One of our C3 team members from MIT's Sloan School of Management, Tim Crosby, alerted me to a fascinating site last week that shows the power of convergence culture and how the Internet can serve to incorporate the style and work of another medium--an online television series, updated at regular intervals and with a continued story-arc from episode to episode.
While other series have been done online, few have captured the cohesive feel of Soup of the Day, an ongoing Web-based situation comedy that builds on ongoing storylines. The site calls itself "a relation entertainment series," with the storyline of a central male protagonist who has three girlfriends--"one man, split pea-tween three girlfriends." The show features Brandon's struggle in trying to maintain these multiple relationships and also features male supporting characters.
Soup of the Day has already made it to the 18th installment, and all the episodes are available through the archives now. All the previous shows are available in the show's archives, with the content distributed through YouTube.
The show is likely done with a meager budget, without major name talent, but has gained a following through clever transmedial marketing, through its being a unique venture in the first place, and Iron Sink Media's ability to make compelling episodes that people want to follow--and with pretty impressive production values for a small independent project like this.
When Tim e-mailed me about this venture, he pointed out that the site is perhaps the best example of how video distribution costs have dropped immensely, through the video hosting power of YouTube. And it becomes further evidence of other models of distribution that does not require a traditional broadcasting network to produce a compelling television series. Through video-sharing, grassroots networking among the growing fan community, and clever transmedial marketing by the producers, Soup of the Day could be come the hit de jour of Summer 2006.
In terms of transmedia, the site features a video log for one of the characters, and several characters have their own MySpace pages that extend the storyworld into another online space. Viewers can check out protagonist Brandon's MySpace page for continued interaction and thoughts that feed back into the series, as well as to interact with the show's characters. Their are also sites set up for Brandon's three girlfriends: Monique, and Wendy. Pretty shrewd marketing, if you ask me.
The only thing that neither Tim nor I am sure of is where revenue for the show is coming from, as the site doesn't feature significant advertising and is not a pay-for-content distribution system. But, regardless of the financial situation of the show, it's popularity demonstrates much of what we hope to see in the future for convergence culture, in terms of allowing an unprecedented number of voices to participate in production in the creative industries.