‘Cybergeddon’: Yahoo And ‘CSI’ CreatorUnveil New Digital Content Strategy
In a recent article in the
Anthony Zuiker said that he chose to release “Cybergeddon”
Short form content (such as Loony Tunes and Spongebob) has traditionally lived best in stand-aloneformat. That is, each episode needs to be watchable on its own, from the perspective of story.Characters may take longer to develop, and arching storylines can progress across seasons, butgenerally speaking each episode must be its own short story.While the “Cybergeddon” episodes are only slightly longer than traditional digital in length for this type ofstorytelling (they clock in at 10 minutes), they are being released three episodes at a time. This mayseem like a minor modification, but 30 minutes is a comfortable time frame to dedicate to a dramatic pieceof content -– and it’s not something that I’ve seen in episodic digital releases.Imagine watching “The Godfather” or “Lost” in eight-minute increments, and then waiting a week to seethe next iteration. It would be maddening. In fact, to watch "Lost," you’d need a recap that was longerthan the episode to catch up before you started watching.Somehow, because of either screen size or observed behavior, digital has a presumed short length. Butthe reason for that is the earliest videos were short UGC clips and tiny pieces of larger content that wewere more familiar with. The digital = short conclusions may have been self-fulfilling from the start -inputs evaluated were the inputs available. If bandwidth were less of an issue, if people made long formcontent available (or made it at all), or if the content had converged on the first screen sooner, perhapswe would have seen more engagement with longer content. The lesson is that short content is probablybest served via digital, but digital needn’t be short.
Native digital content, whether entertaining or informative, has generally been an archived experience.Even dedicated live streaming events try, to the largest extent possible, to archive for a continued andbroader experience. Digital properties rarely release content episodically with the intention of having anaudience watch at a specific moment in time. H+ attempted this by releasing content weekly at a specifictime. But still – the episodes were short and they tried to add value with a social audience on the web – essentially a same-screen experience (which to date, outside of VH1 pop-up video and Mystery ScienceTheater, has failed). Currently, those social experiences that are connected to content are, typically, bestwhen paired with linear (live) viewing.But “Cybergeddon” has packed its nine 10-minute episodes into three days -– which is a version ofappointment viewing. I’ve written about this before, but if you think of a movie as a three-weekappointment viewing period within which the value of seeing the film is based on the window ofsocial, pop culture or community dialogue, then you can begin to see the value of releasing“Cybergeddon” as a three-day mini-series. Just like “Roots” and “Rich Man Poor Man.”