A cheap and easy critical approach to Wallstrip, the "stock culture meets pop culture" videoblog that CBS acquired Tuesday, goes something like this: Coquettish brunette in a baby tee talks finance, flirts. Must be Amanda Congdon 2.0.
That's Congdon, the blonde bombshell of videoblog Rocketboom, who graduated to fame (though some would say obscurity) as an anchor for her own show on ABCNews.com. Now there's another pretty "it" girl in Wallstrip host Lindsay Campbell with another snarky "it" show and another cumbersome network lumbering through the Web, King Kong-like, a doe-eyed starlet in its hairy fist.
But the easy analysis is misleading. Where other videoblogs snark far and wide, Wallstrip adopts a popular metaconscious patois -- the self-flagellating wit you hear on, say, "The Daily Show With Jon Stewart" -- and applies it to a single subject: investing. The effect is consistently enjoyable news and entertainment for a well-defined demographic. Call it the rich niche.
A typical show goes like this: Campbell introduces a stock or investment trend -- Apple, Google, strip clubs -- and then in three to five minutes tells you why it's hot. FedEx: hot logistics software. Chipotle: hot customer service.
Sounds dull, but then there's Campbell's gently mocking voice. "I do watch Suze Orman," said one interview subject. "A self-made millionaire. You know that."
Campbell's quick reply: "And a lesbian."
Oftentimes the show's creator, Howard Lindzon, will make a guest appearance. In the first episode, he made a pilgrimage to Apple's flagship store on Fifth Avenue ("the mecca, the wailing wall") to illustrate why Apple's stock has been rising ever since the company began opening retail outlets. In the episode about Nintendo, Lindzon's son demonstrated the Wii's appeal by beating Campbell in two games of Wii Tennis.
See the trick? A narrowly defined target audience, a pretty girl and lots of color around a dull subject. After an episode you feel smarter. And that's the operative word, "feel," a verb usually relegated in financial circles to describing bouts of agita.
In buying Wallstrip, CBS committed to a multiyear contract. They hired not only Campbell but also the show's producers. Lindzon will stay on as a consultant, the show will continue to be distributed through outlets like iTunes, and CBS pledged to develop more Web-only series. You could say the Tiffany network is diversifying its content portfolio.