Frager Factor

Monday, June 30, 2008

Anuja Balasubramanian (.com) and the HIDDEN Internet Gold Rush

Forget HTML skills and developing text ad directories. Find your passion and broadcast it.

Neither Anuja Balasubramanian (.com), nor ShowMetheCurry.com, are are where Hetal Jannu, 37, and Anuja Balasubramanian, 39, two stay-at-home moms in a Dallas suburb are attracting thousands of viewers a day for their year-old Indian-cuisine show, -- it's via YouTube and blog feeds. That's the theme of a MUST-READ article in USA Today about the Gold-rush period of personal branding.

"The curry ladies are part of a much bigger phenomenon: the growth of Internet video shows and the diversity of entertainment offered on this new kind of TV, which some even watch on regular sets, hooked up to their computers. In just a few years, Internet TV has been transformed, with scores of professionally produced episodic shows, networks, ratings trackers, fans and TV Guide-style reviews.

The International Culinary Schools at the Art Institutes, a national system of culinary programs, has even started its own online show, ExploreCulinary.TV, touted as a "video cookbook" with culinary students preparing recipes from around the world.

"Online video started with people posting their video blogs; now it's everyone from people who never picked up a camera before, to film-school grads, to major film studios producing content specifically for the Web," says Josh Cohen, 26, a co-founder of Tilzy.TV, which tracks and reviews online programming.

Scores of Average Joe content creators are discovering this. For most, a YouTube "channel" is the preferred platform because it's cheap and easy to track viewers and interact with them. The result is a wide variety of creative activity, ranging from making art to fixing leaky roofs to tasting wines to interviewing rock stars about what they like to eat.

"The 15 minutes of fame has become: You'll be famous to 15 people," or even 15 million, says self-taught wine expert Gary Vaynerchuk, whose daily wine-tasting webcast, The Thunder Show (WineLibrary.tv), on YouTube and elsewhere, has made him a genuine Internet star.

"Anyone with a little bit of charisma and good knowledge in their (specialty) has an enormous opportunity to explode. The karate expert, the lawn-mower expert, the babysitter who does a video show on proper babysitting techniques, she can become famous. We're in the gold-rush period of personal branding."

And a lot of this success is happening on dotTv domains.

For example, we covered WineLibrary.tv at the outset. Self-taught wine expert Gary Vaynerchuk, 32, was chief executive of a $40 million Springfield, N.J., wine business when he started his webcast. Now he does five shows a week, attracts tens of thousands to his manic discussions of the joys of wine and anything else that comes into his head. He has a book deal, thousands of "Vayniacs" and lucrative speaking engagements. "The work begins after the show — I've got 800 e-mails a day to answer, I talk to people on Facebook and Twitter. The community-building work I put in is the reason why I get 80,000 people a day," he says.

Syndicated newspaper columnist Tim Carter, 55, of Cincinnati is leaving print behind to become an online star with Ask the Builder, his weekly "how-to-do-it-the-right-way" show for coping with building-related emergencies. He says some episodes have been watched up to 100,000 times. "People come looking for me when they're in various degrees of pain — my roof is leaking, my toilet is flooding — and they don't want a half-hour or even 10 minutes," he says. "The shorter you can show me, the better."

Artist Valentina Trevino, 30, of Chicago sold maybe five paintings before she started doing Val's Art Diary, her weekly show in which she works on a new painting while talking about her art and her life. Then she posts the painting on her website (ValsArtDiary.com) and auctions it off. She says she gets up to 30,000 viewers an episode, and in 18 months she has sold 67 paintings at $500 to $5,000 apiece. "YouTube made my artistic career," Trevino says. "I don't know if I would be able to sell my paintings if I was not using YouTube."

Heather Johnston, 43, of New York is a graduate of Harvard University and culinary and wine schools. She took her experience as an independent filmmaker to start her twice-monthly culinary video blog, SoGood.TV, in her Brooklyn kitchen.

Bob Barrett Jr., 42, of Eden Prairie, Minn., started doing Cooking for Dads as a lark, hoping to help guys who learn better visually. He's no chef, but he's good at teaching, even taking the camera to the grocery store to show what to buy for each recipe. At the beginning, six months ago, only he and his wife and two children watched; now he gets 5,000 to 50,000 viewers an episode, depending on what he's making. (Cheesy Chicken is popular.)

"Those of us making high-quality content that solves people's problems will make a tremendous amount of money," he says, predicting that advertisers will eventually transfer more of the $65 billion spent annually on broadcast TV to Internet videos. "I'm not surprised by how big videos on the Internet have become because I saw it coming years ago. It is so much easier to show people something on video than writing about it."

Some online personalities, including Carter, believe the lines between online and regular TV will eventually blur; regular TV may even go the way of the dodo.

"This is the new frontier, a new land grab — eventually the (regular) TV business plan will fail and people 24 and under will not watch any TV," says Robert Barrett Jr., host of Cooking for Dads on YouTube.

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