We discuss the 2012 Online News Association conference, the best digital journalism conference around.
Jeremy is a fan, and the conference is focused on building the future. Sounds like a good conference to me.
We also talk extensively about thinking visually, which leads us into a discussion about Jeremy’s class project to get his students to take photos every day to teach them to think more visually. How can we get more people to think visually? Talking a photo and publishing it every day is a good start.
This discussion naturally brings up Instagram, YouTube and other visual social networks. Is there room for a new video social network that is, well, more social?
I’ve been very impressed with how Peter Jackson and his team have been using social media sites and a blog to show fans their progress while making The Hobbit.
And when I look at what they’ve been able to do with social media, I have to wonder how much traditional entertainment media outlets matter anymore? Director Peter Jackson and the The Hobbit team are able to connect directly with fans and show them what they are working on. It used to be that they would have to work with entertainment magazines and TV shows to get this information out there.
Now film makers can directly connect with fans and show what they’re working on, and they can do so in a way that keeps fans much more interested. A magazine is not going to profile the same movie every month, but a Facebook page can be constantly updated with new photos, videos, Q&As, links to stories about the movie and more. Having a well-stocked Facebook fan page is probably worth a lot more to The Hobbit and other movies than getting coverage in traditional media outlets.
Yes, The Hobbit is getting coverage in some traditional media outlets, but the best information by far about The Hobbit is on The Hobbit’s Facebook page. If you’re looking for ways to keep fans engaged for an upcoming project, you really should check out what they’re doing. They started using social media to wet fans appetites almost two years before the first Hobbit movie will be released. They started with a few teaser shots on Facebook and expanded to videos and other content to really delve into the making of the movies.
The heart of The Hobbit’s social media strategy have been a series of behind-the-scenes video pieces that detail the making of the movies from a variety of different angles. These are the kinds of videos that would have been traditionally included in the DVD/Blu ray version as a bonus feature for fans. Instead, The Hobbit team is using them before the movie comes out to generate buzz and interest in the movie, and I think this is a much more effective way to use these behind-the-scenes materials.
These production diaries, or video blogs as Peter Jackson calls them, are 10-13 minute vignettes that show distinct areas of production for the movies. They are clearly shot and edited so that they’ll work well on social media and be shared across the Internet, and all of them are available in HD on Facebook to view and share with friends. Fans have uploaded these videos to YouTube and it doesn’t appear that Peter Jackson or Warner Bros are trying to take them down.
Part of what has made this strategy so successful is that the production diary videos are high quality and interesting. Combining the high quality of these videos with social media has allowed them to be seen all over the Internet.
CNET ran a story about the production diary that focuses on the 3D cameras that are being used for this movie. The Verge and other sites also ran stories about it too. And of course fans sites dedicated to The Hobbit, Lord of the Rings, J.R.R. Tolkien or just movies are showing and talking about this content too.
Facebook is clearly the star of this social media strategy. That was a good decision. Facebook has about 800 million active users, and the site is very easy to use and it has a culture of sharing that can greatly expand the audience of your materials.
Think of it this way: A hardcore fan of The Hobbit can watch these videos and then share them on his wall with all of his friends. Many of them may not have known about the movie and may now be interested. Some may even decided to share the video on their walls as well.
There is a Twitter account for The Hobbit, but it’s not nearly as good as the Facebook fan page. Facebook simply makes more sense for a project like this. On Twitter, all you can really do is link to content, whereas on Facebook you can show it. Twitter is a much better platform for content happening right now, whereas Facebook is a much better place to park evergreen content.
A few keys that make these production diaries work:
They are well shot and edited and each has a distinct theme. These aren’t just a random 10-13 minutes about the movies or rambling interviews. Each video has a theme and the video tells a story. One shows the pre-production and the beginning of filming. Another shows the technical aspects of making a film in at 5K in 3D at 48 frames per second with the new RED Epic-M digital cameras. The other two have distinct themes as well.
All of them are shot in HD (not with movie studio cameras but with good HD handhelds that news outlets and non-profits could afford), edited professionally and with a tight narrative arc. They are interesting, visually appealing and sound good (complete with theme music from The Lord of the Rings). Because their quality is high and its HD, I was able to watch these videos on my HDTV in my family room (using the YouTube app on my Apple TV).
You can view them in a variety of places. The Hobbit’s Facebook page is showing them, as is Peter Jackson’s. The official blog for The Hobbit movie also shows these videos. You can share the videos with your friends and subscribers on Facebook. The videos are unofficially all over YouTube.
These videos could be done by a lot of people and organizations. Look at these videos and say to yourself, “I could make these.” They aren’t using really expensive cameras to shoot them and they aren’t doing crazy editing or post production tricks on them. In fact, most of the time they aren’t even using external microphones.
The main thing is that they decided that these videos should be high quality in terms of planning and execution. Any news organization or non-profit could produce similarly interesting and high quality videos. The videos each tell a story, are tightly edited and make good use of b-roll and voice overs.