How to Release a Web Series

When I say “how to release a web series” I don’t mean “here’s how you upload a video,” because that’s pretty self explanatory—once you click the upload button on YouTube, they walk you through it pretty well. What I mean is, how often do you release an episode part?

First of all, we don’t have a show that’s released once a week for forever, but people doing a web series rarely do. It’s typically a period of radio silence with occasional update videos, kind of like the ones I do once a week but with more excuses and less random conversation about movies, and then a heavy promo period during the release. Conventional wisdom has people releasing it like TV—upload a 5 to 10 minute segment of your show on the same day every week until your “season” is over. Season length varies, but it’s usually somewhere between a half hour to an hour and a half of content. I can’t get behind that one. And I’ve tried it.

Look, my release theory for the first episode was a disaster. The segments were like 1 to 3 minutes long. Almost too short to communicate anything with an evolving serial storyline and definitely too short to hook people into this kind of story. But we released them once a day until the episode was up. We did that for the first five episodes, except with mercifully longer segments. Releasing once a day keeps it on people’s minds for an intense week of watching. One frenzied week of promotion and talking about the episode and then it’s back into hiatus and updates. It’s frequent enough that 5 to 10 minute segments can keep people involved in the storyline and can commit to being a part of the full release.

We released episode 6 in the conventional way. An episode part per week over the course of seven weeks. I think it was a disaster. Over that week people would forget and not be anticipating the next episode part, or they’d lose their place. Some say, “Oh, but then they have to watch the previous part again to remind themselves and you’ll get a higher view count.” Yeah, or they could just watch something they don’t have to work so hard for. It’s the friggin’ internet, yo. Easier distraction is a mouse click away. I had people telling me they drifted away during the release cycle only to catch up later. A relatively significant portion of the audience wanted to wait and watch it all at once after it was all uploaded, but seven weeks later the hype of the release was long gone and they forgot or it just wasn’t a priority for them anymore. Using an entire week as, essentially, a commercial break even affected the way people who did show up for the release of every part experienced the episode. I had a conversation break out in the comments of one of the updates where a couple guys were talking about how 6 was a letdown and they hoped 7 would be better. I asked what exactly about it was a letdown. Not to be a defensive jerk or anything—which I absolutely have the capacity to be—but because I wanted to see if I could course-correct in the future. Once you have an audience, the internet is super handy for getting actual opinions about what you’re doing, once you’ve weeded out the trolls, of course. One of the guys came back and said that he was wrong, the episode was just as good, he just didn’t feel like it at the time. I’m positive that’s because of the week-to-week release. TV shows have a full 20, 40, or now 50 minutes to make an impression on you. Any momentum or energy you’ve built in someone watching only 5 to 10 minutes of your unresolved storyline has WAY dissipated after a full week away.

This time it’s all going up on one day. Anyone who wants to will be able to click through to the next episode part at the end of every one. It’ll be watchable in one sitting from the very start. But thanks to YouTube’s unlisted video policy, I’ll also be able to make the separate parts public one day at a time, so they still pop up in subscription lists for a full week. I think it’s the most optimal release method I’ve heard of, but I guess I won’t truly know for a week and a half.

Thanks for reading, guys.

–Jake

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3 Responses to “How to Release a Web Series”

  1. I think for a web series to work with the 5-10 minutes a week release, it has to be very clearly written for that format, which I don’t think the story of PoPS lends itself to. Probably really difficult to tell a grand story when you’re constantly doing setup, conflict, resolution (maybe on a smaller scale) within 5 minutes…

  2. Ben Morris Says:

    I think it’s fine, it leaves you suspenseful so you don’t have to wait for ages till your next slice of POPS. What really bugs me is that you don’t release an overall episode on youtube after the dose of 5-10 minute episodes. I found out about POPS when it was on episode 4 or 5, and instantly loved it. But I didn’t like having to watch each episode with pauses every five minutes. So for anyone wanting to watch the episodes through without watching it on your website (especially how that doesn’t work on any mobile devices, which is what I use to watch) you should release a full episode on youtube.

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