When Felecia Day, star of the webseries sensation The Guild, couldn't sell her pilot about the world of online gaming, she repackaged the concept as a webisode series instead.
In an industry where it is more difficult than ever to sell your pilot, where studios are buying less feature scripts and where the reality show (which demands less writing, of course) is king, webisodes have emerged as a new-media outlet for writers, directors, producers and actors to show off their talents.
Because viewers' attention span is shorter on the Web, the episodes can also be shorter, which means they are cheaper to shoot. And because the screen is also smaller, you don't have to spend as much money on capturing beautiful landscapes, and you can thus concentrate on shooting in one location (which is also cheaper). What all this means is that it is way less expensive to create a webisode -- and, if you play your cards right, you can still get a lot of viewers to watch it, which can be literally translated into sponsorship dollars. In short, that's how you make the money.
But there are also "channels" that have emerged on-line, which will buy your webisode series (if the writing, acting and production quality is good; so don't skimp too much on money). Some of those channels are L Studio (funded by Lexus), where Lisa Kudrow can be seen starring in Web Therapy; My Damn Channel; Crackle; and now Aol. (There are a bunch more, and I will post them all later).
You can take the route or trying to sell your webisodes to these different channels, or you can just post your stuff to youtube. Of course, youtube isn't going to pay you for content, but, as we all know, as long as you can get a big following for your webisodes, you can convince some big company to sponsor/invest in you.
So that's why it's so important to know who your audience is, and then "hang out" where they do. Chats on twitter are great, and then doing all the social networking that's so necessary to get people to see your webisode. I have been so inspired by this new media opportunity that I am currently writing a webisode series that I will be shooting soon.
A few weeks ago, I attended a workshop with Mark Gantt of The Bannen Way, which is a super-successful webseries that has now been purchased by Sony Pictures Television. Why Gantt decided to shoot a webisode? He said you can chose to invest your hard-earned dollars (or someone else's money preferably) in making a short film that very few people will see (even if it's accepted to festivals) and which you then can't sell because everyone wants a feature-length film -- or you can invest that same money in a webisode (either a pilot or a whole series) and then promote the s**t out of it, so that it will be seen by a lot of people. Now which route would you rather take?
So, in short, as folks complain about less and less opportunities for writers as the paper-magazine world crumbles and the opportunities to sell scripts for TV and film dry up, turn your attention to the Internet, which never fails to provide more and more opportunities for writers, who take the time to brainstorm new and interesting way to make money and get their stuff seen.