Hey, Put This On: Why Are You Kickstarting?

September 13, 2011

Some folks have wondered why we’re funding season two of Put This On through crowdsourcing. It’s a relatively new way to fund creative work, so a few people have been confused and a few people have even reacted strongly negatively. Many more have reacted strongly positively, of course. Still, I thought I’d share a brief explanation for why we’re doing what we’re doing.

All of us (me, Adam and Ben) who are involved in the production of Put This On are professionals, and all of us make more money doing other stuff than we do making the series. We love making the show, and want to make more, but we need to pay for the production of the series, including travel and crew costs, plus our own time. We’re all discounting our time, but we can’t do it for free. Generally this is because our time is finite, and any time we spend working on Put This On is time we don’t spend working on some other job.

Many web series are little more than demo reels for television. While we’ve met with television folks and would love to do a television show, the format of our show as it stands is not one that’s comfortable for a lot of TV folks. They want a new “Queer Eye For The Straight Guy,” and we don’t want to make that and call it Put This On. Frankly, we think that our format is one of the great strengths of the show, so we’ve turned down TV to this point.

If we ever make a TV project called Put This On, we want to do a project we believe in – like I said, none of us is unemployed. We’re not in this to get rich, we’re in it to do good work and support ourselves and our families. Besides, if we were trying to make a demo reel, we’d have already stopped after the first season. Heck, we’d have stopped after the pilot.

While there are very few financially sustainable web series, the few which are sustainable do so primarily by selling advertising. At our level of audience, it’s somewhere between difficult and impossible to finance the show through this avenue. Selling advertising is actually surprisingly expensive, in terms of time and staff, and web audiences are small and inconsistent, which makes them tough to sell. It’s one of the reasons YouTube is still struggling to monetize their views.

It’s also been our experience that many fashion brands expect to control the content of videos – creating a hybrid of editorial content and advertising that’s called “advertorial.” Look at the other videos posted on your favorite menswear sites – how many are paid for by the companies they feature? Somewhere between most and almost all. We’ve had some really great sponsors in the past, and will in season two if things go right, but while we love the idea of creating cool postroll ads for sponsors we like in the tone of our show, we’re not cool with allowing sponsors to shape our editorial content. (Besides that, we’re not cool with spending our time being ad salesmen.)

Look: the reality is that nothing is free. Advertising-supported content is paid for indirectly. If the ad-supported content (whether it’s TV or radio or blogs or whatever) didn’t make you spend money on stuff you wouldn’t have otherwise spent money on, the advertisers wouldn’t advertise. You (the audience) pay, either directly or indirectly.

So we had a big meeting – Adam, Ben and I talked on the phone for a few hours. We talked about our priorities, what we wanted to do, about the amazing audience we’d built making a show we were (and are) really proud of. And we came up with a plan.

If we were going to do it, we’d do it for real. We decided to budget for reasonable costs and wages. We’d still be working on the cheap, but not stupid cheap. And we’d pay people to do jobs that professionals should get paid to do, like producing, running cameras and sound. We’d incorporate a cool new travel element which we’d always wanted to try, and we’d try and learn lessons from what worked and didn’t work in our first season. If we made season two, it would be the season two we wanted to make, done professionally by professionals.

Then, we decided to offer that to our audience, the ones who’d gotten value from our first season. The deal was simple. We can make another season of Put This On. If you say you want to pay for it, we will make it. If you don’t, we’ll all just go back to living our lives.

So that’s the deal. What we’re selling is our demonstrated talent making these videos in the form of a full season of episodes. You pay something between ten bucks and whatever you think is fair, and if enough folks do the same to achieve critical mass, then we get to work. And if we don’t achieve that critical mass, then you don’t pay anything and we don’t make anything.

It’s not charity, it’s not a hand-out, it’s not capital. It’s a straightforward transaction. We can make the thing. If you want to see it, pay for it. If you don’t, don’t.

So, in short: we want to make Season Two of Put This On, and we hope you want to see it.