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Description: Stand-up comedians of a certain era knew they had arrived when Johnny Carson invited them to a desk-side seat on “The Tonight Show.” A generation later, the gold standard was getting a solo comedy special on HBO. But in the Internet era, the yardstick for success has been redefined.

Source: NYTimes .com

Date: March 20, 2012

A handful of top-tier performers have begun producing stand-up specials on their own, posting them online and selling them directly through their personal Web sites, eliminating the editorial control of broadcasters and the perceived taint of corporate endorsements.

While this straight-to-the-Internet strategy is far from ubiquitous in stand-up, it is already having a profound impact on the comedy landscape, enabling online content providers and individual artists to take more turf from television networks and empowering comedians to be as candid (and as explicit) as they want in their material.   Read Rest of Story

Questions for discussion:

1. Is this an example of marketing disintermediation?  Why? or Why Not?

2.  What are the pitfalls to leaving the existing distribution channels of this particular content?

28 Responses to “Comics Are Now Selling Laughs by the Download”

  1. mike p

    I think this is a great example of how powerful and useful the internet is and is becoming increasingly better. I feel that it is up to the distributors to adapt and find a way to be useful again. Originally the whole reason to get a distributor would be to find and sell to the audience whereas now the internet has allowed in this case comedians to interact much closer to its fans cheaply and easily over the internet. Also social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter allow comedians to directly communicate with its customers, promoting and advertising their products. This completely eliminates the need for comedians to use distributors as a way of reaching their audience. Also with this increased accessibility it has allowed comedians and in many other cases, to be as creative or explicit as they want without any mediation from a distributor. This will allow for more expression and creativity from artist (good and bad) and move our society to maybe a much less restrictive/censored environment. The same type of thing is also happening in the music industry where artists can now just post their music on the internet and gain popularity that way rather than requiring a record deal. The game is quickly changing for business’ so it is up to them to adapt/change and gain back that competitive advantage they need to be useful again.

  2. CAP

    I think it’s really smart if someone uses the internet as a tool to be more successful. One major benefit of online advertising is the immediate publishing of information and content. Using social media such as Facebook and Twitter should be used as a tool to advertise because so many people are on it all the time. The internet has become an ongoing emerging source that tends to expand more and more. The growth of this media attracts the attention of advertisers because it is a source to bring in consumers. Using the internet to advertise is also cheaper than getting a company or broadcaster to do it for them. There are some methods of advertising online that only require a one time payment even. In the article it mentions that stand up comedians are posting and selling on their own site. This is probably an easier way for them to advertise their comedy because they can put pretty much whatever they want in it. There are no rules (well not as much)to which they have to follow because it is under their own webpage. I just think what they are doing is smart because not only is it cheaper, but they are also advertising themselves to more people.

  3. IDR

    Comedians are not killing the middleman by doing shows on the internet, they are using them as a platform to fly solo later on. I think that in like any other business, these performers want to get away from the control that big corporations want to have. Just like in the music business, TV broadcasters want to make their money by tailoring their product to specific markets. When tailoring these products, specifications rise and therefore limitations have to be put in place. It is part of the business, you have to pay your dues to be able to get to where you want to be. Without these networks most of the comedians would not be known and they could not do specials on line. I think it is important for networks to understand that there are other options to broadcast, especially the internet since everyone has access to it, and for comedians to know that they need the networks as a step ladder to their success.

  4. Jillian

    I believe this is an example of market disintermediation. Instead of going through the process of having the middleman market the comedian’s “show”, they are marketing themselves through personal websites. From my opinion this is a smart thing for the comedians to do to obtain higher profits. As well, comedians don’t have to worry about the content of their “show”, they can basically say what they want how they want without worrying about the opinions of other intermediaries. As the article stated, audiences can identify with comedians when they aren’t performing as they would on a television program. I think this type of identification would produce greater interests, and again in return for the comedian produce higher profits. Possible pitfall of leaving a distribution channel is popularity and being known. I believe having the ability to perform on a distribution channel gives the comedian’s a better opportunity at marketing themselves to a greater audience where as a website may be more difficult to come across a specific comedian. As well, with being on a distribution channel it adds a sense of excitement, because the viewers can watch the audience at home and see the reactions they are having; it really adds to the performance to be able to see the interaction of the comedian and the audience.

  5. knwe

    This is an example of marketing disintermediation because it is removing the networks as the middleman, and allows a direct link from comedian to viewer through an online channel. Of course, there is still a channel in which the media must be accessed (Internet), but it does eliminate a step in the media access process as compared to television viewing.

    This method of media access allows for more “pure” content to be posted by the artists, and for people who want to support the artist directly, the opportunity to do so through purchasing their episodes. Viewers don’t have to watch commercials or subscribe to certain networks to be able to view their favorite comedians. I like the idea that people can watch what they want on demand.

    I think the biggest impact of media moving to the internet is the industry of television commercial advertising. Sure, you can advertise online, or at the start of a purchased downloaded content, but there is not as much opportunity for advertising because the content is controlled by the artist. Networks may also lose viewers to online media allowances because who wants to watch a “scripted” version of their favorite comedian combined with commercials?
    A drawback for artists is the discovery of their talent. A lot of artists make a name for themselves on television first, which would be necessary if they were going create a following for themselves that would be enough to rely on the vast online market for viewers.

  6. Rosemary

    Media could be accessed direcly from the power of the internet. Many comedian tapped from the wealth information that the internet too has too offered. Gaining more expose and reduce thier cost per CPM. Artist, actors and editors want to release the most enjoyed episode online to increase traffic to their website. Advertisement, TV programming and films on most HBO and other stations would increase thier prices becuase the more people interested in their program, the higher the profit generated via the source.
    Revolution has taken its full course in the media industry, most the comedian, artist has to dance to the tune of revolution. They have the tendency to increase their profile and update the needed information as soon posssible.
    From the angle of content display for show for comedians, my own concern is the content for the show must be rich, enlighted, and impactful. Though after the work-period, people want to lighten up the accumulated burden from thier job. They want to laugh it off, enjoyed the cost of coming to the show. All this point must be put into consideration by the comedians, they must have the second thought that what kind of people are really coming to the show, what are they going through, what motivated them to come, and how can we really pass accross what they actually what wanted. This area is the most critical issue. Comedians have the work to do. The content, the show, the intermediaries, programmers must come to an agreeable goal which is WINNING.

  7. MJJ

    Yes, this is an example of disintermediation. By not going through the traditional channels, not only does the comedian get all the revenue from sales, but they also avoid any censorship issues. Nothing is worse than getting a video that was very obviously edited. There are some shortcomings to the direct sale method. As pointed out in the article known comedians with a large loyal following will definitely benefit from direct internet sales. However, lesser known and upcoming performers mostly likely don’t have the following to make the amount of sales needed to make it a viable venture. And if they do not have significant financial resources of their own, it could be very difficult to produce a show for sale. That is where the likes of Comedy Central come in. They have the means to both produce and sell the video. This is probably a more viable option for newer entertainers. It could be seen as a kind of right of passage, having to go through the censorship and moderation of using traditional methods. Then once established having the freedom to eliminate the middle man and produce exactly the material you want.

  8. Jon

    The pitfalls to leaving the existing distribution channels include the potential that the existing channels have to market and promote the stand-up comedians, and the risk of failing with this new model. Firstly, the majority of these stand-up comedians became famous through the existing distribution channels because of the power that these companies have to penetrate the market and distribute the product to a mass audience. In fact, I can’t recall a world-famous comedian who achieved their fame solely through creating a website and charging people money to hear their material. Most comedians used a distribution channel (HBO, NBC, Showtime, etc.) to make a name for themselves, before later adapting to this model. It (the existing channel) is a solid distribution channel, as marketing teams provide a sense of stability. Not using this model, especially as a beginner in the comedy industry may be a difficult undertaking.
    The second pitfall is the risk; If this internet-selling fails, their (the stand-up comics) careers are in jeopardy. Existing distribution channels will likely see this switch to Internet selling as an act of betrayal. It is not a guarantee that a company such as HBO or Showtime will be so willing to welcome them back on board.

  9. Scotty

    The most successful musicians of this time took advantage of all the advantages of the internet right from the get go and i love the fact that other professions in the industry are choosing to join. In all reality these guys are the guys that took all the stress off of peoples minds at the end of an exhausting work day. These guys are just going through the same stages that the whole entertainment business is going through and i believe that as the title describes, selling laughs through downloads. Not only can people enjoy these comics entertainment when and where ever they’d like but also take a load off in the middle of a tough shift at work. Comedians on the other hand are also benefiting because they are making cash and getting better known which in turn will make them more successful because their work will spread virally if they really are as hilarious as they think they are. Internet truly has been the pinnacle for finding the diamond in the rough when it comes to peoples talents and i think its awesome.

  10. Sarah Fletcher

    I definitely think this is an example of disintermediation. Comedians are looking to cut out the middle men and be their own bosses. This approach has the potential for them to make a lot more money. The networks are being replaced by internet broadcasts. I think this has the potential to work because people who like watching comedy in this way generally have specific comedians they like. Therefore, popular comedians would have no issue cutting out the networks and going solo essentially.I think that with the younger generations there are no potential pitfalls to this approach. However, I think that some older generations will be lost with this transition and I think that older generations may be a big loss of viewers for the comedians. Some of the older generations are less technologically advanced and I also find that older generations are more likely to watch television. Many of the younger generations are more inclined to simply download or go to the internet for movies, shows, or comedic skits they want to watch. I know I personally don’t have TV and I don’t really watch a lot of stand up style comedy. However, the only way I would watch something like this would be if it was recommended to me or if it was online. Even then it’s not likely I would watch it.

  11. neltum

    Internet plays a major role in any aspect,this is a great example of how social media is quickly advancing the direct distribution mode. A handful of top-tier performers have begun producing stand-up specials on their own, posting them online and selling them directly through their personal Web sites, eliminating the editorial control of broadcasters and the perceived taint of corporate endorsements. As mentioned in the article, hopefully most comedians don’t get too arrogant and believe this is an easy way to make a fortune. Only the best of the best can easily pull this off.
    This only works if you are as big and as popular as Louie CK. There are hundreds of comedians out there that have had TV exposure on HBO or Comedy Central. Maybe a handful of them could earn real money from direct downloading. Some of them will most certainly lose money in the production costs. But for a highly successful, highly popular comics with strong followings like Louie, the direct distribution model is a godsend.

  12. Ellie

    With the development of the technology of Internet, we use web to do a growing of number things though the Internet. We can chart with friends online, get the news of the whole world though the Web, do online shopping online and so on. In one world, what can I do though the Internet? You can do anything you image. Also, Internet gives us more opportunity to show ourselves. I would like to see people use the Internet to get personal success, as the article said. Internet could be a very good plat form to show them. In the article, it is a good example of marketing disintenediation. They market themselves on the web and could face more people while saving money, in nowadays, a growing number normal people become the super star though the Internet. They have different kinds of talent and skills, the Internet give them the platform to succeed. On the web, you can show yourselves, advise yourselves. Gold always shine no matter where it is. In nowadays, Internet plays an important role in our lives. This social media brings many advantages and also has negative aspect. We need to learn how to use it better and let it bring benefits for us. It is a good way to exceed the self value.

  13. John McAllister

    Yes this is a good example of market disintermediation because these comedians are clearly cutting out the middle man. Stand up comedy has always been a different form of entertainment than movies, tv, or music, which is exactly why targeting an internet audience is a fantastic idea. It is clear to me that the internet is the way of the future in terms of providing entertainment and it is in large part due to disintermediation. People want their videos or music at their own demand and prefer not to be at the control of networks and producers who are too focused on restricting performances and revenue based off of commercials.
    I would say that the largest pitfall to leaving the existing distribution channels is the loss of tradition as well as losing the loyal HBO/Showtime viewers who are not interested in what the internet has to offer in terms of stand up comedy. If I was a stand up comedian I would still have the goal of having an HBO special that is a large enough hit to become a classic, one that everyone will remember. Anyone can go online and record a skit for the internet to see but it takes someone special to produce Eddie Murphies Delirious or Robyn Williams Live on Broadway.

  14. Josh

    I strongly support what these stand up comedians are doing. They found a way to make a process more efficient and thus a more lucrative and enticing position for themselves. If any other type of industry were able to essentially eliminate their middlemen and distribution channels in favour of cutting right to the chase they would looked at as if they were the god of the industry. The same goes for stand up comedians who have found a way to exploit the traditional system off HBO and Showtime specials in favour of self promotions and self direction. The not only benefits the comedians from a financial standpoint but also from a creative stance. Personally if I were a comedian or musician I would take full advantage of releasing my material this way.

  15. sk

    Yes,I believe that this is an example of disintermediation. In this particular example, comedians don’t need a boss/manager to get them gigs. Instead, they can go out and use the internet to get straight to their audience/fans. There does not have to be a middle man anymore. In addition, they get all of the money from their success and tend to avoid censorship issues. Also, social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter allow these comedians to directly communicate with their fans. With all this being said, however, there are also some disadvantages to this method. As the article said, well-known comedians with a loyal following will definitely benefit from direct internet sales. However, less known comedians mostly likely don’t have the following (quite yet) to make as much money as they would like. However, if you do have talent, you’re probably going to get noticed.
    Also, like Sarah said above, comedians using this method might lose the older generations as an audience. Older individuals who aren’t very comfortable with technology might just prefer the traditional method of flicking on the T.V. to the comedy channel. So, that’s a disadvantage as well. However, I do believe that this is an excellent example of the vast capabilities of the internet.

  16. Tyler

    The use of the internet by comedians to connect directly to their fans and distribute their material to them without the use of a middle man is a great example of marketing disintermediation. With the current technology now available with the internet it is quite often the most effective way to connect to fans as well as a great way to reach new fans that may not have had the opportunity to hear of you before using the internet.
    While there are some benefits that has been pointed out in the article such as being able to make more money directly from sales as well as the comedians being able to say what they want without restrictions there are also some big pitfalls. While it may work well for successful comedians with large followings comedians who are less well known may struggle to make any money off of doing such releases as they have no real way to connect to audiences in the first place to make them want to buy their product. With the use of networks such as comedy central they have a way to reach the casual viewer in order to build that relationship and that is missing with the sale directly from websites.

  17. aaron

    This shows us how the internet can have large scale impact(political) and all the same, also be catering to the individual as well. it allows the average joe to do what they want to do and have a nothing to lose attitude. I dont know about others, but I see friends on facebook and youtube putting videos up of theirs, and other performances, such as music or comedy. after all isn’t that how Justin Bieber was discovered, not say it was for the best. but it shows how people can be opened to new experiences and options that were never possible without the internet. Another example that i can think of, is how many student go to school with out cable television? I for one, use online media for watching any television that i need, and i think that society is slow merging that way as well. The ability to cut out the middle man provides more competition in the field of art like comedy and acting. I believe that television is fading out, just the idea of watching something at a set time, like on a cable guide, seems outdated. especially when people can go one line and get up to the minute information.

  18. Jarrett

    i think this is a goo example of market disintermediation because comedians that are going to the internet are cutting out the middle men as stated numerously above. With these comedians being able to broadcast online, they are able to potentially make more money and become successful without sharing profits. However, you also have to remember that when they are cutting out “the middleman”, they are also cutting out a potentially important contact that could make or break their career. The middlemen with comedians can be people who have helped other comedians get to places that they wouldn’t have ever gotten to without them. Most comedians that are famous today, originally started out playing shows in comedy clubs. Without these clubs, many people wouldn’t have ever been discovered and would probably be living in their moms basements today. Without these middlemen, they would be nobodies. So for the people that make it big online and are able to keep their profits to themselves, thats great, but there are tons of potentially funny people who could’ve made it big with a different approach

  19. Carly

    I don’t believe that this is an example of marketing disintermediation. The internet is a great way to get content out to mass amounts of viewers in a very short period of time. The benefits of being able to deliver content to the amount of people that can view an online video greatly outweighs the costs associated with putting on a live performance. The standup comedy industry is presented with a lot of competition as there are many other popular alternatives in the entertainment industry. Standup comedy is also one of the older forms of entertainment and the technological trend in today’s society takes away from the pure form of entertainment delivered by standup comedy. By posting content on the web, standup comedians are able to break down some of that barrier. One of the disadvantages of delivering content through the web is the loss of human to human interaction. One of the joys of attending a standup comedy show is the energy created by the performer and the audience. Laughing out loud along with hundreds of other people definitely beats sitting in a room and laughing by yourself. Attending a comedy show is a total entertainment experience that just cannot be achieved through the screen of your computer.

  20. Debbie Kennedy

    I enjoy comedy and beleive laughing is great for the soul! I often wish I could check out particular comedians, but they are usually too far for me to travel and having a family often means I have to wait or go through all the hassel of hiring a sitter and making my way to the show. In some ways this is an example of market disintermediation. People in the middle usually work at customer care, but what kind of customer care do television networks or cable networks really do other than air the show? Networks may advertise the comedian to millions of viewers, but comedians can also do the same for themselves. The only thing I can think of networks do for customers or viewers in this case is edit some of the content of the more vulgar sections, but viewers should expect some obscene content in parts of the show. Some comic shows are meant for adults and some are meant for “family”. Viewers should choose the content based on a sneak peaks or on what the show is rated if purchased on-line or downloaded and decide for themselves whether this is something they would like without being offended. According to the what I read, some didn’t see any money for their shows and this just doesn’t sit right with me. Comics should reap some benefits from shows aired. Maket disintermediation is the middle man doing some customer care for a product and in this case it would be the stand up comic show; therefore, it really isn’t an example of market disintermediation.

    The only pitfall I see is that the existing distribution channel is doing some advertising for you. The comic would have to do their own advertising and would likely have to spend money to make money.

  21. Maria Rana

    I do think that this is an example of intermediation as they are cutting the middleman out of the process. The comedians can put their content up on the Internet and reach consumers directly and in a way that they want to. They are controlled by distributers and do not have to worry about what content they can put in or have to leave out. Their material is most likely edited and this can interfere with their creative process and limit the content that is provided as an end result to the consumer. Not only that but, I think it is also an easy way for consumers to get the content as Internet can be accessed easily and from everywhere nowadays. It is also better for comedians as they will probably earn more profit this way. Even though putting their material online is a great idea, I am not sure if this trend will be long-term or just a fad. This is because I think going to a live show is altogether a different experience and way more entertaining than watching a comedian online. There is also more energy in a crowd during a live performance.

  22. Salma H.

    First thing that came to mind when I read this article was that the comedians are basically cutting the ‘middle man’ out, and taking control of their material in till it is delivered to the consumers. For the comedy industry, I think this is a great idea! Management not suffocating the comedian’s freedom and choice of work and at the same time the customers being able to reach their favorite comedians’ work more easily. The internet has created a whole new world, enabling people to do things for themselves instead of depending on a larger entity to do it. I personally do not like extremely scripted comedy, and so this alternative solution is very appealing to me. I think the only downfall for the use of the internet to provide these comedy shows is for those comedians that do not quite have made a name for themselves yet. In order to be successful in this industry you must be well known, so it will be even more crucial on the internet, unless the customers just stumble across your work. This could actually work as a major strength of the transfer from television to the internet.

  23. Mr. White

    I am an absolutely huge fan of comedy. I think that it is an amazing skill that these performers are blessed with and I truly appreciate their ability to make people laugh. You often hear the old adage that laughter is the best medicine and I really think there is some merit to that. I think it is great that some of these comedians are using the internet as their medium to connect with people.

    I think that a big problem for a lot of artists in general is that they are not able to truly express themselves because of a conflict in interest between themselves and the entity that represents them. The reality is that when a comedian attaches themselves to a network, they need to represent the networks brand, and at the same time try to represent themselves. I believe that artistic freedom is extremely important, so the fact that some of these comedians are using the internet to remove the middle man is very exciting, and I think it will be very good for comedy. I have already begun following a number of programs over the internet because it is seems much more organic and genuine than watching programs on the television, and I am a big fan of that.

  24. Chance Engel

    This is an example of disintermediation as the comedians are taking the middle man out of the process and doing so has pros and cons. By removing the middle man comedians are now having to market themselves which is alot easier than it would have been 20 years ago because of the power of the internet that is available to us today. They are also gaining a higher percentage of the revenues that they produce by use of the internet. Leaving television networks does mean that they are only accessible on the internet though which means that if people would like to watch them they have to do so via the internet, no more TV option. i know that the internet is a way to get to people all over the world, but im not convinced that they will be able to keep up with the amount of viewers that they would through using the networks just because of the inconvenience that it gives to alot of people.

  25. Andrew D.

    This is definitely an example of market disintermediation. By simply selling comedy through a personal website, and not through large media outlets like comedy central or through large record companies the comedian is able to deal straight to the consumer and thusly claim a larger portion of the profit. The pitfalls of doing this would likely be exposure related. The big comedians are able to do this because they have already become established so people will be searching for them on the internet. For other smaller comedians this could be hurtful, because it will reduce the ability of TV networks to make money from comedy, and these smaller comedians will have no way or growing their fanbase. I think in the long run you will still need publisists and promoters etc to grow your following, but skipping the whole production industry may be a good way to make some extra money.

  26. Xuan Wang

    In my opinion, I believe this is an example of marketing disintermediation. Because selling download copy does not need any intermediation. On the other hand, he sells the download copy on his own website.
    Applying the copy of performance on line and getting it through download is very convenient for customers. Some people who do not have time or can not get there because distance issue can download the performance through the internet in a few seconds are really a good way for customers. Besides this, the customers only need 5 dollars and they can enjoy the performance time and time depends on their own is a good deal for any customers. It is cheap enough to attract customers’ eyes. At last, it is also very attract customers is the download document can be copy any times. Who can say it is not a benefit for customers? Yes, it is such a good deal and a benefit for us.
    These will be a good way to earn money for the comics and also a good way to distribute the comics’ performance. Hoping more and more people do this on line, not only the comics, such as singers and other entertainment activities. That will be a good benefit for our customers.

  27. Reply

    Yes, I think that this is an example of marketing disintermediation. I think that internet is affecting disintermediation in a huge way. Not only about this stand-up comedian cases, but also job applying processes and such. People do not need a mediation so much anymore nowadays.
    I think that internet makes life easier and simpler every time. It definitely sucks for people who is working as a mediator. But the pitfalls to leaving the existing distribution channels of this particular content would be that a comedian possibly can lose some of the existing viewers. People go on online and download contents, but there are still people out there who are sticking with the existing distribution (such as TV channels, etc). Also, using internet to let people download their content will be harder to avoid people downloading illegally or protecting those comedians’ legal copyrights. As this disintermediation becomes norm, I believe that there will be better ways to solve these kind of problems though.

  28. Keely

    I think this is an example of marketing disintermediation. Comedians are now able to market themselves through their own personal websites. Networks are no longer the middleman in producing comedy for the viewers. Viewers are now enabled the feature of going online to access the comedy sketches they want to see, rather than waiting for the right program to come on television.

    Comics are now able to have longer episodes, which they make money off of, rather than having a short 5 minute scene on “Just for Laughs” or other comedy shows. Viewers no longer have to watch comics they don’t find funny, as they are now able to just watch their favorites for a small fee, and in turn are also supporting that comedian.

    I think the biggest pitfall of leaving the existing distribution channels of this content is that people may stop watching those programs, as there is now better content out there for them, for a minimal price. There is also the loss of tradition, of being able to sit down with the family and watch a whole comic sketch from lots of different comedians. Another pitfall is that the distribution channels were advertising for the comedians, and although there are online advertisements, I think the television does the best job of it in the end. As there is no longer a middleman to do advertising, comedians would now have to do it themselves, likely costing more money they would not have otherwise had to spend.

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