom. We were not mature enough to consider investments and so I decided Rocketboom had to go forward with an E-bay auction. The plan had materialized months prior but I never wanted to take the risk. I certainly was into the excitement, but what if no one bid? What if the bid was too low? What if our reserve was too high? The immediacy of a check in the bank was an important part of the decision too.

I’ll never forget the fear of failure that buit up to 5 seconds before the auction ended a loser, followed by a final refresh click with just 2 seconds to go that suddenly showed a $40,000 winner. To this day, I had never publicized that $40,000 was actually our reserve, helping to set the high market value.

When people went on to write about the sale, they broke it down to a CPM comparison, though most people didn’t take into account that the $40,000 for a week of advertising on Rocketboom included not only airing the commercials, but also creating 5 of them! Also, managing an account like this while working to appease the advertiser is a very difficult feat in and of itself.

A few months later, Rocketboom went through a bit of internal turmoil that required me to set all of the business aside for awhile to devote {303de987cc6916da36e13969c33ddde86941a7a7dd0e4e1455e523d98097d3da}100 of my energies on just the production. While we would go on to bring in a total of $210k from creative advertising for the year, the amount of energy and conviction we had to put into each piece ultimately put us further behind.

To our suprise, during the process, we learned that companies weren’t really interested in us having complete conviction in them anyway. Ultimately, they really were big fans of Rocketboom and they wanted us (and our audience) to know that. *They* had the conviction in *us*.

So that’s why we took that original model and flipped it. Our relationship to the sponsor now starts off with a sign of gratitude for their support.

In return, we have a great, critical audience that a sponsor can leverage to provide feedback and insight into their situation. While the system may not be right for many other environments, I think it will be extremely effective on Rocketboom. The entire program was designed to match Rocketboom as it already is.

I’m extremely proud to kick off this Monday with YouTube as our first sponsor. Regarding the broad topic of “video online”, in my personal opinion, there is not a single other group in the world that has done more to democratize the moving image. We finally got a Rocketboom YouTube account up and running as well. It’s amazing to think we have made it this far without any flash distributions. YouTube will make Rocketboom much easier to share, obviously.

For more details, you can visit http://www.rocketboom.com/sponsorship

Next, look forward to more content offerings from Rocketboom soon. Extra special thanks to Kenyatta, Joanne and Ellie, the hard-core team that makes RB happen!

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RB in WSJ

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Rocketboom received some nice coverage in the Wall Street Journal today. Since the subject is about startup tips for show running, my top of the list note is to suggest a daily, short-form show. Most shows come out once a week, once a month or sporadically. The value to having a daily update may be the most often missed opportunity yet.

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Media 3

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Thanks to Shelly Palmer for having me on his podcast. We talk about Rocketboom and distribution platforms.

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Podcast Hotel

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If you are in San Francisco this week for Web 2.0, check out Podcast Hotel.

I’ll be keynoting on Friday with what I consider to be my best ever, most developed ideas on the future of our medium. I always get a great deal of privileged information from so many different partners and industry peeps, I’ve been thinking a lot about what people are up to and how it all fits together.

Justin from Justin.tv, Josh Wolf and a lot of others will be giving presentations too. ‘Looking forward to it!

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Rocketboom will Remain Free

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Even after prior posts, more posts are rolling in.

The title of the Market Watch article was apparently misleading.

Rocketboom will always remain free and easily available to obtain. That’s our #1 foundational principle of being and I don’t ever foresee needing to change that.

This is not an issue that is determined by money, it’s just the way it is and you can take that for granted.

Also, we have had plenty of chances to completely smear advertising all over our videos and websites all day long every day so thats not the issue either. I can imagine how post-roll ads could work, we have done this in the past. We’re holding out for the best way for the long run.

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Veered Wind

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I have been really disappointed lately with the state of videoblogging. Without delving into the details, I’ll try and just state the obvious. I don’t have all the answers, I just notice that something is starting to go wrong.

1. One thing that makes the business of videoblogging problematic is the contrasting paradigms of business at play. The notion of “blogging” suggests that the medium may be informed by blogging practices and yet the application of video opens up the medium to traditional TV and Film business methods.

I’m only putting forth a hypothesis here formed more from a birds eye view and a feeling, but it seems to me that most bloggers who are leaders in the blogging world would consider their weblogs to be loss leaders where the activity of blogging does not bring in enough revenue to sustain their site’s effort but does lead to other related activites that generate revenue. And where in many cases the activity is so close in nature to the weblog, and is so desirable by the blogger anyway, a beneficial and fulfilling lifestyle can be obtained.

On the other hand, there is the TV and Film industry which seems to be built on a completely different set of business practices, different motivations and morality and of course where the potential for fortune, power and fame attract the most intense types of personal human interests, leading to a completely different kind of culture with different principles and policies.

So what’s going wrong here is the collision of these two worlds. It happens in blogging, sure, but it’s common place right now in videoblogging and I believe this is ultimately where we will start to notice a separation between “videoblogging” and “tv”.

As of now, we have not seen the influx of major talent from the established media industry adopting the experiences, technologies or practices realised in videoblogging over the last couple of years. This is the area where we have recieved a lot of consulting interest lately. Our intent is to help bring these two worlds together, for as I say, it not really working out so well right now.

2. Journalism is at play as one faction in all media. Sometimes (video)blogging and journalism are closely tied, for the most part, consequently; It just so happens that there is a lot of unintentional cross over. The main glue that keeps the affinity between blogging and journalism, it seems, is a sense of integrity that can be felt and shared by both. There is a desire to find “the trurth” and to be objective while continuing to remind one another that objectivity is futile.

Many bloggers aspire to journalistic standards and yet they also feel comfortable with blogging standards and seem to have a good sense of how these two worlds look when put together. A lot of work has already been done in this area. Yet when bloggers say they are not subject to the rules of journalism, something I have said before, it doesn’t mean that we don’t continue to share many of the same qualities as journalists anyway, such as a sense of integrity and a willingness to value our work and our social contibutions higher than money, for instance. These are human qualities that influence our work. These are the types of qualities that I believe will illuminate a major fork in the road for what type of videoblogger one is, if they choose to identify with videoblogging, or what kind of person they are, regardless of what they call themselves.

Now we have major networks doing it, and I think they are doing it wrong, and actually causing a disservice to journalism and blogging in some cases. For instance, a network often has a news division and then has other programing that is non-news (like sitcoms, and other entertaiment content, family, etc). You can imagine that there are different styles, methods and reasons for a network to implement vidoebloggging and right now there seems to be some confusion about how to do that. It reminds me of one of my favorite albums by the Volent Femmes, The Blind Leading the Naked. “Anything goes blogging” is not the right kind of blogging style to suppliment for a trustworthy news division, but just might work for the family type of division within a network. Similarly, there are a lot of new lessons the established news industry and other family divisons can learn from videoblogging when the two work together to inform one another.

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More Attention Required

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Warning the below is not true:

“Rocketboom fans may have to pay to see Joanne Colan, now that show co-creator Andrew Baron has told Marketwatch that advertising isn’t working out as he would like. No decision has been made, but Baron said advertisers “are just not happy to do small deals” like Rocketboom has been doing.”

Its not true at all. Rocketboom will remain freely available. The point I was making is that we are not happy with advertising right now. The advertisers are not being very flexible and down-to-earth and we are just not happy with the idea of mass advertising on Rocketboom. Its not ruled out, it just feels wrong so far.

I think pre-roll/mid roll commercials on content like ours is a terrible mistake, product placement will not work for us (LonleyGirl can get away with product placement because the whole show is full of myth and psychological mayhem already), groups like Federated Media while helpful to talk to, haven’t addressed video advertising just right yet, and so we have been exploring other ways to do more than just merely sustain, without advertising, or taking hold of people with venerable mental states.

Some kind of sponsorship model, more along the lines of NPR or PBS might be best for content that exists for the sake of content itself.

The real success story lay in obtaining finantial support from the active and participatory audience – I continue to refer back to a build upon/turbo version of Jason Kottke’s mico donation experiement.

I think there is a difference between a reader of a link blog and an audience member/fan of a daily show, and it’s that loyal audience/fan mentality, one which I seem to express myself for others as well, that could inspire progressive support of the show.

A combination of audience support and museum-like sponsorship support could work together to keep centain kinds of content free.

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