Wednesday, September 21, 2011
Modelled after BarCamp's 'un-conferences', FilmCamp is the third event of its kind organised by the staff at Glasgow Film Theatre. Designed to facilitate the sharing of ideas in an open environment, today's FilmCamp celebrated Social Media Week with three talks.
Kicking off at 2pm, the first event invited Netribution's Nic Wistreich to speak about the ongoing revolution in film distribution. Citing exciting film distribution projects and events like Age of Stupid's indie screenings and Secret Cinema, which take films out of the cinema and into new event spaces to create new filmgoing experiences. Despite the economic downturn, distribution is on the rise and, as he sagely noted, you can't pirate a social experience. The media revolution has already happened, and film distributors must find new and creative ways to distribute their films before tech companies create monopolies on the market. This raises the question of how to stand out online, which Ben Kampas from the Scottish Documentary Institute went on to discuss.
Since the draw of documentaries is in good subject matter rather than names and reputations, it's a challenge for documentarians to stand out online. Using a model employed by Virtuous Circle - a Creative Scotland initiative that specialises in audience engagement and retention - documentary filmmakers are beginning to employ campaigning software like NationBuilder to promote their films and ongoing projects. Rather than waiting until the distribution stage to woo audiences, Kempas says, "the film community can really learn from [SNP campaigns using NationBuilder] and we can all build our own nations". Combining the crowdfunding power of Kickstarter with the campaign tracking capabilities of NationBuilder, filmmakers are now able to identify their biggest supporters and encourage their involvement. While this encourages growth for turned-on filmmakers to build communities and returning audiences, it does not necessarily allow entry into mainstream cinematic distribution. Whether or not the crowdfunding model is sustainable remains to be seen, and while there is potential for local distributors like Distrify to increase the availability of film on demand and direct-to-DVD, it's a niche market whose potential is still being discovered.
Another project with great and growing potential is local start-up blipfoto. Founded by Joe Tree as a picture-a-day project, it has become his full-time job. Now operated by a team of six in a small local office, the website boasts 201,000 uniques per month, 1.3million images (each representing a day in a user's life), and each photo has an average of 6 comments. Tree describes the site as, "social networking for people who don't like social networking," and testimonials from a dozen of his users exemplify this. Blipfoto has become a safe haven on the net for creative individuals with the desire to record their lives, one picture at a time.
Blip's user retention rate is something of a marvel, with 48% of users who upload one picture returning; a number which grows exponentially with the number of photos uploaded. Tree describes this user experience as an emotional transaction, and by charging a small annual fee for extra features on the site, Blip sees its users' payments as a way of forging a greater sense of ownership over their online profile. The CEO also expressed a feeling that Facebook doesn't add value to people's lives in a way that Blip can and, in a similar fashion to FourSquare badges, Blip takes the appeal of the added reward and crystalises it with ambition. As users take more pictures, receive comments, and begin to interact with other users, the commitment to taking daily pictures and becoming a part of the community becomes its own reward. By building interest and reward over time, encouraging interaction, and creating lasting value, Blip has become a unique social network with a real community at its heart.
Another community that has grown exponentially in its 6 years (though I'm sure you thought it was longer) is YouTube. Google UK's Industry Manager Danny Gray made his way up to Glasgow to present Press Play for Social. Now that, allegedly, the number of hours we spend watching online video have exceeded that of porn, YouTube is the UK's 2nd largest search engine. A whopping 48 hours of footage is uploaded to YouTube every minute, while 3 billion videos are watched daily. Gray went on to demonstrate more ways in which online video exceeds its conversational counterparts on other major social networks, including Facebook and Twitter. In fact, the two social media gains are YouTube's two biggest traffic referrers. Interestingly, Facebook's biggest referrers are Twitter and YouTube, and Twitter's are YouTube and Facebook. This trifecta of link-sharing has interesting effects on the ways in which we share and consume online video, and measuring KPIs (Key Performance Indicators - all 35 of them) is a big concern for YouTube. The company continues to innovate the ways in which advertising content is viewed online, allowing users to take control with features like TrueView, which gives users the option to skip pre-rolling ads. Promoted videos are also taking over in a similar model to AdWords, allowing paid content to sit at the top of the page as you watch your favourite videos. As Gray puts it, the better you run your paid and owned media, the more you will earn.
The ongoing commercialisation of a social network that began as a hub for user-driven content became very clear during this talk. Rather than promoting user-generated content on the homepage, large companies are now invited to buy advertising space amongst banners for film trailers, and TV content from Channels 4 and Five. If you don't have money, or a following along with a desire to partner on advertising, it is very hard to get noticed on YouTube, let alone have YouTube notice you. While the company finds new and innovative ways to sell you top shelf advertising content, its social media-driven community has fallen into the background. For me, that's what YouTube is all about - but in the commercial world of social media, KPI is King.
Have you attended any Social Media Week events, or is it taking place in your city?
I'll be covering more events throughout the week, including Yomego's Guide to Blogger Outreach, and KILTR Presents (Scottish writer) Alan Bisset. This post also appears as a guest blog on the Social Media Week website.
Read more: Attack the Block DVD Review; Intellect Books: World Film Locations