Look back at the great advances of the Internet in the last few years and two things stand out: user-generated content; and social networking.
Both of those have turned out to be hugely successful, giving sites like YouTube and Facebook valuations that can make an accountant’s mind boggle.
So what would happen if you combined both systems into one website? And added some TV-style advertising product placement?
And tossed in a touch of Jackass and a smidge of Web-friendly nudity?
Wanted: An Online Borat
That’s exactly what Daron Niemerow, 29, a producer and director who has created commercials and interactive media products for Sun, Kodak and Intel among others, and childhood friend Ben Bacal, have done. The result is DareJunkies.com, a video site that lays down challenges and invites users to submit clips and vote on the best, awarding a cash prize to the winning clip.
“Dare Junkies was inspired by old-school and new waves of innovative artists who have captured massive attention and garnered huge financial success and notoriety such as the mega-hit brands Borat, Jackass, Larry David, Andy Kaufman, Punk’d, SNL, and Mad TV,” Daron explained to us by email. “We know that this caliber of work already exists and we believe user-generated videos are improving and should be further rewarded.”
Still from DareJunkies’ “My Sexy Dog Lick.”
Whether the sort of films posted on DareJunkies will mark an improvement in the quality of user-generated video — or a degeneration — is debatable though. At the moment, the site shows half a dozen sample clips created partly by users and partly by the site’s internal production team. These include footage of pole-dancers doing their thing on the New York subway, a couple making out in a public library and a bikini-wearing young woman covering herself in peanut butter in a park so that dogs can lick it off.
The videos’ production values are high (the moral values not so much) and when the site originally launched in December 2006, it attracted 357,000 users on its first day, making the news on Fox 11, E! Entertainment, and the LA Times Business Section.
Too Many Users Crash the Site on the First Day
In fact, the site was so popular that Daron had to take it down to completely overhaul the platform and prepare it to cope with the unexpectedly large number of users:
“[D]ue to the high impact of users voting and participating we unfortunately couldn’t scale the platform quick enough to accommodate all the participation. As a result, we brought the website down so we can rebuild the platform and technology so users will now have more functionality and an accelerated (not slow) user experience.”
With a team of five programmers building a more stable infrastructure, the site is due to relaunch at the end of January 2008. In addition to the sample videos of pretty girls wearing very little, it will then have 30 dare categories to choose from. Extreme sports, for example, is one category and lets people show their most spectacular tricks. Users can pick a category, dare a friend or themselves, upload the clip, vote and win a $10,000 prize.
“The video doesn’t even have to be something they produced exclusively for the website,” says Daron. “ Users might find they have old video moments that fit our categories, we accept those too.”
That might sound like DareJunkies could become, at least in part, a little like America’s Funniest Home Movies… only with more bruises and less clothes. But it does have a clever twist. The site is hoping to generate revenue by challenging users to create videos that feature product placement. As Daron explained:
“Sponsors will give us a product, for example, Axe deodorant. We will then tell our users to submit their sexiest kiss dare video for Valentine’s day using the body spray to attract a kiss.”
The addition of product placement to Internet-based videos isn’t new, of course. Lonelygirl15 was the first online channel to place ads when it showed characters eating Hershey’s Icebreaker’s Sours Gum in one episode of the YouTube phenomenon. But that was a scripted show, allowing sponsors to control how its product was used and shown. A site that dares members of the public to make use of a product is likely to pose all sorts of challenges both to the sponsor and to the site. Although Daron notes that:
“[a]ll our videos are pre-screened before they get posted on the site. We don’t encourage any dangerous, harmful, explicit nudity or unlawful activity”
It might take just one letter from the lawyer of a deodorant-clutching, broken-legged, teenage skateboarder to scare off other sponsors. Unless, of course, the sales caused by the publicity more than make up for the costs. In practice, much is likely to depend on the sort of dares associated with the product. DareJunkies rather than users post the sponsored dares, giving both the sponsor and the site at least some degree of control.
Whether product placement turns out to be the solution that allows user-generated video and crowd-sourced voting to generate a profit for distributors remains to be seen. For Daron though, what isn’t in doubt is the direction of Web 2.0.
“I believe the TV revolution of the early twentieth century was born based on game shows which ignited audience participation. The Internet will become a user-participated platform where prizes and cash will be the draw.”
[tags] darejunkies [/tags]