MySpace marketers stand up for comedy

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MONTREAL -- Social networking site MySpace has made a big commitment to comedy. The Hollywood Reporter's New York bureau chief Georg Szalai sat down with Josh Brooks, vp marketing and content, and Jordan Ellner, marketing manager of comedy, here at the Just for Laughs comedy festival. They discussed the importance of comedy for MySpace and how the digital age continues to change the industry.

The Hollywood Reporter: In entertainment, MySpace has focused on expanding its music and comedy offerings. How many registered artists do you have, and how does attending a festival like this one help you?

Josh Brooks: We started in music, where we now have 7 million registered users. Comedians and musicians have the same mind-set on how to get from playing shitholes to Madison Square Garden.

Jordan Ellner:
We have more than 40,000 registered comedians. They build communities from their pages, and we like being at the festival to do some original programming and stay in the comedy trenches. It also helps us maintain the relationships we already have.

THR:
MySpace has been expanding into various international territories. Do you have comedy offerings there?

Ellner:
In places like Australia, comedy is getting bigger. New Zealand has a strong scene. ... Comedy is starting to grow in various countries, and we try to get behind that.

Brooks:
A lot of times, our team in the U.S. works with the local markets to localize their site (in the comedy area). ... Events like Just for Laughs, we promote across the world because they are international. (Tours, special appearances and other stuff) we promote locally.

THR: Some industry observers have been saying Facebook has in some regards become bigger competition for MySpace.

Brooks: When comics use MySpace organically, they see the value in it, and the whole system continues to thrive.

THR: Do you see an opportunity in selling comedy merchandise, etc?

Brooks: We are headed to electronic commerce (for tickets, T-shirts, CDs, etc.), but we are not there yet.

THR: What kind of special content seems to work well for MySpace comedy fans?

Brooks: We cover festivals, have video premieres, and our Secret Standup community is popular.

THR: Tell me a bit about Secret Standup.

Ellner: It is a chance for comedians to play smaller venues, celebrate their success in comedy and give back to the fans.

Brooks: They are free events. You only hear about them on MySpace. And they work on a first-come, first-served basis.

THR: Any comics you have seen on New Faces or other Just for Laughs shows that could be attractive for your audience?

Brooks: Tommy Johnigan and Geoff Keith are the kind of guys that are off-the-cuff funny guys who speak our language very well.
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