#Gnomedex 09 Day 2: 20 million vs 20: Audience vs. Impact by Jay Grandin and Leah Nelson

They’re not geeks, but they’re trying really hard to be.

They’re from Vancouver – Giant Ant Media, that makes social objects for people – things you can discover and watch online, mostly videos.

This is a story of how they started telling fart jokes on MySpace and ended up making a hip hop album in the ghetto in Tanzania.

They started with a viral video – How to Shower: Women vs. Men that they put on MySpace. Phone started to ring, and it showed up on all sorts of places. MySpace called and flew him to come to LA to talk about a deal – signed with a talent agent in Beverly Hills, thought they’d be the next big internet thing. Then they made “how to conceal a fart” video. What was surprising was that people were actually watching and commenting – they welcomed all the feedback.

While waiting for the MySpace deal to come through, they went backpacking to Europe – they haad about 13k friends on MySpace and asked them if they could come stay at their houses. Brought home the realization that they were reaching real people. Sleeping with MySpace videos. People showed them lots of trust, which blew them away. Sometimes “Friends” are Friends!

Finding: F#ck Viral!

Started making content that really mattered to them – viewership took a nosedive. But engagement went up. Stopped caring about what the agent wanted.

Their friend Dani had been doing research with youth in Tanzania and came to them with the idea to do an album and film. Started a charity to raise money. Worked with 20 guys who live on the street in Tanzania, who make music to keep themselves entertained. Bongo Flava style. Life stories really embedded in the lyrics. There were lots of people online who gave little bits of money. Put $18k of their own money into the project. Blogged the process – really careful to put the best content online during the process – http://bongothefilm.com/ Bongo is the name of the film, which tells the entire story.

Realization is that they were lucky to have a big audience at the beginning, but the shift to those that followed them was really an amazing experience. Through the social networks they’re reaching out to they have the potential to bring the story to many more people. Left a trail of trial and error that they’ll never be able to erase.

They realized that they created a disruptive situation when they went in. Realized that the social fabric on the street was very different in the studio – on the street it was about street smarts, but in the studio it gravitated towards talent, which created conflict.

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