Updates on Two Alternate Forms of Distribution

On March 21, 2006 by Christy

Just over a year ago I posted about the webisode by Blair Witch co-creator Daniel Myrick: The Strand. They use a method approach of minimal lighting, actors and non-actors. On the website it is described as having “the authenticy of a documentary, but with the narrative storytelling of any scripted show”. Back then, the pilot could be streamed for free or downloaded using Bitpass. On the website there are a range of content:

In an email just delivered to The Strand subscribers (which includes me!), they announced having over 50,000 international viewers and exposure to media such as CNN, The New York Times and ABC. Now, they’re offering the a 2 DVD set for $19.95. The DVD, The Strand: Volume 1, contains:

  • A brand new behind-the-scenes making of documentary
  • Commentary by myself, the shows producers and writers
  • 5 original never before seen improvisational scenes
  • DVD exclusive Web links
  • Interviews with the shows actors.
  • A unique, 3-D Binaural Audio Adventure that will allow you, the listener, to experience the sensation of making out virtually with Margo from “The Strand!”

The episodes are still available for download: $1.00 for ep 1 and .99 cents for eps 2-5. The purchasing of the episodes (download or DVD) will do more than give the consumer a product they own, an extended insight into the creation of the show, more episodes, access to hidden web content (sounds cool), and do more than compensate the makers for their time:

The purchasing of these shows, whether on DVD or download, enables us to go out there and shoot more episodes of “The Strand.” This is merely the first of many Gearhead Picture projects where the viewer’s support will determine the outcome of the sequential episodes and programming.

The connection between commerce and ongoing content creation is unobtrusively drawn here. Networked and digital technologies enables a direct relationship between consumer and producer. Which means content creators are also having to market themselves. I wonder, are we seeing the emergence of a sincere sales rhetoric or just spin in its infancy? I’d like to think the former.

A couple of months ago I posted about a web-based viral campaign: The Secret. The website provides short streaming video clips that contain “clues” to uncovering what “the secret” is, as well as photos at Flickr. You can also subscribe to iTunes and download them there. They have a blog that makes it really easy to pass on (read: virability) the content:

Rather than provide just website visit numbers, they supply a cluster map (love it!) and an animated map that shows how many people, over a 12 day period, have subscribed. But what is interesting about their latest move is that they’re making the full feature film available online and in DVD to subscribers three days before it is launched worldwide (launched 26th March). They’re using Vividas technology to manage a pay-per-view basis of US$4.99. Oh, and despite the large clusters that have formed on the website visit map around my part of the world, and despite the company behind this being in Victoria, and despite the Vividas company starting in Australia, “contractual obligations” do not allow for Australian, New Zealand or Papua New Guinea viewers to watch or purchase the DVD!?! ;( What is interesting, too, is their comments (in the subscriber email I received) on the Vividas technology and how it will tie in with future cross-media distribution:

The beauty of the Vividas launch is that it will marry with various other platforms we have in mind in the near future. The team behind The Secret Scrolls continues to seek out opportunities to bring the video to as many people around the world as possible, with Cinema, Broadcast Network, Cable and Satellite TV, Podcasting and 3G Mobile Phone options to follow.

Perhaps this Vividas technology is a gatekeeper that can manage the video for all these broadcast channels? I cannot find anything about such functions on their website, just that they offer a streaming video technology to big clients such as Dreamworks, United International Pictures, EMI and Virgin Music.

Anyway, here are two approaches to marketing and distributing content. I feel thoroughly courted, but does the seduction outway the attraction to content? The problem with such compelling campaigns is that they sometimes rely on a splatter-gun approach, attracting many but appealing to few. Initial interest doesn’t indicate how many will persist with the property. Are we putting artists up for humiliation or a difficult time by requiring them to appeal to mass audiences initially? I think this is one of the down sides of viral campaigns. They are successful in hooking people in, just like trailers and teasers. But then the actual story is often something different, something that only a specific audience would enjoy. I wonder, is there damage being done here?