Case Study of 'Show Me' Content

Two Portland teenagers want to show their peers how to combat global warming one good decision at a time in the construction of a sustainable, energy-producing house.Two Portland teenagers want to engage young people on the issue of climate change by building a sustainable house and documenting the steps they take to lessen its carbon footprint. They want to show how everyone can make a difference on what the teens believe is the biggest issue facing their generation.

It is a perfect example of "show me" content.

Forest, 18, and Augest, 15, Endicott say they have secured a land donation for the house and have turned to Kickstarter to raise $395,000 to build it and document what they call an "EcoJuggernaut" journey to "uncover truths behind global warming and discover the actions that can deliver the greatest impact for solving it."

Describing themselves as "tenacious teens," they promise their Kickstarter investors a "front seat" on their "epic adventure to discover what it will take to stop global warming, and how the younger generation can lead the effort to actually reverse the current trends causing it." You also get a free T-shirt.

Forest and Augest say they will "research and investigate sustainable claims in their effort to discover for themselves, along with the audience, what sustainable technology, designs and simple steps can turn our buildings into energy preservers and generators." They will "apply what they discover with hands-on construction, by building a real home from the ground up, capable of producing more energy than it uses."

The Endicotts promise to "weed out greenwashing and eco-placeboes that too often take us down a road to nowhere." They also pledge to make the EcoJuggernaut "edgy, fun, suspenseful, hard-hitting, adventurous, inspiring, mind blowing, engaging, relevant and always real." A reality show with substance.

Despite publicity in The Oregonian, their Kickstarter campaign hasn't taken off, with only 47 backers pledging a total of $4,868 and just eight days to go. Given the entrepreneurial spirit of the two boys, attested to on the Kickstarter site by their father, chances are good they get the project under way somehow.

But whether or not the project takes off, the Endicott brothers have demonstrated a keen understanding of the value of "show me" content. With a subject that normally makes people's eyes roll, they have devised a plan to make the search for sustainable approaches and products informative and entertaining.

Their approach brings to mind Julie Powell's decision to document online her daily experiences cooking each of the 524 recipes in Julia Child's "Mastering the Art of French Cooking." Powell's memoir and daily blog attracted such strong interest that her quest to channel Child inspired the movie  "Julie & Julia" written by Nora Ephron and starring Meryl Streep as Child.

People like to ride along on adventures, even into the mundane. What else could explain the fascination with PBS' "Antique Roadshow," where people drive for miles to see if their prize possessions are worthless trinkets or valuable treasures. We watch, thinking all the while about that old vase from a long-gone aunt sitting in an obscure corner of the family room.

We have noted before Lowe's appreciation of this reality in its series of 6-second video tips on topics such as how to extract a stripped screw using a rubber band.

Forest and Augest are tracking with the times. Some enterprising cable network or independent producer should team up with them to develop the series on the sustainable home, aimed at a youth audience. Young people are no different than any other people when it comes to "show me" content. You can capture and sustain their attention by giving them a front row seat to a journey of discovery that is relevant to them, within their power to replicate and maybe has a good dose of humor.