The Five Rules of Media Creation

As I work to create more videos in my spare time (ha!), I wanted to post my current thesis on new media creation; and what Producers need to do in order to compete with television. I’m assuming those reading this actually would like to make money off their video products one day. If you’ve no intention of ever showing your videos to a wider audience, then really, none of this applies;)

But for the rest of you, make no mistake, if you are making new media, television (and quite possibly theaters too) are your competition.  So are games, and the web at large.

The question is, how do you grab the attention of your intended audience and keep it?  Let’s get the obvious point out of the way, that is:

Tell a Great Story.

But beyond that, there are five things that we must learn from our competition as we attempt to wrest audience and maybe even dollars away from them and to our own media and/or sites.

  • Plan ahead

Far ahead.

Networks and Studios both engage their “investors” (in the case of television, it’s ad buyers, who attend each year’s upfronts, in the case of Studios – it’s their investment bankers) far in advance in order to gain their investments.

Brands plan their ad buys for Fall, based on what they see from the networks in Spring; a 6 month lead time.New Media producers looking for brands to help fund their already-in-progress shoots are way behind the curve.

Figure out how to create your up digital upfront package and get brands or companies behind you, with a coordinated plan as to how they will benefit from the final media release; OR make a plan to self-finance your content until you have enough traction to attract either ad dollars or a fanbase loyal enough to patronize your content production (via subscriptions, donations, Kickstarter, etc.)

  • Become Technically Proficient

New media, and low cost programming in general, means that you yourself are going to be wearing a lot of hats.

It means you can’t be the person in the corner office *just* coming up with ideas.  The things you should be minimally proficient at:
– Creative formatting, writing outlines/beat sheets or scripts to follow
– Operating a camera
– Editing, Compressing & Uploading video

Bonus points for learning motion graphics software, and website building platforms.

  • Be Brand-Safe Aware

You serve two masters.

One is whoever is helping your media stay afloat financially, and the other is your audience/traffic.

Like love and marriage,  you can’t have one without the other (go ahead, sing it to yourself); so Brand “safety” answers the question;  Is your content creatively safe for the brand?

A lot of major brands shy away from content that contains swearing/nudity or violence.  So make an assessment or ask your brand what their comfort levels are.  If you don’t know, assume that their tolerance for those elements is pretty low, and move up in conversations if your creative demands it.

  • Be Covered Legally

Networks spend a lot of money on lawyers.You don’t have to.

They do this primarily because litigious individuals out there will always sue those with the deepest pockets, and you as the producer need to help legally protect the distributors and the sponsors.  However, there are basic things you can do to lower your liabilities and protect third parties you do business with in creating content, including:

– Clear your music, and/or do not use music you don’t have clearances for
– Get signed deal memos from people working with you, and appearance releases for those on camera, at minimum

Just those two things will put you on the road towards being somewhat covered for E&O insurance; or meeting your sponsors and distribs minimum protection requirements. There’s a few others to learn about; my advice, hire someone who knows if you can.

  • Be Prepared to Advertise

I found out something I kind of knew, but didn’t really think about last week from an Ad Agency.

Their brands (and they have some huge ones) care more about how many eyeballs you’re going to get to see the content, and how you’re going to do that, than the content itself.

Just putting up a piece and hoping it goes viral or gets seen because it’s out there is not enough.You’ll need a strategy that pushes your content in the right places to reach your audience and get the viewership up to make your sponsors happy and be able to make more content.  It may involve Facebook, or Twitter, or a website, or an ad-buying campaign or all of the above.

Have a plan, and be sure to factor it into your time and budget.

So, there you have it; my five rules of media creation in the Brave New World.

No go forth, and make stuff!