What does digital mean to you? Until recently, I naively assumed it meant the same thing to everyone (and you know what your mama said about assume). It’s always important to define shared terms, especially when it comes to strategic planning. And as digital is seen as the wave of the future, the magic bullet for the evolving film and television business, it is VERY important to define what it means. After a three+ month hiatus I return to From Search to Screen to explore the digital question, especially in regards to the opportunities and challenges it provides for screen media (and as inspired by my good friend Nova Alberts – former digital media leader in Saskatchewan and now Yukon Film Commissioner – and the partners at Shift Media Group).
The easiest thing for most people who are part of the old system to understand is that digital is another platform or channel for content/product distribution. The Internet is a way to reach your audience, both directly and through new intermediaries like Netflix or YouTube.
The Opportunity/Challenge: The opportunity for film and television is that there are now so many more options for distributing your work. For many, the exciting thing is that these options are often direct to the consumer. This is especially powerful for those in the indie world who perhaps work outside the conventional distribution system. YOU can be your own channel and use new digital tools to reach more people in more places than ever before. The fact anyone can use these platforms becomes part of the challenge. With 72 hours of video content being uploaded to YouTube every minute, how do you get heard and found above the digital noise?
Beyond a mechanism for distribution, digital also represents many technological opportunities beyond analog. It is a world of programming languages and interactive design. It is full of “wow” and “cool” factor. It is mobile, local and social. It allows you to reach audience through new devices and transfer unbelievable amounts of data quickly and easily.
The Opportunity/Challenge: The biggest opportunity from this functionality is that the Internet can now seamlessly carry video content. It also means every film and TV show can (and likely should) have a website and social media profiles to reach and engage audience directly. But the technological learning curve for those coming from traditional screen media (and the corresponding audience demographic) can be overwhelming. It is important to find that sweet spot for each project – one that leverages enough digital functionality to serve the story and its audience, but not drown everything in so much “wow” and “cool” it becomes unusable by those who are making and engaging with the content.
The amount of data available in the digital world is massive and growing exponentially every second. Data has always been a part of business and advertising, but this is data on steroids. And the extremely powerful new thing about this data is not just WHAT you can know but WHO can know it.
The Opportunity/Challenge: I see huge opportunity in this data (it’s fundamental to what I teach). Each one of us creates data with every action we take online. Some find this scary but I find it exciting. While there is a significant amount of data behind gatekeepers there is still a lot available to anyone for free – through ad platforms like Google AdWords and Facebook, website and social media analytics programs, and other sources. This data represents knowledge, about your audience and what they like. The challenge is that it is easy to get overwhelmed, but I encourage you to be brave and learn what it offers. This really is the magic key to the kingdom of online business models.
Of course, one of the things this data represents is advertising inventory. Online provides much more accurate data on the numbers of the eyeballs seeing individual pieces of content than old print impressions or television audience panel data. This is what advertisers have always bought and that they can now buy with laser precision. Digital also represents new and affordable promotional channels for content creators – search engines, social networks, niche bloggers and other digital marketing tools.
The Opportunity/Challenge: The opportunity is twofold – monetization of your content by selling online advertising and inexpensive promotion to your potential audience. The challenge for selling advertising is attracting enough regular traffic and engagement to your website to have the inventory to sell advertisers (which a digital marketing strategy and great content can solve). And the challenge for using the digital world to promote your content is to truly understand it (it is about two way conversations more than just pushing out promotional messages) and to be strategic and responsive to what the data tells you is working and what is not.
You are all storytellers and the digital world expands how and where you can tell stories. They no longer have to contain only video or be only linear. The interactive functionality of the Internet and digital world presents endless possibilities. You are only limited by your own imagination (and possibly your budget).
The Opportunity/Challenge: Some of the digital stories I have experienced or been a part of include straight linear web series with a robust online community, a Twitter horror movie, a complete transmedia storyworld, many social TV experiences and, of course, great video games. There is no limit to the opportunities the online world presents to storytellers. The challenge is to understand the technology enough to be able to exploit it in this way and perhaps even turn it on its head in service of telling a good story. This can be overwhelming if you are not a digital native but can be a rewarding challenge to accept and conquer.
I would love to hear what digital is for you, your project, your screen media business. I am sure it means more things than I have outlined above and I would love to hear your take. Share your thoughts, ideas, questions below or send them to me at annelise (at) veria.ca or on Twitter @veriatweet.
Next issue: The 4 Key Touchpoints of Evolving SEO
Or revisit the previous issue: [CASE STUDY] Digital Marketing for Television: Battle Castle