Michael Lustig is a bit of a maverick. “I love the Internet. I think it’s awesome mostly because you don’t have to ask for permission,” Lustig tells me at the start of our interview. “You can just do things and get started quickly.” Lustig is the founder of TheLip.tv, which is home to a variety of web shows dedicated to the dying art of long form content on the Internet. It is clear from the start that Lustig is a man who follows his passions with a tenacity that is equal parts admirable and unpredictable.
“The first shows that I launched, I really centered on my specific interests. I think that when you go to make content you’re going to make something that is a reflection of what you are into, otherwise it’s not authentic,” Lustig told me. TheLip.tv currently features five web shows that range in subject matter from parenting to documentary filmmaking. Each show on TheLip.tv represents a specific niche that Lustig and his staff are vehement about, or a subject that they believe is underrepresented. “You would think that in the media there would be something specifically dedicated to documentary filmmaking, but there really isn’t” Lustig told me when speaking about the documentary film channel, “Bring Your Own Documentary.”
Hour long content about wine, parenting, and punk rock is far from what has traditionally worked for digital video, but Lustig has a reason for his choices. When I asked him why TheLip.tv focused on long form when short form is the precedent for web shows, he told me, “You just answered your own question, that is why we did it. Everybody else is doing short form.” Lustig went on to say “In doing that, I believe that we can go deeper into the topics.”
Lustig believes that the advantage of long form content is its ability to reveal a person’s deeper personality. “In any situation in the media now, when someone goes to talk about their film or their product or something that is coming out, they are given a really short period of time to get a soundbite out, and it is all very tightly controlled,” Lustig said, “in our situation if we allow people an hour or more to talk about themselves, we can find a better understanding and get more value and more nourishment out of that content.”
But where does Generation Y fit into this equation? The same group of 18 to 35-year-olds often described as the ADD generation make up 84 percent of online video viewers. Michael Rich, an associate professor at Harvard Medical School, in a New York Times article on digital media and the influence it has on young adults, explains that, “Their brains are rewarded not for staying on task but for jumping to the next thing.”
Studies suggest that the online video generation lacks a strong ability to focus, especially in terms of media entertainment. Lustig feels differently, however, “If you treat your audience like they are intelligent and you respect them, they will engage with you. I think to blanket call Generation Y or any generation ADD with short attention spans is adopting an ideology that is shortsighted because there are so many smart people out there.”
TheLip.tv and Lustig are out to prove that deep and insightful conversations still have a place in digital media. “By engaging in deeper content we become deeper people and we share. That is the value that a user takes away, they get smarter as opposed to just being entertained,” Lustig told me. The world is full of interesting people, and Lustig hopes that TheLip.tv will open up opportunities to get to know them, “What our goal really is from a broad term is to be able to share great conversations with the people of our time.”