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An aside: I work between Hollywood and tech companies in Cambridge, MA.

But many of our videos get predictable traffic like this Gates vs. Jobs rap battle at 33 million views (and climbing) or my favorite Mr. T vs. Mr. Rogers at 36 million.

He lost me at "predictable." If an audience's taste is so predictable, go get funding for a multi-million dollar blockbuster. I think all he has shown is that he is lucky: that anyone can bruteforce various kinds of cheap content cheaply, but his bruteforcing just happened to hit the right tone.

You can A/B test your videos, your copy, your thumbnail images.

Nevermind that A/B testing is hilariously inefficient (ANOVA anyone?) and virtually impossible for creative content (what, are you going to permute individual lines in a ninety page script?). Hollywood has statisticians. Focus groups and audience testing has been going on for decades. Web distribution expands your population size, but it also greatly increases the variables to control. If it were as easy as he says, then of course there would be truly data-driven content by now.

And video views now produced and managed by these 5 companies totals more than 4 BILLION per month. With a B.

But who's paying for that content?

Hollywood looks at YouTube and says, "Ok, what does content funded by Google's auction adwords ads look like? Oh, it looks like those link farm websites, which is precisely exactly content paid entirely by auctioned ads."

Don't we want something cooler than literally spam?

One could point to Hulu and say, perfect platform. But there is no original Hulu content. It is still largely funded by cable ads. And Hulu's profitability depends entirely on how an owner like Disney values the free broadcast licenses Disney gives Hulu. If Hulu had to pay for its shows, it would be deep in the hole.

But I digress. Data-driven content works for Wikipedia one-line banner ads. It isn't going to work for video longer than 30 seconds for a very, very long time.

I'm with you on A/B testing being hilariously inefficient (and have founded a startup to do better: http://mynaweb.com) but I disagree you can't test creative content. There are two things:

1. Delivering content in movie or TV episode sized chunks is an artefact of inefficient distribution mechanisms. Smaller units of content are easier to test, easier to produce, and less risk if they tank.

2. Any script contains numerous decisions. You can test the main ones. It's viable to do this if you aren't making big bets on big chunks of contents.

I'm not sure if content chunking is an artifact of inefficient distribution mechanisms. It would be impossible to tell the Illiad through tweets, for example, for anything other than an intellectual exercise. But to be less radical, consider that there don't really exist ads longer than 1 minute.

Content dictates length, not the other way around...

The Iliad consists of many scenes. Each scene could probably be a five-ten minute piece. If you read the Iliad it will probably take eight or more hours. Movie's rarely exceed three hours and any movie based on the Iliad would be abridged (director's cut of Troy is just over three hours). It's not clear to me that content dictates length. It seems medium does to a large extent.

Well, to be specific, a lot of Hollywood producers looked at H+ as a test of whether or not people really wanted to watch short episodic content. After the first episode, few people came back. So while we can say "probably" in abstract, in practice short episodic series are hit or miss, for reasons that have nothing to do with length, etc. There's no formula, I guess is my point.

I agree, and we find the same thing in A/B testing. There is stuff that has worked historically for other people's products and their customers. It might work for you and your customers but it might not. You have to test it. The idea with A/B testing is to follow what actually works for your product and your customers, not what you think will work. The idea of producing smaller chunks (reducing batch size in lean startup speak) is to make testing cheap enough to be viable.

I guess what Silicon Valley doesn't get about Hollywood is that you can't program a good TV show. Period, full stop.

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