For advertising, distribution of online content is every bit as important as its quality.
Lately, it seems every production company in Hollywood has launched an online content division. Talent agencies are even getting involved.
Is it any wonder? There's something sexy about having the hottest new piece of content everyone's talking about. Plus, online you can actually watch the comments -- and views -- add up in real time.
Unlike the content that winds up at your local theater, you're not supposed to pay to see online video content. Instead, someone else is supposed to pay the content producer to make it available for free.
All these producers looking to make sexy content are forgetting one thing: advertisers don't shell out money to be associated with just any content. They do so to be associated with the right content and to reach as many of those right people as possible.
Look at it another way. For advertisers, television delivers more eyeballs, concurrently, than any other medium. Sure, programming content and quality are important for contextual and behavioral relevancy, but advertisers don't buy spots on CBS's "Two and a Half Men" because they like the way their target audiences feel about Charlie Sheen. They buy those spots because the series delivers a large, demographically appropriate audience.
The beauty of this is quality (of programming) can deliver quantity (of viewers). But put the best show in the history of television on at 4 a.m., and your audience is really limited. Put it on a network that no one watches, and you're in even worse shape.
The same holds true for the Web. While high-quality video content has a greater potential to virally spread due to the Web's on-demand, nonsynchronous nature, drawing an audience requires the right distribution strategy. If you want to maximize the potential to make any money from good online content, it'd better live in places other than its official Web site.
Some of the Web's most popular properties are beginning to understand the promotional leverage content can bring to the table, including the potential to break out the next online hit. MySpace, with "Prom Queen," Bebo, with "Kate Modern," and numerous others use the power of social media and social networking to expose this programming to millions, while bringing viewers closer to the property. Ancillary distribution channels are taking advantage of this, too, sometimes offering up a strong enough audience to be a primary channel. Technology/service companies like Blip.tv and VideoEgg and even ad networks like Broadband Enterprises have gotten into the distribution game and have brought with them enough power to create some strong successes.
As a writer's strike looms, this may be a good time for creative talent to realize it's not just how good the talent is, but where content is distributed and promoted. That requires a mixture of creative, media planning, and publicity.
If approached to sponsor online content, advertisers should ask: where will it be distributed, how many promotional impressions will it receive, where will those promotional impressions run, and how many views/ad impressions are guaranteed?
Once those questions are answered, it becomes more fun to discuss the creative integration, because risk will have been minimized and the potential for success will have been increased.
Remember when your parents made you finish your homework before you could go out and play with your friends? Yep. Same thing.
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Ian Schafer, CEO and founder of Deep Focus, consistently redefines the way entertainment properties are marketed online. Ian founded Deep Focus in 2002 to bring a holistic suite of interactive marketing and promotional solutions to the entertainment industry. The company's clients include America Online, Dimension Films, HBO, MGM, Nickelodeon, Sony/BMG Music, 20th Century Fox, Universal Music Group, and many others. As former VP of New Media at Miramax and Dimension Films, Ian was responsible for their most popular online campaigns. He's been featured as an expert in online entertainment marketing and advertising in numerous media outlets including Variety, The Hollywood Reporter, Advertising Age, and CNN.
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