Seven Habits of Highly Effective Ze Frank

March 16th, 2007 by Larry Smith

184875799_aad93b1dbb.jpg Tomorrow is a milestone day in the happy life of personal media history. That might sound dramatic, but March 17 marks the end of Ze Frank’s year-long experiment called The Show, in which the man who first rose to viral fame with his How to Dance Properly video vowed to create a three-minute video every weekday for a year. As many of you reading this know, he did it—offering rapid-fire social commentary mixed with a singular showmanship. Mainly, he is smart and funny and a circus master of the medium.

387771581_926b7aeda9_1.jpgIf I was still working at Yahoo Internet Life (where one of my savvy coworkers found Ze back in the day), I’m sure we’d name him person of the year. So let’s just go ahead and do that anyway. Why? The Show is everything working to its potential in this rapidly changing world of personal media. Seven habits of a highly effective Ze Frank media include:
1) Offering an obsessively, compulsively updated endeavor with a strong point of view (it really couldn’t get much stronger);
2) Fostering an audience that are also contributors. Viewers (aka “sports racers”) can upload their own video intros or use the wiki to remix Ze’s work, create their own, or simply answer the call to his silly challenges, like creating the ugliest MySpace page;
3) Remaining independent and keeping your street cred;
4) Doing the above while managing to find multiple revenue streams. Ze’s include a traditional sponsor in the shape of Dewar’s, an inventive form of micropayment in the shape of duckies that contain fortune cookie like paid messages from fans, as well as so-called meaningless products;
5) Lathering up a steady stream of media friendly stunts, like his call for his fans to create an earth sandwich;
6) Extending your brand to every platform available, like mobile and downloadable audio.
7) Above all, always being entertaining and addictive.

Do those things and your personal media project will connect with an audience—which is what Ze Frank did these past 365 days. In his words: “And what better way to connect with people than by staring and talking straight at them?”

In the spirit of SMITH, after the jump are some of our favorite episodes of The Show that specific address personal media making. I’ve embedded the first video, and provided links for the ones that follow.

On I-Media instead of We Media
“Watching things on the Internet is different. It’s less like a tourist destination and more like that cool secluded spot you find in the woods. If people do gather together to watch, invariably they’ll ask for the link. You want directions to the secluded spot, so you can go there by yourself or with a few close friends. It doesn’t always feel like millions of people have been there. It can feel like something you’ve discovered. I-media instead of We-media. The problem is that people don’t always want t-shirts from secluded spots.”

On Videoblogging, Vol. 1:
“As most people know, success in any creative endeavor is all about the gear.”

On Videoblogging, Vol. 2:
“Remember, no matter what you do, videoblogging will make you famous.”

On Addictive Internet Use:
“Researchers say that people go online to cure foul moods, and find it difficult to stay away from the Internet. One researcher said that users are using use the Internet to self-medicate. Got it: Internet not equal to tubes or dump truck. Internet equals drugs. I guess that makes me a pusher. You want a ducky? The first one’s on the house.”

On the Rise of Consumer-Generated Media:
“In MySpace, millions of people have opted out of pre-made templates that ‘work’ in exchange for ugly. Ugly when compared to pre-existing notions of taste is a bummer. But ugly as a representation of mass experimentation and learning is pretty damn cool. Regardless of what you might think, the actions you take to make your MySpace page ugly are pretty sophisticated. Over time as consumer-created media engulfs the other kind, it’s possible that completely new norms develop around the notions of talent and artistic ability.”

On YouTube’s Terms & Conditions:
“The popular video-sharing site recently updated its terms and conditions. It now reads ‘…you hereby grant YouTube a worldwide, non-exclusive, royalty-free, sub licensable and transferable license to use, reproduce, distribute, prepare derivative works of, display, and perform the User Submissions in connection with the YouTube website and YouTube’s (and its successor’s) business… in any media formats and through any media channels.’ That means they get to make money off of your ass however the fuck they want!”

And in tribute to a man who became a brand, this one on the brand experience called Jon Bonet (and other emotional aftertastes).

So long, and thanks for doing it right. In appreciation, we thought up your six-word memoir (so you don’t have to):
“Make movie. Sleep. Make movie. Sleep.”

Sad duck>>Flickr>>Creative Commons>>pfly

Ze Frank>>Flickr>>Creative Commons>>Laughing Squid

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