College Humor's "10 Web Content Urban Legends"

Earlier this month, 200+ media-industry people came together for the first Mashable Media Summit in New York City. Speakers and attendees came from a variety of industries, but had a shared interest in the effects of social media. The Mashable Web site has a full recap and coverage of all the presentations. One that was especially note-worthy came from a seemingly unlikely source, College Humor CEO Ricky Van Veen. The topic Van Veen covered was entitled “10 Web-Content Urban Legends.” College Humor is a somewhat racy Web site with videos and posts primarily targeted at an audience of teen and twenty-something males.
The young CEO started College Humor in his dorm room and grew the site into its current form, which now attracts more than 10 million unique-visitors a month and is an operating business of IAC, a major e-commerce and online media organization. Van Veen believes a large factor in the growth of the site was a vigilant awareness of what he called the 10 Web-Content Urban Legends.
Van Veen’s Myths have value that extend to any online effort and are a good thing to keep in mind as you develop Web or social media programs to support your business. We’re posting the myths on Digital Printing Hot Spot and if you’re interested, you can watch Van Veen’s presentation here.

Have you encountered any of these issues?
Myth 1: People will want to watch your branded content. Why would anyone watch your video? You’re competing with content that only has a goal to entertain. So you’re disadvantaged if you want to sell AND entertain. If you don’t have a good answer to this question, don’t create the content.
Myth 2: People will be patient with your content. 35 percent of people tune out soon after watching a Web video. Also, one third of Web content is executed while watching TV. So get to the point QUICKLY.
Myth 3: People will find your content. Have a strong strategy in place to seed the content and consider partnering with an established brand.
Myth 4: The Internet is a level playing field. See if you can tap into social media power users/influencers – an endorsement in the right place from the right person can go a long way.
Myth 5: We have no idea why things go viral. Successful viral videos give a viewer a reason to pass it on. Concentrate on your audience, as opposed to the video itself, and the shorter the better. The hook needs to be in the first 20 seconds. Van Veen recommended looking for common, cultural touchstones; things that may not be immediately obvious to the audience.
Myth 6: Experience beats documentation. We have entered an era of what Van Veen calls “high-tech bragging,” where Flickr feeds and Facebook status updates allow you to show off how cool you are. Brands can capitalize by allowing people to do that.
Myth 7: You should build your own community and tools. You will do better with solid understanding of existing platforms – like Facebook, YouTube and Twitter – and an easy way for your audience to share it on the platforms that they already use.
Myth 8: Keep things professional. The best Web sites and content have a personality. The power of social media is to build relationships and connections, make sure what you create has a personality and your audience can relate with it.
Myth 9: Traditional media is irrelevant to the web. The average citizen still spends 151 hours a month watching TV. Don’t rule out promoting Web content in traditional media forms.
Myth 10: People will create good content for you. It is VERY difficult to get people to create good content. According to Van Veen, this is the biggest myth of them all, so be weary of programs that rely on people creating content.

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  1. Dan Cave June 29, 2010 -

    I agree with most of this post. Its stuff i would often like to point out to clients who are obsessed with branding up their content.

    I also agree with myth 10, though perhaps not as strongly as you. If the copy wirtter is on contact with the client regularly you can get some good results.

  2. Lindsay Lamb June 30, 2010 -

    Dan– I agree with you that copywriters can definitely do a good job when they have a strong relationship w/ the client (and understand their business).

    What I struggle with is when copywriters write Tweets and blog posts for companies– Does that take away from the authenticity/transparency that social media is all about? Can copywriters do a good job pretending they are you and thinking your thoughts?

  3. Steve White July 20, 2010 -

    What a great piece. This should be required viewing for all Xerox marketing people. I am starting to sense an awareness, among people I am working with, about the fundamental changes that have ocurred on the web in the last 5-10 years. However, for the most part, I would have to say the content we are producing here at Xerox is dull and still too lengthy. I’m hopeful we will improve.

  4. jane August 17, 2010 -

    . I am starting to sense an awareness, among people I am working with, about the fundamental changes that have ocurred on the web in the last 5-10 years

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