By Richard Martin
How does one deal with success in a Web 2.0 world? Ask Kent Nichols, one of two creators behind comedy site AskaNinja.com, and Miles Beckett, the co-creator of “Lonelygirl15,”
The producers appeared together on a panel entitled “The Future of Web Fame” at the Web 2.0 Summit in San Francisco.
The pairing was something of an anomaly considering that “Ask a Ninja” won the inaugural “Best Series” award in the inaugural YouTube Video awards last March, beating out “Lonelygirl15.”
Some attributed the Lonelygirl defeat to the ill will of YouTube fans who felt duped when it was revealed that Bree, the eponymous lonely girl featured in the supposedly homemade videos shot in her bedroom, was neither lonely nor real: she was an actress named Jessica Rose.
For many, the truth failed to dampen their ardor. After the hoax was revealed, said Beckett, who created the character along with filmmaker Ramesh Flinders, two MySpace profiles were created: one for “Bree” and one for Rose the actress. Amanda Goodfried, a lawyer who helped develop the serial, served as Bree’s online alter ego. “One guy sent ‘Bree’ and e-mail and basically said ‘Who am I talking to?'” recalls Beckett. “She said ‘I’m still Bree,’ and he was like, ‘Whatever, I still like the fictional character.'”
Revelations of hoaxes are sometimes the least of worries for Web content producers who find themselves with a runaway hit on their hands. Crashed servers, agitated fans, and questions of follow quickly thereafter.
LG15 — the production company set up to capitalize on Lonelygirl15’s popularity and to develop spinoffs — pioneered online product placement when Bree and her pals were seen conspicuously consuming Hershey’s “Icebreakers Sours” gum. “Ask a Ninja” now has a corporate sponsor: Doritos. Nichols says that the site is now grossing $100,000 a month in advertising revenue. That doesn’t mean, however, that Hollywood studio-style excess is the wave of the future for Web 2.0 production firms.
“We’re still on the curve growth, and it’s fun to see the growth in the dollars month by month,” Nichols said. “But we’re profitable because we’re really small — we’re still a two- person team, and we’ve been able to achieve profitable growth with a small investment.”
With the greater fame, and marketing dollars, accrued to LG15, there has come more opportunity. Beckett has produced another Web serial, admittedly fictional from the start, called “Kate Modern.” Centered on an enigmatic London ingenue and her circle of young friends, the show, like later episodes of “Lonelygirl15,” features an ominous secret organization known only as the Order.
Spin-off opportunities in the old-media world of movies and TV have been offered, says Beckett, but so far he is holding off.
“Our business model is we’re focused on creating ‘Lonelygirl’ and ‘Kate Modern,’ we’re developing other distribution partners for those, and it all feeds into one branded universe,” Beckett said at the session. “Our production budget got pretty big pretty fast but we’re still very focused on building out the online network, and producing online properties.”
As for Lonelygirl15, fame has changed her life — or that of the actress who played her on the Web — as well. “Bree,” the character, was killed off in August by the Order. Actress Jessica Rose has gone on to a series of small film roles.\
Source: Information Week