So this is a bit of a departure from the traditional 5 Question Blog Interviews I have done in the past…but for good reason. Matthew Mamet is Director of Product Marketing at PermissionTV and because of the cutting edge work they are doing with online video (and our nearby locations) we decided to do a video version of the 5 Question Blog Interview and to utilize the interactivity of the PermissionTV Platform Player. So without further ado…please enjoy.
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Question#1: For those who are unfamiliar with Permission TV, can you briefly describe what you do?
Question#2: What specific features does the Permission TV platform offer to help enhance the viewers experience and the businesses opportunity to measure viewer engagement?
Question#3: The race to monetize online video is rapidly increasing among different advertising networks and video sharing sites, some are doing it well others are doing it poorly but everyone is struggling to find a model that works. In your opinion, what do you see as the future for monetization of video online?
Question#4: You recently launched the parody web site “I Want My Viral Video.com” poking fun at how some people view viral videos or their “online video strategy”. What was the impetus behind building this site and what kind of response have you received so far?
Question#5: What is the one hint or tip you could share that most companies getting started with online video fail to realize or include or factor into their overall online video marketing?
Bonus Question (surprise!): What can you share in regards to PermissionTVs new product offerings and what you are working on now?
Zak Barron knows EVERYTHING about email marketing. Alright I could be exaggerating a tiny bit but he is the local email marketing expert for Constant Contact in the New England area and he definitely knows his stuff. He runs frequent seminars on email marketing, interactive training workshops, and industry specific programs. I have had the pleasure of doing a few combined seminars with Zak talking about combining online video and email marketing.I asked Zak if he would be interested in taking the hot seat for one of my 5 Question Interviews and without further ado, here are his answers:
Eric Guerin: I’ve heard Constant Contact’s deliverability to ISP’s (Internet Service Providers – i.e. Comcast, AOL, Yahoo, Gmail, etc.) is one of the highest among ESP’s (Email Service Providers like Constant Contact)…how are you able to maintain such a high level of deliverability?
Zak Barron: Good question Eric. Constant Contact currently has a deliverability rate above 97%. This is a key metric for ESP’s that anyone looking for an email marketing service should look at when making their decision. It’s very easy for a company to say, “We have 97% deliverability” so make sure you ask if that is the ESP’s number or a 3rd party number. Constant Contact uses an outside unbiased 3rd party called Return Path to evaluate our delivery rate. The reason that we are able to maintain this high deliverability rate is because we require all of our customers to use permission based email lists. We have built personal relationships with postmasters at many ISP’s, and they know that we share the same contempt for SPAM email, this also greatly impacts how the ISP’s view Constant Contact as a large sender of email messages.
EG: You mentioned permission based email lists, can you briefly explain what the importance of an “opt-in email list” is and why you would NEVER want to buy an email address list from another company?
ZB: It is critical to a business that it only use email to communicate with those whom have given their permission to receive emails from that business. Given that statement there are 2 levels of permission; implicit, and explicit. Implicit covers anyone that you have a prior business relationship with, but you might not have told them that you are going to begin sending them email campaigns. Explicit permission means that you are actually setting the expectation when you collect the contact information of a customer, or prospect, that they will be getting email campaigns. The main reason that a business needs to build it’s list in this manner is the issue of SPAM. Over the years consumers have become very weary of who they provide their contact information to, and how they react to messages that they have not asked for in their inboxes. With many email clients allowing their users to report unwanted email as SPAM, the ISP’s are able to track the reputation of senders and penalize them if they get to many SPAM reports/complaints by not allowing them access to their(ISP’s) customers inbox. The point is that a purchased or rented list will get tons of SPAM complaints, certainly enough to be noticed by the ISP’s. A business that insists on this practice will find themselves on industry wide “blocklists, or blacklists” which will directly affect the businesses ability to get email marketing campaigns out the door.
EG: That relationship with your contacts is really the key to a successful email marketing plan. Speaking of relationships, how does Constant Contact engage online and build community for their users?
Constant Contact’s ConnectUp! user community was designed as a forum to share the entrepreneurial energy and passion that drives small businesses and organizations. The community provides a host of tools and technologies that enable you to connect with your peers, exchange ideas and find answers to your questions about email marketing, online surveys and small business issues in general.
As a paying Constant Contact customer, you can bring email marketing and online survey tools to your favorite eligible community organization-at no cost to you! Through Cares4Kids you can help an organization reach new donors, publicize their good works, plan events-and use their precious funding to carry out their mission. It all starts with one quick application.. More than 900 worthy organizations have received free accounts on behalf of Constant Contact’s Cares4Kids program.
EG: Where does Constant Contact see the future of email marketing headed particularly with more and more people using mobile devices to open and access their email?
ZB: If you would have asked me this a year ago, I would have told you that it was going to affect open rates in a major way. The tracking mechanism that CTCT uses is a small image in the body of the HTML email. So this means that all text based email clients are tough to track. With the release of the iPhone, and many other mobile devices that can read HTML, I see open rates actually improving and becoming more accurate, as most smart phones will be switching to the HTML platform.
EG: What is the one hint or tip you could share that most people doing email marketing fail to realize or include in their email marketing campaign?
ZB: I think one of the biggest mistakes that a lot of email marketers make is that they fail to set the proper expectations at the outset of their email relationship with their customers and prospects. Being clear as to the content and frequency of the messages you will be sending is vital. Instead of saying “sign up for me email newsletter” say “sign up for my monthly newsletter.” Half of the battle in email marketing is validating your place in your recipient’s inbox, and setting/managing expectations is key to that validation.
Ken George, new media production manager for Boston-based public radio station WBUR, 90.9 F.M., (one of the largest NPR-affiliated stations in the country) was bitten by the social media bug early last year.
Prior to 90.9, Ken was production editor for Masslive.com, a regional web portal based in Western Massachusetts.
After reading Ken’s blog, a chronicle of 90.9’s “web 2.0” initiatives, and following his “Tweets,” I got a chance to finally meet him at the station’s first “Tweet-Up” held in July 2008. Since then Ken has taken to organizing and hosting these events on an almost monthly basis.
WBUR is embarking on some really cool experimentation in the social media space, demonstrating a level of engagement and transparency pretty unusual for a major market broadcaster. As Ken is the mover and shaker behind this, I asked him to share his perspectives on what he is trying to accomplish for the station.
Without further ado, here is our conversation:
Eric Guerin: What prompted WBUR to get involved with social media and what websites/applications are you active on?
Ken George: We had been marginally tooling around with various social media sites like Flickr, YouTube for a number of years now. While great channels to port our new media content into, we never used those spaces to “converse” with users or listeners.
My eureka moment is a direct result of my attending one of the social media breakfasts last May. What I heard blew my mind. I left with a steely resolve to engage far more transparently and consistently with listeners via social media tools.
Twitter proved instrumental to this end. Why? I think the way it enabled almost real-time conversations. The more I Tweeted, the more followers I accrued and the more I would Tweet. A real self-reinforcing positive feedback loop.
EG: According to the most recent statistics I heard for public radio, the average age of an NPR listener is 47 and continues to trend older year after year. How does this age demographic of WBUR listeners, affect your approach to social media engagement?
KG: You’ve identified a huge problem with that question. For the most part, the “traditional listeners” are not the ones responding to our social media outreach. And frankly, I am unconvinced there is much I can do to reach those listeners via social media.
I see my efforts as helping the station to reach new markets and position itself for the future characterized by a limitless supply of on-demand content. Community will be the one trump card we can play to distinguish us from all the other guys.
EG: What are the biggest challenges WBUR faces as the way people receive news is changing?
KG: The unparalleled access to information, content, news on demand presents a huge challenge. Public radio operates best in an environment of information scarcity. When locked in your car you choices are 90.9, some innovative college programming or boatloads of crap.
This completely breaks down on the Web, where you can get all kinds of radio programs and other compelling content ad infinitium.
And of course there is the issue of money, specifically the amount advertisers (underwriters in public broadcaster parlance) will fork over to get mentioned over the airwaves. That revenue helps cover the considerable costs associated with radio production. On the web, those analog advertising dollars become digital pennies.
EG: You’ve started a monthly “TweetUp” at your studios where anyone can show up, get a tour and engage in a round table discussion about many different topics. How did you come up with the idea for this and what was the driving force behind it?
KG: The “Tweet-Ups” where a natural outgrowth of our social media experimentation. NPR resident social media evangelist (oh that term again!) It was from Andy Carvin, who among other things is tasked with getting National Public Radio affiliated stations onto the social media bandwagon, that I learned about “Tweet-Ups.”
So I thought “What the hay, let’s give it a go and see what happens.” I was dubious folks would attend, and was very gratified to see my misgivings were unwarranted. And these events have been of tremendous value to the station. The core attendees (yourself included of course) serve as a brain trust of sorts that have in no small way helped guide 90.9’s digital media efforts.
I think my strong feelings about empowering the “public” in “public radio” is what has made me a fanatic about hosting these events monthly. You folks have supported us through thick and thin. It is only fair play that you be invited in to tell us what you think (even if at times it is not necessary something we want to hear). I think that is incredibly empowering for listeners.
EG: Being public radio you need to do fund-raising to stay on the air, how have you used your social media connections to help promote and donate to your pledge drive?
KG: We are in the embryonic phrase of tying social media to pledging. The end of the year fund drive last December represented the first time we tried using social media to solicit pledges. I would remind folks (mostly via Twitter) that the fund drive was on and direct them to a specific landing page so we can quantify the results. Our overall take via social media was small, but then the initiative was rather last minute and haphazard.
The plan is that the next time we try this we are a little more organized and consistent. We may (“may” being the operative word) even deploy “micro-pledging” applications across the social media space.
One of the greatest and worst things about Twitter is the constant stream of conversation. It’s constantly changing. Yeah you can search to find posts you are interested in but I always thought there should be an easier way to connect with people who have like-minded interests and to follow a conversation that was threaded rather than searching for hashtags to follow the conversation. Hashtags are so MS-DOS, they’re like the mullet haircut – completely out of style and outdated even while it was popular. Which is why I was SO happy to find Tweetworks. I think Tweetworks will bring Twitter to the mass audience of internet users in a way that they can understand.
This 5 Question Interview is with Mike Langford who is the CEO, Founder and Funder of Tweetworks LLC. Mike is a serial entrepreneur with passion for making a difference in peoples lives. Something many people don’t know about Mike is he LOVES to talk. He claims it’s genetic and that if you meet his Grandmother, parents or his young son you’ll be left with no doubt that he’s a born talker. One on one or in front of a crowd, he thrives on conversation. (Tweetworks seems a natural fit now doesn’t it?)
Eric Guerin: Because Tweetworks is a new user interface for Twitter which uses 140 characters or less per update…can you describe what Tweetworks is in 140 characters or less?
Mike Langford: Tweetworks helps you talk with people who like to talk about the things you like to talk about.
EG: Threaded conversations on Tweetworks really make following conversations much easier. On Twitter you used to have to use a hashtag and then search for the conversation on a separate site which seemed like such an archaic way of having a conversation in this day and age. Can you explain how threaded conversations work on Tweetworks and how you came up with the concept for it?
ML: We capture, store and associate all posts made on Tweetworks in a relational database prior to passing them on to Twitter. What makes Tweetworks different than Twitter is the way we approach conversations. The way posts are presented on Twitter is as if each tweet were an independent and unrelated thought. In reality, a great deal of what is posted on Twitter is a reply to a previous statement. And in many cases you’ll find several different people replying to a single post made by one person.
I noticed early on that people like to crowd source on Twitter. It seems logical, you’ve got hundreds or in some cases thousands of people as a resource pool why not ask them stuff? The problem, as I found out, is that a Twitter user needs to be a social media celebrity like Chris Brogan or Guy Kawasaki to have a reasonable expectation of receiving a significant number of responses. Why? Think of it for a minute, Twitter only displays 20 posts at a time. And while you can click older, or use a desktop app like Tweetdeck or Twhirl which allow for easier scrolling the challenge remains, your followers are only seeing 10 to 20 tweets at a time. What this means for the average Twitter user is that he needs to hope that his followers just happen to be looking at the screen when his tweet hits. And with many people following hundreds of people that list of 20 tweets is refreshing pretty quickly. In short, the odds aren’t in your favor for a robust and inclusive discussion with Twitter’s current format.
So I thought, what if we created a way for people to start a discussion or ask a question and have the stream stay together? Then I thought, what if anyone, not just followers, could participate in the discussion? I mean, the only reason I have this weird follower/following thing going on is so I can have a reasonable prospect of having a conversation when I’m on Twitter right? So, we decided to remove the follower contingency and open it up. On Tweetworks conversation is king.
EG: One of the coolest features you have on Tweetworks are public and private “Groups”. Can you explain what the groups are and how they work?
ML: The randomness of Twitter is fun and super cool but it has it’s limitations. As human beings we tend to group things. Believe it or not it is this tendency that leads most people to follow the people they follow. You go to a conference on a certain topic like say a Pod Camp and you meet a bunch of new friends who like to talk about social media. So, you follow them because you had fun talking about social media. But, now your timeline is filled with tweets from these people on a whole bunch of other crap you have no interest in. At Tweetworks we thought a better approach would be to allow people to talk about what they like to talk about when they want to talk about it with other people who like to talk about the same stuff. To accomplish this we allow users to form or join whatever public group they’d like.
The private groups are a little different in that we add the ability to control the “who” part of the conversations that take place inside the group. Private groups are very useful for businesses, clubs, fantasy sports leagues, and sensitive topics.
EG: Unlike many social media tools I was impressed that you already have a plan & outline for eventual monetization, can you briefly discuss this?
ML: The point of starting a business is to earn money isn’t it? I’m not a software engineer with crazy coding skills that sat down one day and thought Tweetworks would be a cool mashup project. I found myself seeing a real problem that if solved would create real value. If Tweetworks is successful in creating value then we should put in place mechanisms to be compensated so we can continue to provide value to our users. I think it is a shame that people create these amazing tools and they eventually have to shut down because they simply could not afford to support the large number of users that adopted their creation. Look no further that Quotably, it was very popular but it is no more. While Ben Tucker cites Twitter’s pipe access as a reason for the shut down, I assume he would have found a work around if the venture were profitable.
Okay, enough pontificating on the why we have a revenue model let’s get to it. Tweetworks has two revenue sources, Pro Accounts and Group Sponsorship.
Pro Account: We rolled out unlimited private group access as our first Pro Account offering. For $24.95/yr a user will be able to have as many private Tweetworks groups as he would like.
Group Sponsorship: Tweetworks groups are available for sponsorship by businesses or individuals. We use the term sponsor because it carries a different weight and expectation than advertiser. On Tweetworks a sponsor will have its profile, or custom copy, displayed prominently in the Group Information Bar and their tweets will be highlighted when displayed in the group. This allows the sponsor to stand out in the crowd of tweets that are relevant to its business. It is our expectation that sponsors will be active and responsible participants in the community (group) in which they sponsor. For the other participants in the community having an active sponsor should feel much less intrusive than straight advertising. To start Sponsorship packages will be priced at 3 days for $45, 7 days at $84, and $150 for 15 days. The flat package pricing will make it simple and easy for a sponsor to jump in and get started.
EG: I know Tweetworks is only in its initial launch phase, what cool new features can we expect next?
ML: One of our next steps is to create and open up our API so that desktop, mobile and other third party applications can port into Tweetworks. We are walking that weird line of needing to include the early adopters of Twitter and staying true to our value proposition. Some people REALLY want us to bring the all of their followers’ activity into Tweetworks and we aren’t planning to do that. But, if we either partnered with an existing desktop application such as Twhirl or Tweetdeck, or develop our own we could make these people happy and still provide the robust Tweetworks experience. It is important to remember that there are millions of registered user names on Twitter but the majority of the population has no idea what it is and why they should consider using it. In the end, it is these new users that will make up the bulk of our customers.
Some other cool things we are working on are RSS feeds for groups and activity notification. We’ve had several requests from people who would like to post their group’s activity on an external website and we think that is a great idea. We’ve also noticed that some users come to the site, participate in a group and then we don’t see them for a while. The challenge with a new community is that it takes some time for the party to heat up. We need to work hard to get people to come to Tweetworks and revisit frequently enough so we build up momentum. We are getting there, I am very pleased with the success we are having so far.
EG: Thanks Mike!
To those of you reading who have been hesitant to check out Twitter or been intimidated by it, go check out Tweetworks. I highly recommend it.
A couple of months ago, I responded to a request on Twitter from Danny Brown asking if anyone would be interested in being interviewed for a discussion on social media. I replied with my answers and became one of the first in a series of posts he did as part of his “Discussing Social Media” blog article series. Knowing what my answers were for why I used social media, I was very interested to hear what Danny’s perspective was on a lot of the same issues, however I changed some of the questions a bit to focus more on PR and how that is changing.
Danny Brown is the owner of Press Release PR, a boutique agency specializing in search engine optimized press releases and social media PR. He is a blog partner of the iEntry and WebProNews business network and a contributor to the Dad-o-Matic project.
Eric Guerin: Why is it important to have a search engine optimized press releases in this Web 2.0 world?
Danny Brown: There are many reasons why a search engine optimized press release still offers value even with social media and Web 2.0 taking such prominence. The key advantage is your prominence in search engines. If a press release is optimized properly then your keywords will see you appear near the top of the major search engines for relevant searches.
This makes it easier for your target audience to find you, as well as bloggers who’re interested in your product. So there’s a definite synergy between SEO press releases and Web 2.0 / social media. And of course there are the backlinks to your site.
EG: How does traditional channel public relations differ from Social Media PR?
DB: Traditional PR will see you approach your promotional campaign from the viewpoint of getting your news on TV, radio or print. You send your news out to your media contacts and relevant outlets and hopefully it’ll be picked up. Social media PR still uses these tools, but it also uses much more. Imagine a Twitter conversation where you can have your client answering questions in an impromptu Twitter meeting, using hashtags to separate from the normal conversation. Or you get to the front page of Digg and all of a sudden your news is viral.
Then you have the social media news release benefits, where you can show videos and a visual tour of you, your company or product. This is far more stimulating and interactive than a traditional PR campaign.
THAT’S the beauty of social media – your client can truly interact from the off, as opposed to hoping for interaction with traditional media outlets. It’s also incredibly cost-effective for the client, compared to often prohibitive traditional PR campaigns.
EG: What social media tools or applications do you use?
DB: There are a few I use for different reasons on a personal level. These are the usual suspects – Twitter, Digg, Stumbleupon, Technorati, etc.
However, from a PR side, there are some excellent applications that aren’t being utilized anywhere near enough. For example, I’ve been a big fan of BackType from Day 1 – the ability to view comments on blogs that are discussing your business or brand is invaluable, and offers a great way to offer instant reaction. I’ve already mentioned how Twitter can be used for PR – but its applications are where it’s really at.
For instance, I use Tweetcloud to offer clients a visual overview of why Twitter is invaluable at connecting with their audience. It shows how popular a brand or term is, as well as offering a business an idea of what their competitors are discussing, and with whom. This kind of information is invaluable when extolling the benefits of social media. I also recommend any client to use Google Alerts and Serph to monitor their company’s reputation online.
EG:f you only had access to one social media tool which would you choose and why?
DB: If it was just one, I’d seriously have to say Twitter. This is without a doubt the future of business networking and micro-blogging, as well as brand promotion, and I can’t believe how many businesses haven’t realized this yet.
EG: What is the one thing you know about social media that many people don’t know or don’t understand?
I’d probably say the understanding that social media is a two-way thing. Most companies that enter social media do so for the wrong reasons – they’re either looking for the quick result, or the all-important Return on Investment (ROI). Social media doesn’t work this way – one thing I always make sure my clients are aware of.
It’s all about building the relationships with the people that can make a difference for you – customers, contemporaries, even competitors in some instances. Interact with your audience, build up that mutual trust and respect. Know that you’re in it for the long haul and that you can’t use social media just to broadcast messages about you and you alone.
Gaining that understanding will enable you to place more emphasis on building long-term relationships that will offer sustained results, as opposed to the quick buck ones that never last. You’ll also be in a far stronger position to build brand loyalty than any of your competitors that aren’t using social media – and that’s a powerful enough reason on its own for using it.
One of the people I follow on Twitter is Marc Lougee (or @luge if you are a Twitter user) who is a director and film producer based in Toronto. I am a big fan of Edgar Allan Poe AND stop motion animation so when I saw that he had created a short film of The Pit and the Pendulum I was intrigued. When it came out on DVD I ordered it immediately and was completely blown away. The stop motion animated short feature itself was completely amazing and the addition of the interviews and the many special features really made this DVD special. I asked Marc on Twitter if I could interview him for my blog and he kindly obliged:
EG: Can you give a brief synopsis of The Pit & the Pendulum (for those who aren’t familiar with the work by Poe) and what inspired you about this story to interpret it into a short film?
ML: In the film, as in the original story, a lone prisoner of the Spanish Inquisition is tried and condemned to a horrible fate, which he can only imagine based on the rumors of the Inquisitor’s particular brand of awful. While he’s locked up in the dark, he wrestles with hope and faith as his captors ratchet up their efforts to unhinge him.
I was inspired to do the film, initially, with a phone call from Ray Harryhausen’s agent! I was literally just wrapping up a series gig, and looking at a break of a few months (over the summer!) so making a short wasn’t really on the plan. Until I got “The Call”.
Ray was keen to see a small-scale production of The Fall of the House of Usher (a classic Poe story well worth a film, surely), but Susan Ma (Producer on the Pit & Pendulum, and my lovely wife) and I worked out some numbers and had to break the news to Ray this was just too massive a thing to wrangle with the time and available resources. So, I pitched The Pit and the Pendulum, thinking it’s only a few walls, rats, a large Pit and some flaming fireboxes…what could go wrong? Two plus years later, we finally wrestled the beast onto a DVD with a lot of extras.
EG: That’s amazing that Ray Harryhausen was involved in the production of the film! I grew up loving his movies and being a huge fan of his work. What was it like having him as the producer of The Pit & The Pendulum and how much involvement did he have in your process?
ML: Working with Ray Harryhausen on The Pit and the Pendulum was literally a dream come true. If someone had told me with a degree of seriousness this might be coming down the road, I’d have fallen off my chair laughing. It’s like winning the lottery, for me; and considering I haven’t bought tickets, it’s that much more astounding.
Ray’s involvement was very much on the creative side; he had approval on everything, as one might imagine. If the stuff was lacking, in his eyes, we didn’t move forward until we got his blessing. Susan and I wouldn’t have it any other way, really. Ray cleared the designs, script, even the crew; we sent him bios and demo reels of the folks we were planning to work with on the project, a lot of the folks I’d been working on other series and films with in the past. It was a pretty amazing bunch of folks hooked up for this, so I was totally confident this thing would look and sound great, regardless of how badly I did my job! Ray was definitely hands on, in the sense he had final say over everything we did on the production end.
EG: The animation used in the piece is traditional stop motion animation and your style, set design and color scheme perfectly captured the impending doom that Poe so accurately describes in his story. Why did you choose to utilize this method to tell the story rather than computer animation?
ML: I’m a huge fan of stop motion animation, and the illusion of the human eye that’s inherent in the process- visual trickery is a blast to pull off when done well. I thought the medium, theme; story and style would all play nicely together on this particular project. Thankfully, there are lots of folks that agree (Ray included), and it worked out. As much as I like working on CG projects (and I’ve done a few- series, films, commercial spots, etc, as both animator and director), I see the various techniques as tools, as a method of getting the most important part told, the story. Without a strong story, and strong characters, there really isn’t much that will save the project. Of course one can polish a brick to high degree of shine, but it’ll always be a brick. So, the way we wanted to tell the story and Ray’s involvement, really dictated how we approached the film and the use of stop motion animation. Truth be told, my angle, and part of my pitch to Ray, was to add certain CG elements and cutting-edge digital visual effects techniques to the film, adding a level of mystery, or ‘how did they do that?” to the mix. There are a few elements in the film that are completely CG animated, but produced to be seamless, so to tell the story and not bring attention to technique itself. I feel various techniques and tools, used properly, will enable viewers to forget about the fact they’re watching an animated film and allow them to become invested in the characters and story. Stop motion animation and CG visual effects can work brilliantly together, giving us a huge range of possibilities. Mixing the traditional, old school with the new; that’s where some very cool stuff happens.
EG: I know that the musical score was done almost completely virtually over the internet. How much of the film collaboration was done on site at your studio in Toronto and how much was done virtually using the internet? What was that process like?
ML: Thankfully, we had the great fortune of having an excellent composer, Philip Stanger, who is the bomb. He’s extremely talented, has many years of experience and is the most amazing musician. When I had first met with Philip, I showed him the rough cut of the film, and almost instantly, he had the basic tune. This was before I had even got my coffee cup to my lips! Amazing. He was attuned to what we were looking for, and is a huge fan of Poe and Gothic music already, that it was literally instantaneous for him. Really, the process couldn’t have been easier, from that point on.
Philip, aside from being a brilliant composer, is also extremely tech savvy; so as he was in London scoring The Pit and the Pendulum music sending digital files to Toronto for work by our mixer, John, who then would resend them back to Philip for further work. With the time delay between London & Toronto, they were essentially flip-flopping day to night, so there was no real ‘down time’ in the process. Things went very smoothly with the system, so we had the music quite quickly.
I didn’t get the final files until I was in the final mix session for the film, where I heard everything layered in properly. I was totally blown away. The entire score was produced using digital technology, sampling, etc, as we had a very limited budget, so there was no ‘live performance’ recording. All digital, all the time. Philip just worked magic.
EG: One of the unique things you did for marketing and promoting the film was you were very active on social media networking sites such as Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, YouTube, etc. How did you utilize some of these social media networking sites for the promotion of The Pit & the Pendulum?
ML: My experience with promoting stuff I’ve worked on was primarily the festival route, or sending a lot of emails to friends and colleagues. This being fairly limited in scope and breadth, I got very interested in seeing what all that I might be able to do with social networking, Web 2.0, etc. I looked around for resources and eventually found filmmakers using the latest online gadgets, tools and techniques to promote their projects. Some of these folks were doing brilliant things, really thinking outside of the box, and I was totally intrigued. I looked at their approaches, modified and adapted them for my own ideas, and went bananas teaching myself how this worked. Dealing with the various tools, sites, gadgets, widgets, etc, I managed to see what was working or not working, and re-prioritized to using just what I thought was getting the most response. Hence, YouTube, LinkedIn, Twitter, MySpace, et al. Of course these are like saying social networking is ice cream, and the above mentioned venues are like flavors, so I choose to use what I liked, found easy to work with, etc. By focusing on the various sites I can handle technically (and with the shallowest learning curve), I spent more time learning the ins and outs, and how to maximize the potential of each. This might sound abstract, but it really comes down to my finding tools I liked to use, learning how to use them to maximum benefit, and going bananas working them to promote the film. One of the best aspects is they are all free, have huge audience potential, and allow a back & forth between the filmmaker and audience. Sharing, forums, feedback, it’s all there, so it’s quite a cool way to push your film project along to a global audience. One great resource has been Lance Weiler’s workbookproject.com. Lance is a genius with this stuff, and has a track record to prove it. Once he started up the ‘Project, he’s also been attracting other like-minded folks from all over the indie film sphere, all of whom have been using social networking to benefit the promotion of their films. If Web 2.0 is on your mind as a filmmaker: run…don’t walk over there- you’ll be happy you did.
Many people think that YouTube is the only online video sharing site on the market and that is far from the truth. One of the best video sharing sites I highly recommend and use frequently is Metacafe. Metacafe is one of the world’s largest video sites, attracting more than 25 million unique viewers each month and it specializes in short-form original content – from small independent artists to large established Hollywood production studios alike.
For this month’s interview feature I spoke with Michelle Cox who is the communications director for Metacafe. When she’s not busy watching videos, talking about videos or thinking of videos… well, she’s probably asleep (and dreaming about videos). After chatting about our favorite videos…we got the interview started:
EG: Alright Michelle, I’m starting out with a tough one…what makes Metacafe unique when compared to other video sharing sites like YouTube?
MC: YouTube created the online video industry. We at Metacafe are creating the short-form video entertainment industry. We aren’t interested in providing a platform for any and every video. We’re focused solely on made-for-the-web content that is entertaining to a large and diverse audience. We think short-form is poised to take its place as the third pillar of the video entertainment industry, alongside TV and movies. There are so many talented producers out there making some really creative, innovative, entertaining short videos – from individual independent filmmakers to boutique production houses to major media companies. Metacafe is the premier destination for distribution of this content, and our unique approach to people-powered programming ensures that the videos our audience finds most entertaining receive maximum exposure on the site.
EG: What do you mean by “people-powered programming”?
MC: We engage our 30 million monthly viewers every step of the way in creating the Metacafe entertainment experience. First, our community review panel – made up of 80,000 volunteers around the world – takes a first look at every video uploaded to the site. They help us eliminate any videos that are inappropriate, and they help identify the videos that are most likely to prove entertaining to the larger audience. Second, once a video is on the site, our VideoRankTM technology is constantly looking at how viewers react to it – telling us how entertaining it is based on factors such as how many people watch it to the end, watch it more than once, send it to a friend, mark it as a favorite, and more. The higher a video’s VideoRankTM, the more likely it is to be featured on our home page, in our recommendation engine and other key areas around the site. Third, our viewers determine which videos earn money through our Producer Rewards® program – we pay $5 for every 1,000 views of an original video accepted into the program.
EG: One of your new features that recently made its debut on Metacafe is PLYfx, do you want to say a few words about this cool new feature?
MC: It is a really cool new feature! PLYfx is a creativity toolkit that enables Metacafe viewers to personalize their entertainment experiences by adding dialog bubbles, photos, webcam video, clip art, subtitles and more to videos. Once you’ve personalized a video, you can save it with a unique URL and even send it to your friends directly from the Metacafe video player. PLYfx is currently in beta testing, but anyone can check it out by clicking the “Enable PLYfx” button embedded in this Metacafe blog post.
EG: The opportunities to monetize online video are rapidly increasing across many of the top video sharing sites, how does Metacafe allow the video producer to monetize their video?
MC: Our Producer Rewards® program was one of the first to pay independent video creators for their work, and we’ve paid well over $1 million to hundreds of creators since the program launched in October of 2006. Any creator can submit a video for consideration, and the basic requirements are simply that it be an original work that is appropriate for and proves entertaining to our large and diverse audience. We pay $5 for every 1,000 views, and the creator gets the first payment for $100 after the video crosses the 20,000 views threshold. We’ve also recently established partnerships with a number of boutique production firms creating short-form content for the web – companies such as 60 Frames, Howcast, Next New Networks, Aniboom and others. These are revenue-sharing based relationships in which we share a percentage of advertising revenue with content creators.
EG: What is the one hint or tip you could share that most people creating videos fail to realize or include in the production or launching of their video on Metacafe? What makes the difference between a good video with a handful of views and a great video with thousands of views?
MC: There’s no magic formula, but a few tips for success:
Capture the viewer’s attention immediately – In short-form entertainment, you need to get into the action right away. Lead with the punch line and keep it punchy throughout.
Do something original – Viewers are always looking for something new. Amaze us!
Keep it short – The average video on Metacafe is 90 seconds long. We don’t accept anything longer than 10 minutes, and we find that viewers start dropping off after 3 minutes or so.
Make a high-quality production – You don’t need expensive equipment, but you should spend the time to ensure your video looks and sounds good. Write a script. Use a microphone. Light your set.
Package your video well – A video’s title, tags, description and thumbnail make the difference between a video that stands out from the crowd and one that gets lost in a sea of content. Be thorough and accurate in creating the metadata for your video to ensure it reaches the right viewers and meets their expectations.
EG: What is coming down the pipe from Metacafe to stay ahead of the game or enhance the user experience?
MC: One of the big things we’re focused on right now is rolling out Wikicafe – a mass collaboration platform that empowers our community to edit video metadata. The feature is currently in beta testing with our registered users, and we’ll be officially launching the feature later this summer. I really can’t emphasize enough how critical thorough and accurate titles, tags, descriptions and other information about a video are. The challenges of video search are well documented, and we think Wikicafe will help address many of these problems. Ultimately, it’s about matching the right videos with the right viewers – and the right advertisers with those viewers. We’re serious about engaging our community every step of the way, and Wikicafe is a natural next step in our people-powered programming approach.
Anyone who has talked to me recently about online video distribution knows I have been singing the praises of TubeMogul. Founded in 2006 by online video buffs who met while in graduate school, TubeMogul’s objective from the start has been to empower online video producers, advertisers and the online video industry by providing publishing tools and insightful, easy to interpret analytics.
With TubeMogul, users upload videos once and TubeMogul deploys them to as many of the top video sharing sites the producer chooses. TubeMogul’s integrated analytics then provide a single source of metrics on where, when, and how often the videos are viewed. Best of all, this service is FREE.
As part of my love of TubeMogul’s services I contacted them to see if I could interview someone for my blog. David Burch, the Marketing Manager for TubeMogul, kindly obliged.
David Burch is 25 years old and studied at Berkeley, where he currently resides and where TubeMogul is based. His previous job was as Content Manager for an e-commerce startup in San Francisco. After briefly attending law school, he found his way to TubeMogul, where he currently heads up their marketing efforts.
The previous night someone in his neighborhood in Berkeley was singing songs in French at the top of their lungs which kept David up for most of the night. After I promised not to break into “Non, Je Ne Regrette Rien” during the interview…we got down to business and commenced:
Eric Guerin: So David, how was TubeMogul able to partner with so many video sharing sites to provide a solution to video deployment and especially aggregate video viewing statistics?
David Burch: Video sites are eager to make life easier for their users, and we help do that with our free distribution and analytics tools. While our CEO has the “biz dev chops,” it is our 30,000 passionate users, from CBS Interactive and Next New Networks on down to vloggers and struggling filmmakers, that are truly responsible for making these deals happen by putting out high-quality content that these video sites want to sell advertising around.
EG: How are you able to offer such a robust product for free?
DB: While there are over 30,000 free users of TubeMogul mainly made up of vloggers and small independent video production studios, our business is able to “keep the lights on” because of clients such as CBS Interactive, Michael Eisner’s new media production company, Vuguru, Next New Networks and several agencies representing the top brands in media technology and consumer products. These clients require more robust services such as BuzzTracker which allows companies to track buzz in the user generated content world or compare their brand versus their competitors by tracking videos and viewership across the internet based upon selected keywords. We even assist some of these companies by managing viral marketing campaigns and hiring production studios to create “response videos” to increase their brand recognition.
EG: TubeMogul’s industry analysis and reports are incredibly in depth and helpful to any video publisher looking to gain more information about various video sharing sites, what constitutes a view, etc. What led TubeMogul to become so forward thinking regarding this research and analysis?
DB: Thanks! Having deployed over 800,000 videos, we have a wealth of data on online video viewership and are trying to share it with the world. Since we sell the graph and not a particular video player or advertiser, our only agenda is truth.
EG: One big thing I know a lot of online video producers would find beneficial is being able to track if people watch the video to completion or the overall length of time they watched the video. Dealing with so many different video sharing sites, will this be a possibility in the near future?
DB: Getting in-player statistics like that is something we are working on, both in terms of the engineering and in getting the deals with sites. Many video sites are understandably cautious about letting us that deep into their code, but several are coming around and we expect the rest to follow, given the power of these statistics. Also, since we are becoming a nexus of sorts for online video, these deals are starting to look more and more realistic.
EG: What is TubeMogul working on now to stay ahead of the curve with online video deployment and marketing tools? Any ideas or concepts you could share?
DB: Our main focus is on more distribution venues, richer data and new features. One of our current Premium Products will be made free in August. We are also constantly querying the data to look for trends for new studies. Increasingly, journalists and advertisers are calling with questions and interesting ideas.
EG: Any new video sharing sites that are emerging or are doing things to really augment the user experience?
DB: One video sharing site that’s really doing exciting things is Viddler. They have a really cool player that allows viewers to tag and place comments or video response links anywhere along the player timeline. It really has taken the video player to another level of online functionality and interactivity for the user.