UPDATE, 12:11 p.m.: Next Media has released an animation denying reports that it is for sale.
Taiwanese animation studio Next Media is the latest startup to fall over the Internet hype cliff. The concept had a ragingly successful debut with computer-generated cartoons summarizing big news stories where video was not available. Tiger Woods driving into a tree, the story of JetBlue flight attendant Steven Slater’s dramatic walkout–we clicked, and we laughed. But the company is up for sale after a made-for-television venture failed to get traction, reports the Taipei Times.
Critics raved when Next Media first hit the U.S. It seemed inevitable that animated news was here to stay. As Time wrote:
In Hong Kong, Next Media’s videos average more than 4.1 million hits a day, making it the second most watched news channel in Hong Kong in terms of the number of daily viewers. Not all the videos use animation, but most of the newscasts incorporate them, giving their online broadcasts a visual edge. “People want to watch something with attitude,” Simon says.
Next Media mistook the novelty-fueled success of a meme for a business model and did what all content farms do: it pumped up the volume, releasing videos about increasingly microscopic news, but faster and faster. Next Media’s local arm, Big Apple Daily, gets dozens of views for videos like “New New York taxi to hit streets next year.” The animators have also done videos about Turntable.fm, TechCrunch’s AOL drama, and Betabeat’s own story of former Newsweek intern Jerry Guo’s long con. But even the animation of Ryan Gosling rescuing a local British reporter from an oncoming cab netted only 5,743 views.
Occasionally, a Next Media video will crack 500,000 views, like the incendiary video featuring Steve Jobs as Darth Vader or the animation of Angry Birds: The Reckoning, or Angelina Jolie Leg Sweeps the Internet. But these days, the mere phrase “Taiwanese animators” is enough to deter us from a click. It’s a gimmick, and it’s old. The company says it gets a million views a day, though, so maybe some mogul will decide it’s worth the asking price of half an Instagram.