Discovering great content remains one of the largest challenges in online video. Finding a needle worth watching in a haystack of crap content continues to plague the medium. Contests in search of the best talent should help solve that problem, right? In a word, no.
What you end up getting is a bunch of one-hit wonders — and I’m using the word “hit” very loosely. Take the recent contest from online video portal Break.com and script-writing community Scripped.com. They teamed up to offer one lucky winner the opportunity to have his script produced and distributed on Break and YouTube. Out of 300 submissions, Boston-based comedian Evan Kaufman won and got the privilege of having his script, The Cutest Website, produced with the actor Ed Burns and writer Steven De Souza (Six Million Dollar Man, Knight Rider, Running Man, Die Hard).
Sounds great, right? The only problem is the professional Hollywood talent can’t make up for a mediocre premise. This is why there are desks across the world filled with scripts that never see the light of day. It’s not that The Cutest Website ever is bad, it’s just that it confirms the critique that most original Web content is completely disposable and hardly original.
The Cutest Website is a short video about co-workers being sucked one by one into the cubicle of a girl who is checking out LOLcats and other Web meme content. But when the group reaches a critical mass, suffering cute-overload, the beast Cute-Thulu is summoned from the bowels of the Internet to “haz his revenge.”
I’ve seen worse on the Web. But what is disconcerting is that The Cutest Website was considered the best script out of the 300 that were submitted. Kaufman’s video is indeed funny. It should be, considering he’s a regular at the Improv Asylum in Boston. But it doesn’t have any originality. I’m rather confident that with a few minutes of searching, you’d easily find dozens, if not hundreds, of similar videos about the same meme. Web video was supposed to mean a flowering of creativity constrained by the strictures of TV. But instead, it’s the same old stuff, repackaged again and again.
Break.com brings the high production values that we’ve come to expect from its Break Originals, but that’s where my excitement stops. Since announcing The Cutest Website as the winner of the contest ten days ago, a mere 179 people have shared the video on Facebook through Break’s site, and it has only been Tweeted eight times and only received eight comments. And while we can all agree that Digg is mostly dead, so was this video’s activity on Digg. Zero Diggs. I don’t know if I’ve ever seen that. On YouTube, the video only has 70,500 views. That’s statistically nothing.
So my search — and the rest of the industry’s — for the secret formula to online video success continues. I had high hopes that Break and Scripped would have turned up something better from this contest. I should have tempered my expectations after the MetaCafe / Strike.TV search for the next great original Web series only turned up Dwelling. Hopefully the discoverability problem will solve itself when there’s more quality content to be discovered, one LOLcat at a time.
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