What is a Web Series?

digital media series, Dr Horrible's Sing Along Blog, fantasy, Pioneer One, sci-fi, scifi, The Annoying Orange, The Guild, voyage trekkers, web series, web television, webisodes, webseries


Have you told someone recently that you were watching the latest episode of your favorite web series and that you think they would really enjoy it only to be greeted by a blank stare (or at best a curious one) with the immediate question “What’s a web series?”

This always surprises me since I have known about web series for several years now. (Wow am I actually on the cutting edge for once?) But even in this century as everything becomes more digital and people are online more hours of the day than they are off, web series (webisodes, digital media series, web television, etc…) remain an obscure oddity.
By definition a web series is a show in serial format, normally 2 – 10 minutes in length, released on the internet that had its beginnings in 1995, but did not begin to gain any kind of popularity till after 2005.

At present there are literally hundreds (if not thousands) of web series to surf through and they cover just about every topic imaginable. From an orange that talks (The Annoying Orange) and life in a college dorm (Dorm Life) to a swords and sorcery tale (Spellfury) or sci-fi political thriller (Pioneer One).

And of course no article on the subject would be complete without mentioning two of arguably the most popular web series on the internet, The Guild, which follows the lives of a set of online gamers and their adventures after getting to know each other in real life, was started by Felicia Day in 2007 and Dr Horrible’s Sing Along Blog was released in 2008 by Joss Whedon (Previously of Buffy the Vampire fame, now of Avengers fame.)

Often the realm of independents and individuals working hard to catch the attention of mainstream audiences with some arguably good content, the medium has been given more attention in the news recently with the addition of some big name players in the field. Tom Hanks’ 2.5 million dollar animated web series “Electric City” debuted on July 19, 2012. And Bryan Singer’s “H+” will begin airing on August 8, 2012.

I recently asked a group of people who both have worked in web series and are fans of them for their definitions and thoughts on the subject, why people should watch them and where do they think that web series are headed.

I think that people that are looking for (something) different should be watching web series. Since large media is so conservative and afraid to take risks with the content they produce and share, you can watch a web series and see what is going to be on the networks’ radar down the road. New stories, new characters, new concepts that really allow viewers to find their own entertainment through the low infrastructure costs of the internet and ever increasing broadband access. It allows consumer choice, and allows niche subject creators the ability to try and find a wider audience. – Bob Nelson – Brick Cave Media

Ask me 2 years ago and I would have said my first answer would have been an easy one. Web series are mini shows made by independents with little to no budget that have a story to tell that they don’t believe can get made by Hollywood so they are doing it on their own and putting it out there for people to see. However now this has changed. The independents are still out there and in fact the web is flooded with web series all hoping to be the next big thing on the net. But now even people who have a name in Hollywood are doing them. The bar is slowly getting raised on what will be expected of a web series. What I really hope though is that it doesn’t become so Hollywood that the independent storytellers get lost again. – D Moyer – owner Crafty Gypsy Cat

There isn’t a standard way to do a web series yet, it’s still the Wild West like that. You can have a two minute episode or it can be fifteen minutes. But the one thing that will always remain constant is that you need a good story and good characters. I’d say web series are most like TV in that your fan base gets a connection with your characters and wants to tune in regularly to see them again. But it’s an even more intimate relationship because the audience knows it’s a handmade product. And their support is even more vital to your success since all you have is word of mouth. – Nathan Blackwell director of Voyage Trekkers

“I remember watching the entire first season of Gorgeous Tiny Chicken Machine Show in one night when a friend introduced me to it. It was the first web series I actually watched. Fast forward to now, where I’ve helped with one web series and am actually working on producing another. It’s not easy work. It takes just as much focus and energy as a short film or TV show. The cool thing is that anyone with an awesome idea and some enthusiastic friends can make a web series that rocks. The internet allows ideas and concepts to be freely shared. – Wendy Trakes – Producer
Interested in watching or finding out more about web series?
Here are some websites to get you started:


digital media series, Dr Horrible's Sing Along Blog, fantasy, Pioneer One, sci-fi, scifi, The Annoying Orange, The Guild, voyage trekkers, web series, web television, webisodes, webseries

Shannon is an independent Media Manager who specializes in web series and independent films. She has also been a Script Supervisor, on set Photographer, Editor’s Assistant, author for Web Series Today and is the proud owner of an IMDB credit as “painter”. An avid photographer and classic camera collector she often can be seen at events with her 1969 Polaroid Land Camera and quite possibly at least 3 other cameras in tow.

You can contact her at [email protected] and find her on Twitter @shannon_shea

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