Big Think Interview With Amanda Congdon

The executive producer and host of sometimesdaily.com discusses modern media.
  • Transcript

TRANSCRIPT

Question: How did you start video blogging?

Amanda Congdon: I was a struggling actress in New York and I had a couple of agents working with me but no one was getting me auditions for big parts. I was always looking around for my own way of getting out there and I had an acting coach tell me once, “Make your own vehicle. You’re not going to get out there just by going to auditions and working for someone else. Try to be a producer or get out there on your own, do your own thing and make your own project.” So, I was always looking for a way to do that and I came across an advertisement on Craigslist for a writer/actress for Rocketboom and I thought, “Hmm, this is very interesting.” This was in 2004 and I remembered telling my mom about it and she was like, “The Internet? Video on the Internet? Is that porn?” and I was like “No. No mom are you kidding me? No, obviously not.” Not that she thought I would do porn but that was what people thought about video on the Internet. There was no video on the Internet other than that. So it was a completely new idea to me, a new concept entirely and I applied for the job. I didn’t hear back forever though and I had been applying for so many different jobs. I had no idea really what I was doing and I ended up going in for an interview. I had to write my own script for the pilot episode of Rocketboom and I ended up getting the job.

After Rocketboom did Amanda Across America, which led me to ABC, I actually traveled across America to go to LA for ABC. While I was there I thought, you know, I’m learning a lot that I would never have known if I hadn’t tried old media but I took what was from new media I took some things from old media and I started my own business and that was really the goal. My grandfather once told me that you’ll never make money unless you start your own business. You’ll never make any money working for somebody else. So I thought, “Well, that’s got to be the end of the game.” That’s kind of how I ended up with sometimesdaily.com.

Question: What appeals to you about the video blog as a medium?

Amanda Congdon: In terms of how I started using video, I’ve always been more interested in film than, say, theater and so, as a performer, it was kind of a natural way of merging into this new medium. But I think the real reason that people decide to do video is because they want to connect eye to eye with whoever it is on the other end.

I know that when I’m looking into the camera it’s almost like a magic feeling because I can feel the pulsating eyes on the other end listening already. There’s something about the camera that is almost immediate, even if it’s not live—and that’s exciting and compelling to me. And then of course, as they say a picture is a thousand words. How many pictures are in every minute of footage? And you can show so much more with b-roll and voice over. It paints such a different picture than, say, an article or a blog—not to say those aren’t excellent and valid medium, but they’re not just not for me.

Question: Do you feel overexposed by social media?

Amanda Congdon: I don’t mind that I’m all over the Internet and that my personal life is out there along with my professional life. When I go on a vacation I feel so compelled to put pictures up. I can’t not document everywhere I go because then where is it? It doesn’t live anymore. It’s in my memory, but I need to document things so that I can remember them. Then I think, “How can I go to this beautiful place and not share it?” I always think when I go off on a vacation or something that I’ll just sit back and not worry about documenting things. But then I always end up doing it anyway, so it’s almost as if it’s second nature and I don’t know if that’s because I grew up with the Internet. I’m probably the first generation that grew up, starting in middle school, with the Internet so I think that it’s something just ingrained in who I am rather than something that I have to do out of necessity.

Question: Where do you see yourself in five years?

Amanda Congdon: I think in the next five years I would love to see sometimesdaily.com branch out onto as many platforms as fits the content, whether that be something like TiVo or Hulu. We’re just getting started. We just officially launched out of beta two months ago so as many platforms as we can be on would be great. We would love to be on many different platforms and I honestly would really like to see sometimesdaily.com branch out into other different types of shows. We have some projects in the works.

Actually our larger company is called Oxmour Entertainment Inc. Sometimesdaily.com is a show that is within that company and so we have a couple other shows that are in very much of a pre, pre, pre, pre-production so we’d like those to expand, but the focus is on sometimesdaily.com right now. We’re not going to spread ourselves thin and work on too many projects until we feel very confident, and comfortable and we feel sometimesdaily.com has spread into the little areas that we want to distribute it. I see myself doing sometimesdaily.com for a long time. I see myself working with a small three-person team or maybe we’ll go to a five-person team. Thinking small is really taking lifestyle back. It’s taking the idea of how you really want to live a good and healthy life setting your own rules, setting your own hours, working with people that you really like and really connect with creatively. That’s important and I think video blogging and a lot of new professions that are emerging through Web 2.0 and 3.0 are on the horizon. I think that they are really allowing people to create lifestyles that are individual and customized and that allows them to work harder and longer because they actually love what they are doing.

Question: What attracts the public to video blogs?

Amanda Congdon: I think that people like a candid approach to whatever you do. I really think that video blogging differs from television in that people get invested in who you are and so it’s kind of a blurry line between personal and professional lives. Also, people know me on social networks because I’m out there on the Internet, rather than a standoffish television personality. But television personalities are now trying to begin investing their time in the Internet. I was there from the beginning doing that and I think that’s one main reason that people have gotten more interested in Rocketboom. I also think it takes a lot of hard work and persistence. A lot of people will begin working hard and really hang in there but then fade away. You’ve got to do other projects and just keep pounding the pavement. Honestly, it sounds cliché but the harder you work the luckier you’ll be.

Question: Why is television on the web so popular?

Amanda Congdon: I think people are interested in television on the web because it’s immediately accessible. That’s also the reason that people are beginning to be interested in mobile television, which is another huge part of what sometimesdaily.com does. We’re on full tv mobile television and we’re the first original content on there. I think that people want a two to four minute fix before a meeting. We pop up right before the top of the hour so while people are waiting for a meeting or something they can catch a two minute video, and I think that whole idea of something being on demand is obviously something that’s caught on, for example, TiVo and DVRs. That’s the only way I watch TV pretty much. People don’t have time. The 21st century is rush, rush, rush so people don’t have time to tune to the evening news and they need the quick hits and they’re getting them with the World Wide Web.

Question: How will television adapt to the Internet?

Amanda Congdon: Well, I think what interests me most about how TV will develop is how shows will be all different lengths. I think that the formula of having the 22-minute show feels a little bit stale, not that people won’t do that because it’s traditional, but we’re going to see more like 15-minute shows, five-minute shows, eight-minute shows and you’re going to be able to watch them wherever you want. It’s a silly concept that people can only watch on their computer or only watch on their television. The mediums will merge and we’ll be able to watch what we want, when we want, even more than we are able to today and we’re already seeing that happen.

Question: Is the Internet shrinking our attention span?

Amanda Congdon: I think when people are on the go and they are watching mobile videos, especially something like a two to four minute video, that’s going to be much more attractive than only being able to watch, say, one-tenth of a movie. I don’t necessarily think that something like Transformers would work on a cell phone. However, on the big screen you’re not going to want to sit and watch a sometimesdaily.com video in a movie theatre. I mean it might work as an intro to a movie but I think that there is something to be said about the sizes of the screens and what you’re doing.

When you’re on the Internet, you’re multi-tasking. You’re checking the news. You’re checking your e-mail. You’re possibly watching a video, “Oh, now I got an email with a picture” or whatever, a Twitter message. And so, there’s the whole idea of the lean forward or lean back media. What do you have set out for your goal for your next hour? What do I want to do with that time? And you’re going to watch different lengths of media based on how much time you want to devote to hanging out and watching something.

Question: What do you think about Twitter?

Amanda Congdon: Twitter is something that came about in 2006 and just blew people away, but it didn’t enter mainstream consciousness until this last year or so. What’s crazy is that people like Ana Marie Cox are now Twittering instead of blogging. It’s just a great way to be concise, get your ideas out there and connect with people in ways that you never would. Whether it be politicians or celebrities or just your friends, I absolutely adore the medium. I also love Facebook. I use them equally.

An email is something a bit more personal. You feel like maybe you need to really work out a response or spend some more time on it. With Twitter and Facebook you can jot out a one-line messages to people and connect with them even quicker than email even though you could also do that with email. It removes the fear of getting in touch with someone. So as a phone call might be even more personal, email takes it back one notch and Twitter and Facebook take it back another notch. So it’s just a way to connect with people that you would never either know their email addresses or feel comfortable emailing them and that makes it just absolutely terrific.

Question: How are public figures using Twitter?

Amanda Congdon: I probably would never in my life have communicated with Shaq or Jimmy Fallon. Well maybe I would have interacted with Jimmy Fallon, but who else? Barack Obama is on Twitter. Not that he is, you know, sending me direct messages, but anyone you can imagine is out there and yeah, it’s just, it’s almost overwhelming. Still to me it’s just I can’t believe that I can get in touch with someone like Demi Moore on Twitter. Who knew? Who knew? And the fact that they’re so down to earth, a lot of the celebrities that are on Twitter are genuinely there to connect with fans of theirs and aren’t just promoting what new movie they’re in or whatever. They’re taking back their identities and I see that as extremely positive especially in a tabloid culture.

Lance Armstrong especially. He always talks about that. How it’s like, “Well, you think I was there at this time with this person? Actually, why don’t you check my Twitter? I’ll go back and look and see where I was. I was eating a ham sandwich at home getting ready for whatever cycle ride I was about to take.” So, yeah it’s really a way to take back your identity for a public figure.

Question: How do you use social media to benefit your business?

Amanda Congdon: I use twitter and Facebook as both a way to get my content out and also a way to communicate with people. My favorite way of using social networking is to query. I’ll go out and ask, whether it be a professional thing like an Amanda on the Street question, or I recently went up to Big Sur and I hadn’t had time to do any research and just asked, “What should I do in Big Sur? Who knows?” Who knows what I’m going to get but it ended up being one of the best vacations ever because I got some really informed answers and I spent three seconds writing my Twitter message and getting the answers. All I had to do was bring up was my iPhone and I was set.

Question: How can Internet content be sold?

Amanda Congdon: Well, I think a subscription model works for some content. I think it works better for extremely niche content. A small subscriber count of ten or even five dollars a month even if you only have 10,000 people watching, that’s going to bring you a pretty decent income. However, for content that is a little bit broader and perhaps more mainstream I think that the free model works better. Advertising works better. Sponsorship works better. Product placement works better. I’m a fan of the five-second pre-roll just saying, “sometimesdaily.com is sponsored by…” It’s a really quick way of getting out the thank you to your sponsor. You don’t need 30 seconds to explain your product. People are going to get it or not and connect with it or not within five to eight seconds so why torture the rest of the people that are watching and hammer it to their heads. You’re actually only annoying them.