Kara Swisher

Recent Posts by Kara Swisher

Where Is the Content of the Future?

I have seen the future of online entertainment and–no surprise–it’s not being created by Hollywood.


That’s because people there are too busy fighting over nothing these days.

Still, Hollywood’s writers and studios come back to the bargaining table again today, resuming their discussions to settle the strike that has been going on for three weeks now.

The Writers Guild of America is adamant about getting its writers a fair share for work that gets distributed over the Web.

And studios are just as stubbornly resisting, saying shares are not forthcoming anyway right now, given how paltry the revenues from Internet content are at this point in time.

While the wrangling has gotten lots of attention–no late night shows, the horror!–what’s really more appalling is exactly how slow all of Hollywood has been actually trying to change that equation.

Good thing, then, for producers like Pete Gibbons, the series producer of “KateModern,” an interactive online-only series being made in London and now appearing regularly on the Bebo social network. Each episode–not including all the other side videos and posts that hang all around each one–garners around 300,000 page views.

So far, of course, it is a fledgling effort, but a step in the right direction, even as Hollywood fiddles and its business burns.

Here’s an interview I did with Gibbons when I was in London:

(I am still having problems with my Brightcove player, so I uploaded it to YouTube.)

Hollywood writers or studios have yet to produce anything as interesting and innovative as this online. In fact, to my mind, neither side has made any effort in leading the way in creating a new kind of online-born content that will garner the kind of profits that are perhaps really worth fighting over.

Why is that? The basics–greed, laziness and fear–cannot be underscored enough.

Greed because it is still a nascent industry and the up-front, pay-now attitude that much of Hollywood still operates under will not work in a situation that clearly needs to have more of a venture-backed, risk-embracing mentality.

Few in the entertainment industry are willing to give up their still lucrative–although obviously declining in influence and audience–business for what’s next.

Laziness because it is easier to shovel stuff made for other mediums online or make professional Web material that is clearly derivative of current media like television, rather than try to imagine a whole new way of creating content that reflects and excels on the online platform.

I hear over and over that it is an impossible medium to create in–doubtless the same complaints heard at the time of the invention of radio or television.

And fear? Well, that’s often Hollywood’s most motivating force and one that precludes the atmosphere of true invention that is required for the new medium to blossom.

Of course, the real breakthrough hits will probably not come from Hollywood, whose first order of business remains filling the multiplexes or plugging that hole on the network’s lackluster Thursday night.

And, of course, in escalating costs, even as tech costs get lower and lower and tech companies are started on almost nothing.

By contrast, “KateModern” is produced at much lower costs–a necessary change that is almost impossible for Hollywood to get its head wrapped around–and changeable by the second by its audience. Gibbons and his team move the action along with startling speed.

Done by the creators of “Lonelygirl15” (who are Los Angeles-based), “KateModern” is set in East London and follows a “troubled young art student named Kate and her three closest friends: an Australian wild-child named Charlie, a young entrepreneur named Tariq and a mischievous computer whiz-kid named Gavin.”

The series (now in its 17th week) is done in partnership with Bebo, which sells ads against the content, paying for it before it is made.

So, take a gander down the road a bit and check out “KateModern’s” latest episode, starring its Charlie character:
Watch More Videos       Uploaded by www.bebo.com/ChazOnToast