Making money off of internet videos

The Economics of Internet Comedy Videos (Splitsider) is a good look at making money off of videos. My experience with Vooza echoes this: "Branded content funds more than you think. YouTube revenue funds less than you think. Comedy studios, like everyone else, earn money so they can fund passion projects." If you've got any questions about similar stuff, feel free to shoot me an email about it or post a comment.

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Norm: "Now you don't know what the hell to do"

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On cops


The internet is a lie

Those Sony hackers aren't actually going to pull off another 9/11. Breaking Bad fanboys aren't actually going to murder Skyler White. Despite his profile, that guy's profession is not actually "Standup Comedian." And no one is actually laughing at loud at his pun. That girl's photos are not actually "gorgeous." And using a hashtag does not actually make someone an activist. Most of our "Friends" on Facebook are actually strangers. No tweet is actually our "Favorite" because when you say everything is your favorite thing then nothing is your favorite thing. And if we're all so "connected," why do we all feel so damn lonely? We need to stop pretending this fantasy world is real life. It's catfish all the way down. OK, hope you "Like" this post!

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Another round of Capture Your Flag interviews with me about standup, Vooza, etc.

My 2014 Capture Your Flag interview series is live. It's part of a series where I answer questions every year about my comedy activities. This year, there's lots of talk about Vooza and our process behind the show. There are 19 videos in all. For example:

"How Do You Establish Trust When Building Relationships?"

"How Has Building the Vooza Web Series Opened New Possibilities in Your Comedy Career?"

"What Have You Found to Be the Keys to Creating More Successful Project Collaborations?"

Plenty more where that came from. Here's a YouTube playlist with all the interview videos over the years, including this round. 70 so far. Phew.

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John Cleese explains why being serious is overrated


Taking your voice higher/lower

Wall Street Journal: How to Train Your Voice to Be More Charismatic.

“My research shows that charismatic leaders of any type in any culture tend to stretch their voice to the lower and higher limits during a public speech, which is the most important and risky context of communication for leadership,” he said.

These leaders adopted an entirely different tone when speaking to other high-ranking politicos or when the subject strayed from political topics. “They stretch their voice less when they speak to other leaders, keeping the vocal pitch very low. They stretch the voice limits even less when they speak about nonpolitical topics,” Dr. Signorello said.

Read that and instantly thought about Bill Burr going up high.


Audio interview that's both in character and out about Vooza

Podcast: Early Investing w/ Matthew Stillman and Matt Ruby

This was fun. Interview that's both in character and out about Vooza. Viva split personality! "On this episode, I interview both Matthew Stillman, the CEO of the fictitious Vooza and Matt Ruby, the standup comedian and tech startup veteran behind Vooza and we try to get to the bottom of all this. This episode might not make you rich, but it will make you laugh."


Chris Rock's approach: "What’s the angle no one’s talking about?"

When Frank Rich asked Chris Rock about how he develops his comedy, he replied, “I’ve always said, ‘okay, what’s the angle no one’s talking about? And what if the thing that everybody’s talking about is wrong?’” Rich asked for an example. Rock responded: “Bullying.” Couple other intriguing clips:

I know that it’s Miller who first introduced you to Robin Williams. What did you make of his tragic end?

Comedians kill themselves. Talk to 100 comedians this week, everybody knows somebody who killed themselves. I mean, we always say ignorance is bliss. Well, if so, what’s the opposite? Some form of misery. Being a comedian, 80 percent of the job is just you notice shit, which is a trait of schizophrenics too. You notice things people don’t notice.


When you’re looking for subjects, do you go with your gut?

You keep notes. You look for the recurring. What’s not going away? Boy, this police-brutality thing—it seems to be lingering. What’s going to happen here? You don’t even have the joke, you just say, “Okay, what’s the new angle that makes me not sound like a preacher?” Forget being a comedian, just act like a reporter. What’s the question that hasn’t been asked? How come white kids don’t get shot? Have you ever watched television and seen some white kid get shot by accident?

And out of that comes comedy.

Comes humor. You laughed right away. I just asked a question that no one had ever asked.

The full interview.


Q&A about Vooza's cast, backstory, ads, and inspiration

A Vooza fan wrote in with questions about the show. Here are my answers.

How many people do you have working at Vooza?

I am the only full time person working on Vooza. (There's actually a parent company called Fort Pelican since we'll be coming out with other shows in the future.) There are about 8 or so members of the cast although that shifts with new people coming on (recent additions: Data Analyst and Support Rep) and others fading out, usually because of actor unavailability (moving to LA, being on the road, etc.) We shoot with a relatively small crew: a director (Jesse Scaturro has directed most of the episodes), a DP, a sound guy, and a makeup artist. I showrun or executive produce or whatever you want to call "standing next to the director and making suggestions every once in a while and making sure lunch is ordered."

Does every employee where all the hats - does everyone write, act, or direct the shorts?

Some of the actors also help write scripts but I do most of the writing. We only have one director. Otherwise, everyone mostly stays in their lane.

Are your shorts written or do you have an idea behind them and allow the actors to improvise and play within the scenes?
Questions from a Vooza fan about how we do the show..

How did you come to start Vooza?

I had worked in the tech world for 10 years (employee #1 at a company called 37signals, best known for creating Basecamp). Along the way, I began doing standup comedy. I was doing shows at night and working during the day and thought there might be a way to combine these things in a fresh way. It also was a Wild West kinda time for online video (still is I think) and seemed like there could be a neat opportunity there. So Vooza was created as an experiment and when it took off out of the gate, we sought out advertisers and tried to turn it into a real business. Now I like to tell people that we are a real startup about a fake startup. Or another line that I use: We're just like a real startup, except we actually make money.

As I mentioned before my friends and I have been writing, acting, and directing some shorts ourselves and I am curious to how you transitioned yours into advertising.

I wanted to make this sustainable so that meant money had to be coming in and advertising seemed like a natural way to do that. I think one of the strengths we had was having a niche audience – people in the tech world. That gave us a natural way in with advertisers who make products for that world. We're not working with Honda, Snickers, or Walmart. We're working with Ustream, Insightly, New Relic, Mailchimp, and companies like that. The people at these places watch/like Vooza – which helps sell what we're doing – and their products are targeted at our audience (entrepreneurs, designers, programmers, etc.) so it's a nice little ecosystem. The Deck ad network ( was something that inspired this attitude of making something for a certain group of web folks and then selling ads to the kind of companies that want to reach that audience. As for selling ads, we started off approaching brands that we thought would be a good fit. Now, most of our advertisers are fans who come to us. Btw, we also make custom videos for companies who like our videos but want something specific that might not work as a Vooza video.

Where do you get inspiration from? I have watched all your videos and am curious to how you create the idea. Does a company like LinkedIn hire you to create the video you made or was that original? What about "The Perfect Coffee Cup?" Is that advertising anything specific or just a short to illustrate your product?

I get inspiration from the madness of the tech world. Anywhere there are really pretentious people who lack self awareness is ripe for mocking and startups are filled with those types. I follow tech sites and stay in the loop on what's happening in that world and get most of my inspiration that way. When I keep hearing a term like "Big Data" and it seems like everyone knows they're supposed to talk about it but don't have any idea what it actually means, that's when a lightbulb goes off and I think, "We should do an episode on that." The videos that you mentioned were not sponsored by anyone. We just made them because we wanted to. I'd say 1 out of 5 episodes wind up being sponsored ones.

I am afraid I could ask you a million questions regarding Vooza- how it came to be? how you run the company now? What equipment you use to shoot and edit the videos?

More info on the backstory here. And we shoot most of our stuff on Canon 5Ds and edit in Final Cut Pro.

More on Vooza: Watch the videos, follow @VoozaHQ on Twitter, or join the email list. You can also support Vooza via Patreon – pledge and you'll get exclusive access to bonus footage, behind the scenes photos, scripts, etc. At higher levels, you can even get a producer credit or a cameo.

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