Shawn Kohne is one of the executive producers and stars of the popular web series, "Dealership." He sat down with iMedia to join in the digital vs. traditional TV debate from a content creator's perspective.
iMedia Connection: What are the benefits to having an online show? What opportunities does digital entertainment provide that traditional can't?
Shawn Kohne: Well, I feel that both avenues are very strong ways to go. Having a show online is great because we control everything. If we think that a really nasty joke is funny, it can stay in the episode. But if we were on a network, stuff like that wouldn't fly. It's also nice because it's so easy to access. Everyone uses YouTube or Funny or Die to get little doses of comedy on a daily basis. They may not be watching us, but they might find us and tell one of their friends about it, which is really all we can ask for.
But being on a network would be huge exposure. It's not that it can't happen online; it can and does, but no one really knows how or why that occurs. You can't plan to have your web series "blow up" because there is no way to guarantee it. With a network backing you and your idea, they will at least pump tons of money into marketing your show, something that most people with content online cannot afford to do.
I would have to say the best thing about being online is the direct contact with the fans. I love talking to them and finding out how they found "Dealership," what their favorite episodes are, what they want from season two, and all that fun stuff! Fan interaction is way easier online.
iMedia: How did you cultivate your audience online? Was there a "tipping point" (a clip being featured somewhere, someone tweeting it out, etc.) or was it more of a gradual thing?
Kohne: I do not feel we have had our "tipping point" in all honesty. We got our initial audience with "The Pilot" in 2006, which kind of blew up on The Something Awful forums. Unfortunately we don't have the original view count since it was on one of our personal YouTube profiles; "Dealership" now has its own channel. Years later Something Awful still supports the series, which is great. We have also been mentioned on Rooster Teeth, The Examiner, Gawker, Chudd, and on KPLR 11 news in St. Louis. "Dealership" has also recently been featured favorably on Funny or Die and Blip.
It has definitely been a slow, gradually moving project. Our fans really help move us further along by getting their friends watching, sharing videos online, and buying our T-shirts. Any time I see a picture of a fan wearing a "Dealership" shirt online I immediately make them "Fan of the Week" on our Facebook page. It's a really awesome feeling to see that kind of support from our fans.
iMedia: What's your audience? How have you seen it grow?
Kohne: Our audience is 82 percent male, most of which is 25- to 34-year-olds...but we love our female audience, and we thank them for hanging in there! We really need to get some ladies on the show so we can boost those numbers.
We have seen "Dealership" grow in very cool ways. I personally love the fact we have fans in crazy places. We had a signed poster giveaway on Facebook, and a fan from Estonia won! I mean that's pretty darn awesome! I also heard stories about actual car dealerships falling in love with the series, which is really funny to me.
iMedia: Did you deliberately target your audience demo?
Kohne: We don't really set out to make videos that only men 24 to 35 will enjoy. We simply make videos we feel are funny. If we laugh at it, chances are other people will also get enjoyment out of it, male or female.