Riley’s original concept drew me in at first sight. In his original pitch he spoke of a video series on YouTube – the “Stan” vod-cast. The premise was that he would act as a pseudo “Entertainment Weekly” type channel, reviewing Stan shows, what was new to the platform, what was good to binge-watch, the upcoming releases, and any other Stan related news. I quite liked the format of the demo that was shown to us as a preview of things to come; the scene was set up like an access-Hollywood style interview with another presenter – a friend of his – and I was keen to follow the project!
The show was to be uploaded at least once per week, co-presented with one of Riley’s friends. My original feedback at the time of pitching was that the sound quality needed improving – my suggestion was to hire some equipment from the university, like a lavaliere microphone set, so that the production quality would seem a lot more professional. It seemed to be a lot of work to produce but if done regularly, the content would speak for itself. Riley’s style of reviewing and presenting was very well done.
Stan is a streaming platform similar to Netflix that is very under-utilized. Riley described the interface as ineffective for exploring content and finding new things to watch, which was the main driving factor for the vod-cast project. The aim was to bring information about content that was almost hidden due to the poor layout and search function and highlight it so people wouldn’t miss it. The main issues I predicted with this project were maintaining the schedule, improving the sound, and reach – to me it seemed unlikely that people would actively be searching for content about an under-utilized platform, much less by someone starting from scratch with next to no existing audience like a lot of YouTube reviewers have built.
Unfortunately Riley wasn’t able to go ahead with the ‘Stan’ vod-cast due to scheduling conflicts between himself and his co-presenter. This presented hurdle number one in completing regular content on time. Hurdle number two was that video production took a lot of time and effort, and rather than continue stressing over starting a new project, he channeled that energy into improving an already existing project – Sad Cowboy productions.
Sad Cowboy is a collaborative effort with Riley and 3 others that aims to have 4 shows in production and utilizes multiple platforms for promotion. It involves regular posting on their social media accounts, WordPress, preparing the podcast shows, some audio engineering, making the titles, and curating the content on their accounts.
The 4 shows would be:
– Mediocre Movies – about finding the most perfectly ‘okay’ film;
– Fight Your Step-Dad – a shorter podcast where ‘controversial’ reddit questions would be answered
– Fantasy Law and Order – an ESPN-styled highlights program based on a Fantasy Football layout but adapted to the show Law and Order
– Bonanza City Report – based on an old show called “Kid Nation” where the presenters would play the part of jilted rejected participants who would critique the episodes.
Currently the only show with content is Mediocre Movies. It is uploaded regularly on the podcast platform Spreaker under a premium account which costs $189 a year. Additional platforms include iTunes, Spotify, Google Play, iHeart Radio and OzPodcasts. The premise was to find the world’s “okayest” film by reviewing films with Rotten Tomatoes scores between 35% and 65%. It was previously started last year, but production stopped and has now been rebooted.
Analysing the initial statistics from the beta presentation, the Mediocre Movies podcast has a very low reach. The episodes would be uploaded onto Spreaker, and then shared to Facebook with memes and other related content being used to promote the latest episode. Riley noted that the most effective content reach took place on Facebook.
Looking over the accounts myself I noticed some oddities and room for improvement. When looking over the Facebook I couldn’t help but notice the ratings and reviews: 3.3 out of 5 stars. I was curious as to why this could be and so read over the views. It seems that in keeping with the mediocre trend of their content, most of the reviews were centered on maintaining a mediocre score of the Facebook page. While this is amusing and on-point for the content, I am concerned that it may actually have a negative impact for those unfamiliar with the content and mistake it for the groups actual rating on what they produce.
It appears the method of uploading content to the Facebook page is to create a series of posts and the schedule these for release over the week following a new upload. The content mostly consists of memes relating to the topic of the week and there are 2-3 uploads per day. While this seems to be an effective way of ensuring there is consistent content on the Facebook page, it seems to be lacking in variety. I would suggest sharing content from a variety of other sources and pages that relate to the content in addition to just the memes as a greater variety of content will bring a greater variety of audience members.
Additionally it seems the majority of those that have liked the pages appear to be friends and family of the four producers, resulting in the reach becoming somewhat stagnant as there are a lack of people who are actually engaging with the content. Promoting the Facebook pages on other platforms such as forums and reddit threads relating to the content would be beneficial. Mediocrity seems to have a cult following, much like terrible movies does, so there is definitely an audience out there, however because the current reach is so small for the associated social media of the podcast, it seems to be flying completely under the radar.
I would also suggest that for the WordPress website that the layout be changed to one that allows the preview paragraph of the blog post along with the featured image, so that people are able to get a small taste of what to expect in the full review, and are further enticed into clicking it.
After listening to the podcast itself – the content is rather engaging and quite fun to listen to on the side. The hosts are all rather opinionated and knowledgeable, the content and movies are well researched. The production quality is almost perfect, however much like I disliked the audio in the original Stan Vodcast project, I find that while the sound quality has vastly improved in the second iteration of the Mediocre Movies podcast, there is still room for improvement there.
I am unsure of the method of recording the podcasts, whether it takes place in person around one microphone, or if everyone is wired up to a separate headset in person, or if the recording takes place over a Skype call with everyone at home with their respective headsets. I believe streamlining the recording process and adding professional quality sound recording devices would be extremely beneficial to the production quality itself and would eliminate this issue entirely, allowing the focus to then fall on promoting the show itself.
I noticed that there were no followers on the Spreaker platform. I am unfamiliar with the platform itself – and this seems to be a possible contributing factor to the poor reach of the podcast – that people just do not know the platforms. This is a little concerning because it means there is perfectly good content sitting on a hidden platform, unpromoted, so people just do not have the ability to discover it.
In terms of growth and trajectory, if the current method is followed I believe that stat growth will come very slowly or remain stagnant. To combat this, my suggestions would be to engage in Twitter posting and cross-platform promotion; for example, posting a tweet on Twitter with carefully optimized hashtags relating to that content, which is then shared to Facebook as a post as well. This in conjunction with active participation in movie discussion forums (even those found on IMDB!), linking all social media accounts, and a greater variety of shared content would be very beneficial to reach and would attract a more likes to the pages and in turn, more listens for the podcast.
It also seems that Sad Cowboy productions has very high ambitions of running four projects at once. Given the history of Mediocre Movies falling off in the past and the production team already having one revival, I would recommend that the production team perhaps focus on the Mediocre Movies channel until methods of increasing reach, production quality, and streamlining the content generation process have improved. Once the team is confident in one series and once they feel they have the extra time to dedicate to these extra shows, expanding would be a great idea. For example, the company Rooster Teeth, now a multi-million dollar production company which boasts a seriously high volume and variety of content, started out with a small group of friends making low-quality shorts using a video game.
While I feel the start has been slow, it exhibits extreme of potential. If Riley and the co-presenters of Sad Cowboy Productions are able to continue with consistent production and improve promotion, this will be a very successful project.