April 20, 2007
Lonelygirl15 Spinoff KateModern Integrated with UK Social Network Bebo, Funded by Product Placement

The creators of the Lonelygirl15 phenomenon are going to try to capitalize on the strong interest they generated with their series on YouTube by launching a European "social networking spin-off," as it was called on MarketingVOX, called KateModern.

The series of 2-to-4-minute Webisodes will air on Bebo, a popular European social networking site and will feature a teenage female from London. The plan is to create an interactive community surrounding the show in which, for instance, puzzles will be introduced that fans will get credit for solving on the show; if no fan solves these puzzles, the characters on the show will instead.

Lonelygirl15 has been an Internet phenomenon, and the MarketingVOX story points out that it is the most subscribed-to YouTube channel by this point, "boasting over 91,000 subscribers and 10.2 million views."

The show will be officially called Lonelygirl15 Presents...KateModern, and Deborah Netburn with the L.A. Times reports that it will be "the story of a Lonelygirl-esque 19-year-old British college student, her friends and the mysterious dark forces that permeate her life (the same dark forces featured prominently in recent Lonelygirl episodes).

The plan is to create a media property that is "edgier" and which appeals to a slightly older demographic, according to Netburn.

How will this spinoff be funded? Not through pre-and-post-roll ads but rather through product placement, according to Brian Morrissey with AdWeek.

Last month, Lonelygirl15 featured product placement for the first time, featuring the Icebreaker's Sours Gum (owned by Hershey) in an episode.

Netburn quotes the creators as saying, "To not integrate brands would be weird. The fact that we have to crop out logos and keep things out of the frames is awkward. To do something like have a live event at a store and a piece of plot unfolds there, I find that creatively liberating." The idea is to use KateModern to prove that product placement works well for both viewers and advertisers when done well.

According to Morrissey's story, this is Bebo's first content deal, and the site will air multiple episodes a week, with the episodes later airing on the Lonelygirl15 site.

Jackson West at NewTeeVee writes that the creators have created "a new (and quantifiably compelling) format for narrative motion pictures online. And it works particularly well in the context of a social network."

KateModern will debut in July, and it will be interesting to see whether the popularity of the Lonelygirl videos will port over to another creation from the same team. The idea of testing out product placement in this space makes great sense, and I agree that marrying the content to a social network makes a great deal of sense. If this series is successful, it means a great deal not just for the Lonelygirl15 creators but for those interested in new models for independent Internet video production in general.

See Henry Jenkins' post on Lonelygirl15 from back in September for more on the launch of that phenomenon.

Thanks to Ivan Askwith for passing news of this my way.