By Lucas Wilson
Content is exploding, yet production and post production is crumbling. Those two statements put together make no sense if you’re stuck thinking about the market in the terms we all grew up with.
The world of tentpoles and episodic television is doing what markets do: maturing, automating, and flowing to the lowest cost centers. That will not change or reverse course. Finance… Steel… Automotive… Fabric/Clothing… this is not a new or unpredictable course of events. Many artists increasingly fall into the bucket of what economist Andrew McAfee calls “routine cognitive workers” (http://www.technologyreview.com/news/428429/when-machines-do-your-job/). And as the technology becomes increasingly more sophisticated, McAfee correctly states, “…you don’t need to work as much, as hard, with as many people, to get the fruits of the economy.”
If you’re an artist or a company and still attaching yourself to that model of working, the future is bleak.
I look at the current post production universe, and see no one that has gone out and taken the next logical step: creating a division of business that understands how to create a unified presentation that ties into how the new world of content works. Programmatic buying, DSP and SSP platforms, Auction markets, native ad integration, analytics on paid/owned/earned social media, etc.
Companies like YuMe, Nanigans, and Tremor Video understand that side, but they don’t focus at all on the production and post world. The long-established large post houses understand production and post, but start talking to them about building a multi-tier delivery platform that incorporates things like synchronized and intelligent multi-screen delivery, leveraging analytics and feedback from realtime social media and feeding that back into the content stream, and there is a lot of silence.
Yet both sides of this coin are “post production.” Increasingly, secondary data and image streams are integrated into the same online delivery mechanism online. And if a viewer is seeing and responding concurrently, shouldn’t somebody raise their hand and say, “We can do it all?” The same way that post houses try to take color, VFX, editorial, sound, and whatever else they can out of the traditional post process — they should also be making a bid for ad market and social integration. It is part of the same experience, and could and should be sold that way.
The creative world is in a huge state of flux right now. But, follow the (new) money… Maker Studios (http://www.makerstudios.com) recently closed a $62 million Series C round. Machinima (https://www.machinima.com) closed last year on a $35 million round led by Google. Vevo (http://www.vevo.com) is valued at about $650 million, with a recent $45 million investment from Google via the You Tube business unit.
These are the “new studios,” and the ways that they interact with creators, distribution, and monetization is very different than what we think of when we say “the studios.”
Facebook has unleashed video ads into the news stream. In comments made at the Smarter Mobile Marketing (SM2) conference this past September, Facebook’s VP of Global Marketing Solutions, Carolyn Everson, revealed that during primetime, Facebook had a larger overall demographic reach than ABC, CBS, NBC, and Fox combined (http://www.businessinsider.com/carolyn-everson-on-facebook-vs-tv-audiences-2013-9).
Now look at companies like Nanigans and SocialCode which create massive brand-based monetization streams in the Facebook ecosystem and how they tie into the content stream. In casual conversations I’ve had with executives on that side of the chain, the common wisdom is that Facebook’s path includes becoming a major original content provider. Add that to the list of emerging new studios. Now hands up… which traditional post house that you work with understands how to properly set up a Facebook page/channel and publish content to it including integrated insights that can then feed back into automated buying and content delivery?
And in the middle are the artists and creators. Very few artists or creators I know are adapting in the ways they must in order to survive and profit. They must start to think about secondary data integration as a part of the primary artistic process, and how to deliver that unified package to the new studios. That is the future.
In the print world, the New York Times is reinventing journalism with blended pieces like “Snow Fall” (http://www.nytimes.com/projects/2012/snow-fall/#/?part=tunnel-creek) and their recent revamp that includes deep native ad integration. In music, Arcade Fire and Nine Inch Nails have done some really groundbreaking work in tying old and new worlds together. In video and film, the only people I see truly innovating are some of the top Web series and how they are tying together story, outreach, and monetization. If artists and facilities don’t understand how that world works, then they do not understand how they will make money in the new world. (I believe in this so much, I’ve invested in this world with a new start-up called Revelens.)
The big companies we are familiar with seem to be failing at this effort. They are throwing money at the wall to see what sticks. If there is unified vision and direction behind this, that certainly has not been publicly described. They are chasing after the only thing they understand — the static and unchanging markets of feature films and episodic television. (In future post, I will iterate how I believe that very soon, that world will be hugely challenged by Amazon: http://aws.amazon.com/digital-media. Remember that earlier comment about “routine cognitive workers?”)
If I am Jenna Marbles or HolaSoyGerman, what can they offer me? Very little… yet Jenna has 12 million subscribers with over one billion total views. HolySoyGerman? 14 million and 957 million. If the larger post houses and their ilk want to survive and thrive, they better figure that out… fast.
There is a huge new world of post production emerging and evolving. And it has nothing to do with editing and compositing systems and has much more to do with the Marketing Cloud than the Creative Cloud. I’m paying attention to Tremor Video, YuMe, Amazon, InnoVid, and the dozens of other companies that are exploding into the online video scene.
Redefine what post production means and the logical growth point for our industry becomes very clear… or at least it does to me.
Lucas Wilson is currently VP of Business Development at Assimilate, makers of Scratch, and President/CEO of Revelens, Inc., a slightly stealthy start-up in the area of in-stream content monetization, with a first customer launch within 60 days. You can follow Lucas on Twitter @lucasgw.