The last nine months have probably put me under more mental and physical stress than any other time period in my life. It was self-imposed, because I've been taking part in 3 different side projects in addition to a regular job. In some ways it has been miserable, but in other ways… well, nothing can match the fun that comes from creating something. Over the next few days I am going to write about what I've worked on, why I chose it, and where I hope it's going. The best business lessons come from real life, and any time you can learn from the experiences of others, it saves you a lot of pain. I've beat my head against some walls lately, so take from it what you can.
Daily Idea is a web show that I refer to as the "middle" project because of the three projects, it's economic potential is in the middle. You can view the latest episode about How To Ace a Job Interview, and by mid-day Thursday there should be another episode up and running too. The idea for this show started late last year, when I was pursuing some local media ideas with two friends. We had this idea to find people all over the country, supply them with some national content, have them shoot a few local stories, and produce hundreds of local web shows. Then we would aggregate that audience into one large lump and go find an advertiser. The problem is, we knew nothing about video, web shows, or anything related to the project. Those of you who are entrepreneurs know that it never occurs to people like us that a lack of knowledge should stop us. (After all, if other people learned it, we can too.) So of course we decided to move forward.
Todd bought a mac, a digital video camera, and dug in to learn to edit video. According to Todd, the learning curve is extremely steep. He shot a show that we called Moxy, and I think the first one took him 15 hours to edit. A few months later he was down to just over an hour a show. We quickly realized that a local web show might be fun, but it was a dumb business idea. Still, web video is an interesting space to be in, and I believe that if you can stay in that sweet spot that is above what Joe Average can shoot but not as expensive as producing a real tv show, you can make some money.
We looked at other domains I had bought over the year. I own several .tv domains related to business, small business, marketing, etc. We settled on Daily Idea and thought the initial concept would be somewhat like Lifehack in video format. We wanted to create something educational, useful, and a little bit funny. (click on the full entry for pictures of us shooting)
About this time, project #1, which you will hear about early next week, started to require more attention. So we decided if we were going to make a real show, we needed help. We posted an ad on Craigslist for videographers. For about 3 months Todd and I had coffee with countless video people. They aren't like us. And they all think they do fantastic work, even though there are clearly different levels of skill. We ideally wanted someone to work for free for awhile, to try them out. Some were open to it, others weren't.
We tried out a few videographers, told lots of people no, and then about the time we were going to give up I got a call from Jay (how appropriate, since my experience with people named Jay had been good so far). Jay used to edit real movies – the kind you watch at a cinema, and through a few twists and turns had ended up doing real estate in Louisville. He had a flexible schedule, didn't need to be paid for the video work, and wanted to re-engage his creative side. Jay turned out to be a fantastic video guy. What you see on the show is Jay's interpretation when we told him that, on a scale of 1-10, we wanted a quality level of 6 until we raised enough money so he could do this full-time.
We found two funny writers, Jason and Chad (who doesn't have a blog) to generate scripts based on ideas we brainstormed. We already had our host, Nikki. We tried a few different places to shoot, but nothing met Jay's complex requirements so we ended up in my basement because it has full-size ceilings. Below is the door to my garage, partially blocked by a large blue screen.
When Jay shoots, we have to turn off the air conditioner so we don't pick up the noise. That plus the super hot bright lights in the basement make a lousy combination for the middle of the summer. My floor is also squeaky, so we can't move or walk around upstairs either. We just sit still and sweat.
We've been through a steep learning curve with these shows, but we haven't spent too much money up to this point. (Just countless hours of our lives and a few buckets of sweat.) We don't have a clear target for the show, but plan to experiment with topics and formats over the coming months to see what people like. Then the long term strategy is to niche it out. Ideally we could have a daily idea for health, one for money and finance, one for tech, etc. We didn't want to push tech too much in the beginning because there are sooooo many tech shows. But the goal is to eventually produce them all daily, hence the name, and serve as a sort of web channel. Or maybe not. I'm very much into testing and measuring in business, so the metrics will determine if that happens or not.
The picture below is Nikki asking about an outfit.
We probably won't hit the schedule of posting daily for several weeks. We are experimenting with our production and posting process to make it as efficient as possible first. But the reason we are shooting for a daily schedule is that it keeps people coming back, even if you don't quite deliver every day. If we can just hit a topic once every few shows that people like, they will keep the feed, or keep visiting.
We already found our first paying sponsor, whose name is of course a great match for the show. We will be seeking others soon, so get your checkbooks ready ;-)
Some things remain to be seen. The show is sure to get some criticism, even down the road when we aren't making the same mistakes we are today. How will the team handle that? Where will we find a bottleneck that we didn't anticipate? Who will want to drop out because of too much work? Will the show idea flop? (If so, I have a dozen other .tv domains we could try) It's fascinating the things you learn about yourself and others when you do something like this.
Finally, if you have a blog post that you think would make a good daily idea, please send it to us and we will be sure to give you due credit. And if you are interesting in investing in a web show, let me try to talk you out of it. Just kidding. We will be raising a small amount of money once we think we are ready. So send me a note if you want to discuss it. Most importantly, go check out the show and pick up our feed for awhile to see what you think.
I'll leave you with this picture of Jay tweaking a script in the teleprompter, while my sliding doors to the back deck are covered with a sheet and duct tape. Mrs. Businesspundit has just stopped asking questions when she sees such things going on.