The World of Web Originals According to NewTeeVee


Liz Shannon Miller is a writer at NewTeeVee and a leading authority on Web original content. Today, she's curating a homepage spotlight devoted to some lesser-known webisodic gems.

In the following interview, she discusses the future of this emerging genre and some of the production elements that separate the good series from the great.

Can you tell us a bit about your process for finding great original Web series?
The advantage of having a lot of friends who are also fans of web content is that following them on various social networks is both business and pleasure, as there's a lot of sharing going on. There's also a lot of time spent tracking Twitter and blogs for both new shows and older stuff, both viral and episodic — plus, every morning I go through all five pages of the YouTube Most Viewed listings, just to see what's popular and topical.  In addition, we get a lot of pitches from creators who want us to take a look at their stuff, which is great, especially when they take the time to tell us why their show is worth checking out.

The big challenge is making time to sift through all this potentially awesome content and being ruthless about the not-so-good or the terrible. Fortunately, it's not too hard to stop watching something bad — unless it's so bad it's good.

What do you think makes the difference between a good Web series and a great one?
The quality of production. Web series still have a long way to go if they're going to be treated on the same level as content created for film and TV with multi-million-dollar budgets, but the shows that are closing the gap are the ones that know how to best use their resources. You can tell a great story with great actors, but factors like sound design, editing — heck, even the main titles — do play a role in how a show is perceived.

That doesn't mean, though, that the goal is to be perceived as a TV show. Some of the best shows are the ones that acknowledge their Web roots, and have fun online with the fact that they can build out the world their characters live in beyond a rigid episodic structure. One of our curated picks, the hilarious "Acting School Academy," stands out not just because of the central episodes, but the incredible breadth of auxiliary content created to accompany the show. There are fake commercials, vlogs, even in-character interviews with real journalists; there are also Facebook and Twitter accounts for both the characters and the show. It's a new definition for the phrase "epic narrative."

What advice would you give to original content creators who are trying to find an audience?
Well, first off, it's really helpful if your show is good, and good right from the beginning. A great first 30 seconds is so important when it comes to grabbing an audience.

Then, know how to sell your show to both potential audiences and professionals. Come up with a pitch that really defines your show, sets it apart as unique, and then target pre-existing communities that might be interested.

What you want are fans. "The Guild" was embraced by the World of Warcraft community; "Anyone But Me" has gotten huge support from both gay audiences and soap opera enthusiasts. Fans are great — they stalk your content, engage with your show, and spread the word. The earlier they discover your show, the more supportive and empowered they'll feel. The better-known the fan, the better luck you'll probably have.

Also, studies show that most people these days discover web content, for the most part, through blogs.  Forging relationships with the people who run high-trafficked sites where you've seen videos is helpful — just don't demand too much without getting to know them first.

What kinds of recent trends have you noticed in online content creation? Where do you see the medium heading in the next five years?
It's hard to pick out recent trends, if only because the classics seem unlikely to go out of style. Girls in bikinis, adorable animals, guys getting hit in the crotch, guys getting hit in the crotch by girls in bikinis — these are easy tricks, but they remain effective even over 20 years after the premiere of "America's Funniest Home Videos."

Very specifically in terms of Web series, though, in the next five years, we'll probably see fewer series that might be defined as amateur. Instead, the level of quality across the board will be much higher, and there'll be greater diversity across the board on all levels. Right now, people are playing around more with episode length and release schedules, especially as audiences seem to grow more comfortable with watching videos longer than three minutes.

Also, the fact that many of the new stars emerging today are getting discovered on YouTube will probably have a profound impact on the entertainment world over the next five years. Justin Bieber's only the latest example. 

What's the best part of covering new media at NewTeeVee?
Getting to tell the stories of the people who make up the Web video community. When a show we've already covered gets a great new distribution deal, when a talented creator figures out a way to make a profit in this hectic industry, it's inspiring even from a spectator position.

Plus, the fact that sometimes, we're literally being paid to watch YouTube? That's pretty awesome as well.

19 Responses on "The World of Web Originals According to NewTeeVee"

  1. LA Stereo says:

    Unfortunately when writing about web series the underlying assumption is that one is referring to some kind of fiction bordering on comedy. Factual is completely underepresented in the webbies, streamies, in this article, u name it, which is a shame.
    Now what really characterizes a web series over a .. TV series is the short format. I think it's the first thing one should start talking about: how short format online is redefining a new type of content, reminiscent of the early days of cinema with the Brothers Lumiere and Melies. (both fiction and factual). It's still young in and will probably become more sophisticated over time with it's own specific language and set of rules.

    Martha says:

    My two favorite web series that I've found on YouTube are:

    -- Platoon of Power Squadron (, which is about four roommates in their twenties who work in dead-end jobs, are trying to figure out their futures, and oh yeah, they happen to have superpowers. The production quality is really high, the writing is clever and witty, and the performances are great. The first episode is a little uneven, but the second episode is sheer perfection. It's cool to watch the series build, grow, and improve. I highly recommend it.

    -- Life from the Inside (, which is about an agoraphobic jingle writer and a few of his friends. It's also very funny and very well-made. The episodes don't come out often enough, in my opinion, but I guess it's a good sign if you feel that way about a web series. It definitely leaves you wanting more.

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    Anonymous says:

    If NewTeeVee, is devoted to online video, can we expect to have some vloggish features too? It would come as natural to have video spots, e.g. this very piece of news in a video format too. Just an idea. I read some articles found by pdf SE whose authors expressed the same ideas.

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