Monday, 25 January 2010

My Internet 2009 Top 5:'s Interview Project

2009 wasn't a good year for the entertainment sector. I wish it were otherwise, but it's not. When I talk about the entertainment business, I'm not referring to the music industry, which I already discussed here. I'm neither referring to the sports industry which will be the topic of my next post. I'm talking about everything related to film and television.

First the good news: I think the display advertising for films has been really great this year. Video has become something really big on the internet in general, and in on-line display advertising specifically. Of course the film industry benefits widely from this trend, since their main marketing has been releasing trailers. So it's just a small step to put these trailers into a banner. More often than not, these banners are very elegantly produced and they tend to be expandable, with some really special extras, some nice interaction.

Unfortunately, the good news ends here. First of all, too much campaigns are promoted by some flash mini-site: they include long loading times, annoying navigation and they completely lack any relevant content. More than often they have a game, some links to social media, even a mobile application of some sort. It looks like somebody from the studios has heard what is hip today (advergaming - yeah! Social media - wow! iPhone app - sweet), and they just need to have it, without thinking it through. A good example is this site for 2012 – you'll get my point right away. Marketing is not about having the next big thing, it's what you do with it.

More importantly: for as good as the new ways of showing film-trailers might be, it's still old-skool advertising and it doesn't reflect a clever way of understanding what the internet is about.

The entertainment industry should have learned by now that you can't fight the internet, but that you have to embrace it's model and find your way in it. The music industry has been fighting the internet for a long time, and every time a P2P website was closed, another one opened. People wanted their songs available on the internet, and piracy was the only viable option for a lot of people for a long time. Until – at last – something like Spotify or Pandora came around with a good model of a streaming-based music service.

So my question is: when will we be able to watch our films and series on a similar platform? Since I'm on Spotify I haven't downloaded one single illegal song. OK, I also stopped buying records, but if the business model of Spotify works, I've heard my fair share of advertising, and this advertising should generate income for the artists I listen to.
On the other hand I am still watching films and series on illegal streaming or downloading sites. This is basically so since there is no real alternative on-line. OK, there is Amazon where you can buy the DVD's (and before you all want to lock me up, I must say I'm one of the few people I know who still actually buy DVDs), but that's no real option, since you don't have the option to see it streamed in real-time.
There are some platforms showing streaming content, like Hulu in the US, Pixbox in Spain or Joost all over the place, but it all comes down to the same thing: if you don't have a big enough catalogue with a decent share of films and series, you're not likely to convince a big audience. And of course these catalogues are owned by the producers of film and video. So it's a real shame 2009 was not yet the year when entertainment came legally to our houses via our internet connection. And I must say, it doesn't look like it will happen in 2010. So we will have to endure some more time watching bad streaming services with horrible interfaces and bad subtitles. Not because we don't want to pay, it's because there is no legal way to watch content on-line.

Just watching series or films streamed on-line is just one step where the entertainment business is missing out. But we're even farther away of having a mayor production being based on the internet.'s Interview Project is something which might give a glimpse of what the future might be of on-line centered entertainment content.
The Interview Project doesn't aspire to be a whole lot – it's just a team of David Lynch who travel a route in the US and every now and then they stop for an interview with somebody they meet. The interviews of about 4' bring a short introduction into the lives of the people that are interviewed and their ideas and values. It's really David Lynch: you get to see the human being in all it's uniqueness.
David Lynch is a good example of how the film and TV business can adapt to a new medium such as internet. Lynch has been making films and programs for a very long time, long before the internet showed up. But he's been showing for a long time now on that you don't have to loose strength by embracing the new laws of the internet. Let's just hope that the next 'The Wire' or the next 'Avatar' will be developed on the internet. By working over time and count on the collaboration of the people, you can get a new, strong format, and above all: it can be something really engaging. Nowadays, we watch an episode of our favourite series, and there isn't much in between episodes apart from some trailer for next week's episode. In film that's even worse: you just go to the cinema, plunge into a world for 2 hours, and then finish with that world. The best you can hope for might be a sequel in 2 years time. There is so much time between episodes which we can spend engaging with our favourite show, which gets lost right now.
The best thing about the site Interview Project is it's usage of time. On the internet, time is everything. I believe that engagement on the internet comes by using time in your projects: let people come back to your site for a bit more. Reward them for their loyalty. Be fair to them, and give them a voice. Work towards a relationship. Get involved, and don't believe in a one-off.
Interview Project really understands this element of time, and has regular updates, with every time the publication of a new interview. This makes you come back to the site, enjoy it every time a little more.
Last but not least, and also considering the element of time: Interview Project has a very healthy slowness about it, which is pretty unusual on internet. Every episode lets your watch run just that little bit slower, and gives you a welcome break before we move on to our millions of status-updates, or real-time tweets or RSS-feeds.

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