ARGs – the programming genre for the web

Last night at a NewTeeVee hosted event, Greg Goodfried, co-creator of LonelyGirl15, revealed that LonelyGirl was envisioned from the get go as an elaborate Alternate Reality Game (ARG).  The plot revolves around some sort of secret society that is running around kidnapping teenage girls who have a specific genetic anomaly.  Bree is being chased by the society.  Goodfried explained they deliberately teased out the intro over a long time to draw people in to the game.  They seed the "show" on YouTube and then draw fans to the Lonely Girl site where they are exposed to puzzle solving and other interactive engagement opportunities. 

Goodfried said that the LonelyGirl team turned down development offers from numerous Hollywood studios.  Although the monetization of LonelyGirl and it's new spin off, Kate Modern, are still a work in progress, Goodfried and his partners wanted their independence to continue to develop programming in a way that is not confined by the boundaries of the traditional content making machine.  Goodfried shared the following tips for building an online audience to episodic programming:

  • Involve the audience in the story (puzzle solving, plot input, community forums)
  • Short lead times (LonelyGirl shoots one week before it posts) 
  • Use an authentic fiming style (e.g. the LonelyGirl "vlogger" camera angles
  • Leverage the community features of the distribution partners to build an audience (e.g. YouTube commets & subscription features)
  • Short, quick hitting video clips

Goodfried did not seem to think that Hollywood's entries to online program development (FunnyOrDie, 60Frames, Vuguru) were major competitive threats as the LonelyGirl approach is much more involved than simply shooting video.

Other companies who have had success developing ARG programming are 42 Entertainment and Campfire Media

Creativity will be as important as ever but there appears to be a new genre of entertainment that appeals to certain audiences.