There is a lot of great discussion in the Canadian film, television and screen media industry right now about “discoverability.” A report was just published by the CMF on the topic, and there is a Discoverability Summit happening in Toronto right now co-hosted by the CRTC and the NFB. I am watching the livestream of the two days and following along on Twitter.
The CanCon Question(s)
Our Canadian government financing and programming for this industry has been about supporting our creative storytellers and getting their CanCon (Canadian Content) out into the world, whether it has been television series or movies. For the past year, the CRTC has been exploring the issue of discoverability and the challenges CanCon faces in the digital space. It’s huge. The online world is truly global (despite the artificial boundaries of geo-blocking). Do we still want to nurture CanCon? If we do, how do we do it? If we thought being cultural neighbours to the blockbuster that is the US, how can CanCon fare well in the wild west of the Internet? How do we help people discover CanCon? The answer lies in those very people. We cannot have discoverability without the discoverers.
The Audience & Discovery
While it is still very important to understand the landscape of online discovery, the mechanisms (search engines, algorithms, social media recommendations, online reviews & suggestion lists, etc) and on-demand delivery systems (Netflix, YouTube, iTunes, etc), there can be nothing discovered without people to discover it. I am more than halfway through the livestream of the Discovery Summit and am happy to hear lots of comments about niche audiences and audience behaviour (especially when it comes to those troublesome teens and millennials). However, a lot of these comments seem to be in passing. There’s no dedicated deep dive into this topic. This is worrisome to me as audience should be front and centre, and at the heart of everything when we are talking about discoverabilty.
3 Reasons to Focus on Audience First
Here are just three reasons to think about audience first for your CanCon story, cultural product or company/brand, especially in an online context:
- We create to connect to an audience. Everyone creates to eventually connect with other people, to have them react to our work.
- Audiences can be activated. If your work moves and connects to people, they can be inspired to some kind of action. It might be as little as a recommendation to a friend and as big as taking action to effect change in the world. Stories and cultural product have great power in this regard.
- Audiences can be monetized. Without an audience you have no opportunity for revenue. Although it sounds crass, it is true that an audience provides eyeballs to look at ads and wallets to pay for that cool T-shirt or digital download.
And never before have creators been more empowered to build their own audience, to create an appetite for discovery of all you have to offer, to leverage those online mechanisms and platforms for discoverability.
5 Truths About Your Audience
In the online context, all of these things are true:
- Your audience is niche. Everything CanCon is going to be niche, we just don’t have the time, resources or local population to be of mass appeal. The good news is that this is very powerful. Niche audiences require niche targeting, speaking to people’s passions and to their hearts. These is so much strength in this kind of connection.
- Your audience already exists. You do not have to build an audience from nothing. Any kind of interest has a community around it already online. And once you know WHO your niches are then you just have to find WHERE they already exist and get to know them. What do they care about? What devices do they use? How do they consume content? Where do they spend there time? Answers to all of these questions are available to you online (often for free).
- Your audience can be grown before you have work to share or sell. Because these communities exist online already, all you have to do is join those communities. Become a valuable and welcome member. Participate in conversations. Spread the word about the things they care about. All this can (and I would argue, should) be done long before you start talking about your work.
- Your audience wants connection. The reason communities grow is because people want to find other people just like them. They also want stories and other creative works that reflect their experience. Connection is key and the digital world provides many tools for connection, for helping you to build the necessary trust to grow an audience for your work.
- Your audience wants to discover. The audience has become empowered like never before. They have so much choice and control. They want more of the stuff they love (in fact, they often cannot get enough). You just need to tap into this desire in an authentic, trusted way. This is the foundation of being successful in the discoverabilty game.
Those are a few of my thoughts on the relationship between discoverability and audience. Did you go to the Discoverabilty Summit? I would love to hear your thoughts. Share your below or send them to me at annelise (at) veria.ca or on Twitter @veriatweet.