by Dwain Hebda
When Arkansas-based marketing veteran Jeff Turnbow began his career 20 years ago, YouTube was six years off and Internet marketing was in its infancy. Turnbow has not only survived the rapid and profound changes that have come to the marketplace since, he’s become an expert in leveraging them to promote both his self-named company and for his many clients as well.
His latest venture, Interruptit, has been hailed by Forbes magazine as a vanguard in the space of media distributed via the Internet.
“Interrupit is something I’ve been working on for about two years now,” he says. “We call it a business reality show, something very unique that offers a perspective that gets you into the mind of the business owner, but also shows a marketing or business strategy lesson at the same time.”
Turnbow noticed the blockbuster following such shows as The Profit and Shark Tank were commanding and while his venture covers some of the same ground, the twist is how he and sidekick/EVP Joshua Smith “interrupt” a business feature to offer hyper-focused marketing expertise and commentary.
In the second episode, for instance, the duo breaks up an otherwise standard travelogue of Branson with a discussion of trends in the travel industry and effective ways to market them to prospective visitors.
“We were committed to being one of the first providers in that space and jumping on it early,” Turnbow says. “We didn’t want it to just be interviews, so we go out and show the business, give an example of the product or service or how it’s used or marketed and try to show the heart and passion that’s in the business. Then we interrupt that with my ideas or strategies or interpretation of a marketing concept that’s happening. ”
While this puts a novel twist on a tried-and-true format, it’s not what has industry-watchers taking note of Interruptit. What’s truly novel is how the program is distributed – part of a movement of lean and nimble programming that sidesteps the plodding, expensive networks that have reigned for decades.
“Your big players in the market used to be ABC, CBS and NBC. If you wanted video content, they made those decisions as to what was available on television and when it was available,” Turnbow says. “Now, that’s no longer the case. They don’t decide what the public watches, the public decides what they watch. Through Roku or Apple TV or Amazon, they can seek out business news or business reality shows if they’re interested in that content, and they can get a plethora of that content.”
Interruptit has stepped into this new frontier thanks to a partnership with Binge Networks, one of several new players in the content distribution marketplace. Three episodes were completed in record time to take advantage of some media buzz, and Turnbow and company are completing seven more to complete Season 1.
“You can find the first three episodes on our YouTube channel,” he says. “In the next 60 days, our first full series will be distributed through anything you can access through a smart TV. That would be Roku, Apple IOS, Amazon TV. All of your smart TV apps will be distributing this content and it will be a rental service, without commercials.”
Internet distribution holds other advantages over the traditional broadcast network system it seeks to replace. In the old days, for example, program ratings were calculated through a complicated system of designated viewers reporting their viewing habits (i.e. Nielsen ratings). While statistically sound, it is still only a representative sample of viewership. In the modern era, distributors and content producers have much more immediate and detailed data from which to assess the popularity of the content.
“Our plan, basically, is to produce 10 episodes per season,” Turnbow says. “During and after all of these videos are released, we can look at the data and see exactly how many people are interested in our content, what part of our content they’re most interested in, what time of day they like to consume our content, and where they like to consume our content. That loads us down for Season Two to be able to hit that audience even more precisely with even better content at the right place and at the right time.”
“That’s different than regular television. We’re not depending on a company like Nielsen, we have many different data sources where we can know the who, what, when and where. We can determine exactly how to seed that content to the people who enjoy it and give them exactly what they want.”
Turnbow says Interruptit is also not just a product; he sees it as laboratory for learning how to produce and perfect the process of content and distribution, expertise which can in turn be marketed to his other clients. He says technology has helped bring quality video marketing within reach of virtually any business.
“You’re no longer tied down to a $10,000 studio budget or a $100,000 studio budget. If someone is passionate enough about creating content and distributing content, literally anyone can do this,” he says. “These days, everyone has an amazing camera in their hands; there are many indie films that are shot on an iPhone. We use very expensive, high-quality cameras (for Interruptit) but also we use GoPro, iPhone, many things that are affordable today.”
“One of our success principles has been to do it first and do it as well as possible and keep improving upon that. We wanted to be first at this but not just because it’s video marketing, but because I honestly wanted to display this type of content, show the passion of these businesses that we work with every day and how we help them.”