Saturation curve is a new threat to indie filmmakers online in 2014


Indie filmmakers face saturation curve

Independent filmmakers looking to make money out of their films online need to be aware of a saturation curve that is set to alter the battleground for content success in 2014.

We are at a point where video content is being created so fast that the window for grabbing the attention of an audience is getting shorter by the day. There is simply a lot of choice, a lot of devices, and shorter attention spans across the board.

The Wire released this study about rapidly declining attention spans online last summer, but going in to 2014, we've got even more constraints on attention.

Social Networks dominate discovery

Back in December, Facebook made a significant algorithm change to their platform which has essentially put a restriction on reach unless content is creating engagement. This means media creators need to think about how "Facebook thinks about content." Basically Facebook's own pay-to-reach model is evolving, and indie filmmakers may struggle to reach the audience they build unless they "pay to reach" them. This goes for Facebook Pages too.

The world's largest social network has been an important tool for indie filmmakers in past years to build their audience and market projects, but the increased audience saturation added with the restriction on reach will prove very difficult for newcomers to break into the arena, unless their content is generating discussion, and has its own viral nature.

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On another note, indie filmmakers using Twitter also face very small gains in viewership unless they create viral hits like 'The Epic Split' that draws in journalists, bloggers and newspapers. This will only work for short video content. Longer content is very unlikely to go viral on Twitter and VOD (pay to view content) is unlikely to gain traction without marketing to back it.

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Filmmakers that want to make money with their shorts on Youtube for example can make a sizeable earning if they can promote it sufficiently on social networks, on mailing lists, and even in the press, but with a boom in content, and more competition for attention, getting more views will require viral content with people marketing it because it is "that good!".

Making money online with videos

Sites like Vimeo and Youtube are providing filmmakers an avenue to generate money. For Youtube creators it is a CPM or CPC payment where people get paid on ad clicks or video pre roll ads. Unfortunately, not every ad impression is monetized. Not every view generates money and sometimes the people watching videos are in countries where advertisers don't have any desire to promote products to.

Over on Vimeo, the VOD model is basically a pay to view monetization. Every view of a full length film pays the content creator, but that massively restricts the audience except for the dedicated fans who want to pay. Again, how does one build that online fan base, back on Facebook or Twitter?

Videos vs videos

A lot of viral hits are taking away the attention spans of potential audiences. There are many videos competing with other videos and when one takes off, the websites, and influencers that could be promoting an original short, might not have the time to consider it, even if it is as good or even newsworthy. Timing is crucial in the saturation of audiences and getting them to watch videos is a factor that can't be predicted, especially when there is so much going on.

But it's not all bad news. Despite the increase in viewership saturation and declining attention spans, there are a lot of video creators making money out there, and not just online. Indie filmmakers need to be aware of how other networks restrict or help content and what's happening online to make sure their videos get the biggest reach possible.

Understanding trends and how content is discovered and shared is vital to the success of indie filmmakers in 2014. Some content won't work because there is no demand for it, and if filmmakers want to monetize more indie film story-lines they will need to build dedicated fan bases rather than promote their content to the masses, depending on whether they go the VOD or CPM route to make money.

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