ALL ABOUT ONLINE AUDIENCES

The nature of now in an internet age is that everyone can be a pro in their own brand of PR if they choose to be.

What does it mean to be an emerging professional in virtually any field, in (almost) 2016? Where's your point of difference if a 16 year-old school girl from the Sunshine Coast can grow 600,000 Instagram followers? I am constantly affirmed that whether you make coffee or television: Audience Is Currency.

'The past is a foreign country' - L. P. Hartley. Image: Office Space (1999)

'The past is a foreign country' - L. P. Hartley. Image: Office Space (1999)

Major print news publications couldn't scramble fast enough to hire young gun Social Media gurus circa 2010. It sounds like ye olde days before it became a basic expectation of writers to get savvy and harness these tools for themselves like an extension of the pen. Twitter became the measure of a leading headline (even if that meant spreading misinformation) and is still primarily a news-breaking medium. So while it isn't as if filmmakers aren't using social media to push their content, it was revelatory to hear from a panellist at the 2015 Open Channel Generation Next: Micro-Budget Movie Making Conference on Aug 31st - Sept 1st:

"Filmmakers have a lot to learn from the start-up community."

For a Melbourne commuter, The Dressmaker trailer is Kim Kardashian's baby name reveal is Lena Dunham's new podcast. Filmmakers, journalists and culture-makers are all competing for the same thing - audience time. That same audience is absolutely global and hardly geo-blocked anymore. Add to that, standards of audience taste have been raised by an increasingly global marketplace (ahem, HBO). So even though building an online army is so red-hot it's moved beyond business to the 'burbs, I am constantly grateful to be starting out at a time of incredible fertility for film & TV creators in Australia.

Online Audiences & Opportunity

This comment has also begun an interest in all things online about AUDIENCES, where film and TV aren't as distinguishable* (*big disclaimer that they totally are still distinguishable). It's become clear that there's a gaping wide opportunity for an emerging creative class of Australian filmmakers to be strategic, 'make' for an audience, break through entrenched pathways into the industry that never reach decade-held positions, and inject a fresh voice to the Australian media landscape. That is, an opportunity to mobilise an audience by creating content that lives online and can therefore find, and speak to, exactly the people like them who go misrepresented on small and big screens.

And, serve the missing 18-35yo gap of local broadcasters and their flagship channels. A future exists in which our work can access funding!

Channel TEN's "warm and engaging relationship drama" Wonderland is (obvs safe for Nan and) a white-washed example, which describes its young adult cast as:

"...an eclectic bunch, but they all have something essential in common: each of them reminds us of someone we know, or even ourselves."

Perhaps the goal actually was to package a saccharine idea of the twentysomthing experience to reflective mature audiences who now, with spouse, child & house, lament a bygone era? It's still no excuse for such a severe lack of diversity.

Broadcasters: Not Goodbye

Everything we could want is legally findable online, immediate and a more reliable news source than a 6pm bulletin. Findability is not a new word.

The glaring and fiercely coveted exception to narrow free-to-air broadcasting is that despite wave after wave of 'efficiency measures' ABC continues to extended itself to maintain the curve with its iView platform, which now live streams. SBS On-Demand also gets a solid mention. It follows then, that anything local and worth watching always ends up here. Win.

(For eg. Please Like Me, Glitch, The Beautiful Lie, Maximum Choppage, The Secret River and The Family Law in 2016–after it premieres on Facebook a week before television. Or just like, Q&A... #whenyourlivetweetmakesitonQandA #lifemade).

Matchbox & SBS 'The Family Law' (2016)

Matchbox & SBS 'The Family Law' (2016)

To add to the ABC-love boat, they last week announced a new initiative with Screen Australia called ArtBites: a funding scheme for emerging filmmakers to access $50-$75k each toward four 6x5min documentary arts series for ABC iView's Online Arts channel. An exciting step to see ABC invest in yet more original content for iView.

Online = Stealth
To re-group: If 'Audience is currency', emerging film & TV creators have an opening to use what they know to exploit the opportunity of the internet to find audiences. What does this mean in real terms though?

Well, to revisit:

"Filmmakers have a lot to learn from the start-up community."

The same panel Director threw in the term 'growth hacking' as an example.

Growth Hacking?
A Growth Hacker is someone who leverages creativity, analytical thinking and social metrics to find a repeatable pattern or strategy that achieves one goal: growth. They work in early stages of tech start-ups when resources are low, and are distinct from internet marketing for their single-minded goal at the intersection of data, product and marketing. AirBnb became the poster-child of growth hacking when they discovered a way to harness Craigslist users searching for accommodation. The world's largest accommodation provider owns no real estate.

The bottom line is that growth hacking is a mindset that entrepreneurial filmmakers are beginning to play with to start thinking about ways their content can spread itself - even if they don't code. With the time, dedication, basic knowledge, infrastructure and critically - the right agreements - to commit to testing and building your own online following, you wonder the difference it would make to establish socials and cross-promotional relationships at a development level.

In a more tangible sense, the takeaway for me is beginning to recognise shared themes in the stories I'm developing and targeted interest groups or social media influencers, with the broadest reach. Recruiting audiences by collaborating with release partners to debut materials and online content, or stunt launch, opens a floodgate to cross-promotion while harnessing the channels of more established groups. Its credibility, contextualising and adds value.

Growth Hacking goes so much further into analysing the effectiveness of these partnerships, exploiting an existing platform in a new way and being a bit lateral. A nice challenge.

The result

While I continue to develop a project against which to test these mad theories and satiate my geeky appetite for all things 'online' about audiences, a big takeaway is that the mass communication era is so over.

And I think it's part of the intrinsic fail of mainstream free-to-air broadcasting to young adult audiences. Everything we know about marketing back to Mad Men-days is virtually obsolete in a new reign of mass customisation & niching, where (target!) audiences awash with marketing fatigue and an endless choice of content leads creatives to their next challenge:

With audiences spoiled by more hours of content available on Netflix alone than hours of life left, how does one effectively navigate such content troves? My answer...but also, Findability.