A Report on Digital Distribution for Independent Vlogger

Overview

More and more people around world are using digital platforms to access professionally or independently produced video content. Digital technology allows audience to watch professional content whenever and wherever they want. Apparently, there is much excitement and hype about digital distribution and the inherent possibilities it offers to connect audiences and content. So, what does the worldwide ongoing digital revolution mean for low budget production, such as independent video bloggers? On the one hand, it presents many opportunities to filmmakers and viewers: available access everywhere, instant international market reach, self-distribution, and a growing number of new platforms. On the other, it creates new challenges to broadcasters and distributors as well: piracy, intellectual property right, increased concentration of ownership, and audience fragmentation and so on.

The report would talk about online distribution of independent web-series videos, set the most subscribed Youtube channel from Australia, “Community Channel” as a case study, trying to analysis why it is successful and indicating how producers of web distribution production will approach these challenges. During the research, I find that while online distribution does present some threats to the businesses of content owners, it allows for even greater opportunities.

The report is divided into eight parts: “Online media/WEB 2.0 evolution- what dose it mean to Independent Content Creator? ”, “ Advantages of Web 2.0’s Adoption”, “Independently Online distribution analysis—why is Community Channel so successful?”, “Creative content”,“Digital distribution strategies”, “ Opportunities”, “ Key Challenges” and “Conclusions”.

Online media/WEB 2.0 evolution – What dose it mean to Independent Content Creator?

Over the recent past, the Web has been transformed from being a medium in which information is transmitted and consumed(WEB1.0), to a platform where content is created, shared, altered and reproduced(WEB2.0). There are a number of Web services or applications that are considered to be key concepts in Web 2.0 that represent the core fundamental elements of Web 2.0 applications and how it functions. Examples like User reviews, Content Sharing, Free download are the new applications that categorized as Content Creator where the consumer plays a more positive role in creating new content in varied forms. These diverse modes of application adoption in the form of contents have grown on to become the face of Web 2.0 for the current generation of Web users. Such Web 2.0 applications therefore would enable Web users with little technical knowledge to engage and share their own media and information products.

To understand this industry evolution, what we must know is that there is rapid and revolutionary change across the video production since WEB 2.0.

As we can see, there have been two major shifts in the last 5 years on content creation area. Firstly, the falling costs of content creation and marketing. Due to the development of technology, recording and production equipment, both in hardware and software has reduced costs massively, which to a large degree resulting the emergence of User Generated Content (UGC).

The notion of user-generated content is critical to the report. User-generated content (UGC) is used to explain the role that consumers now have the access in creating information. Traditional forms of marketing where content was created by the marketer are now co-exist with the trend of user-generated content where content is generated by the consumer. This new form of marketing means that anybody can share their opinion or experience or work with other individuals.

Moreover, the era of User Generated Content is where amateur and professional differentiation is low because of the low content prices for media production. Set the photography for example, digital camera with the adoption of the computer application photoshop can create high distinguished photo much more easier and economical than film camera. Marketing costs have also reduced in the User Generated Content world cause you can know your targeted audience more specifically by analysis their social media behaviour data online and expand your international audience without any travel fees.

Secondly, The traditional media functions of publication have been replaced by online system. Content finding, content editing, and content marketing have changed significantly. For example, content finding. In the past, no matter what the medium is (newspaper or journals or TV programme), content consumers (audience or readers) are passively obtained most media content. However the situation has been shifted since the content finding function has been invaded by Search Engines (eg Google) and now even increasingly by the Social Media platform (eg Twitter, Facebook, Youtube). These social networks have also taken over most of the editing functions such as rating rank and recommending content.

Advantages of Web 2.0’s Adoption

Web 2.0 technologies can be a powerful tool for video production; their interactivity intends to bring more audience into daily content viewing at lower cost. When used effectively, they also may encourage participation in projects and idea sharing by making various comments. They may bring greater scope and scale to content distributor as well, strengthening bonds with audience and improving communications with content creator and outside partners and investors.

Independent content creators will also benefit by using the direct, unfiltered feedback they receive from their audience to further develop and improve their content. And by narrowing the online communication gap, video production team could make real gains in efficiency and effectiveness, since shifting communication to the Web has the potential to drive down the frequency of more costly methods of marketing and promotion. As explained previously, online distribution has several other important advantages, especially in a cost-sensitive market.

Independently Online distribution analysis—why is Community Channel so successful?

Most subscribed Youtube channel from Australia, over 1 million subscribers and 4 billion viewers total, Community Channel undoubtedly gained an incredible achievement that many TV programmes might have never achieved. The video blogger or content creator is a twenty-year-old-girl who is the second generation Vietnamese Australian, named Natalie Tran. Obviously, she sets some sort of record. Tran’s page, Community Channel, with1, 391, 776 subscribers and more than482 million views on her videos to date. Worldwide, her video series is also the most subscribed of all time. How did this happen? Surprisingly and no surprisingly due to the context of WEB 2.0, Natalie Tran became one of the top independent YouTube stars around the world who made more than $US100, 000 from the site annually, even there are no big studios, no big production team and no big budget behind her. Tran created all the videos by herself; in other words, she is an independent content creator.

When I looked up the term “community channel” in urban dictionary, it says this:

“A well known Youtube celebrity with an Australian accent by the name of Natalie Tran who amuses the Youtube population by making videos of entertaining topics such as sliding escapes and powerboards, and many others. She lives in Sydney, Australia. She is hilariously funny ”

As you can see on the Community Channel homepage on Youtube, she makes videos very often. Tran, who creates her videos at her parents’ home in western Sydney, has eschewed titillation in favour of clever skits about her life. Her videos are typically a combination of monologue and skits acted out by multiple clones of herself that mocks her life occurrences through the creative editing, and end with “Porno Music Slash Comment Time,” where she responds to a few comments on the previous video.

In a 2010 report interviewed by the Sydney morning herald Tran said this:

“I think that to have longevity on these kind of websites you need to offer something different … there’s plenty of [sexual] material on the internet that would provide that kind of entertainment already.”

Additionally, she said the skits were all based on things that happened in her day, “just a little bit exaggerated for comedy purposes”.

“They’re not hugely deep and meaningful videos; they’re just short snippets that are meant to be a little bit of fun in somebody’s lunch break … the world wouldn’t be a worse place without them,” she said.

YouTube: Online Video and Participatory Culture, by Jean Burgess and Joshua Green analyses the most successful videos with some surprising results. This analysis of the most popular, most viewed, and most discussed YouTube clips found that it’s not just videos about cyber-bullying or bizarre accidents that top the charts but are all sharing sort of comedic style in new forms of entertainment.

In the case of Natalie Tran, she is a highly successful performer who is treating Youtube as a virtual community where she is on equal terms with her audience. Tran’s regularly produced YouTube video is based around the idea of a ‘bedroom vlog’.

“The Vlog, or videoblog, where the performer speaks straight-to-camera from an everyday setting like a bedroom, is probably the video form that is most representative of YouTube’s community and culture”, explains Dr Jean Burgess, the Australian co-author of the first comprehensive book on the YouTube phenomenon. “Many of YouTube’s most subscribed channels are home-grown examples of this form, not “big media” productions”

Indeed, the comedic value is in Tran’s mockery re-enactments of the situations she is talking about and the fact that she plays all of the characters, but without this online distributed on Youtube, could Community Channel success as well?

To understand Tran’s success, the quality of content is always important, but to more extent, is the strategy of online distribution. Natalie is probably the first YouTube top vlogger to appreciate comments, which is an effective way to improve the result of social marketing under the circumstance of WEB 2.0.

Creative content

The original idea for each video series is crucial. Natalie Tran started out roughly 7 years ago, picking out random everyday situations, and making videos about them. Subjects that thereby come up are something like “The awkward moment when you try to leave an elevator and accidentally brush up to somebody” or “Pretend to like Christmas presents when you really don’t” or “what if real life had dramatic sounds like reality TV” or “People who make situations unnecessarily intimate”. Just like her grounded personality, the themes that she picks for her videos are down to earth. Everybody could get connected with or smiles about the everyday moments which she satires about. Tran mixes those experiences with interesting insights about her everyday life, presenting herself as definitely being equal terms with her audience, but with constructive instruction at the same time.

Digital distribution strategies

Contents and Audience are also very important when decides a project whether shown on TV or just distributed online. As young generation clearly can do almost anything online these years, if your project is targeted the young people as your audience, it’s obviously more effective distributed it online. However, before online distribution, you must decide the platforms where you would like to distribute on. Various strategies would be utilized according to different distribution platforms. YouTube, where Tran distributed her videos on, is not just the largest online video repository but also a powerful social media platform. Audiences are more likely to engage, share, and comment on video content there than any other video site.

Using social media socially is always important, especially when you are intending to launch something online. Engagement is a critical part of social media that allows content creator to engage back, a critical method for driving views and action. Tran adapted this principle, as she crams the end of her videos full of personal responses to comments, and pictures from fans she met in real life to make her possibly be the nicest and most appreciative Youtuber, of her own audience. To do this is not only improve the result of social marketing, but also help Tran engage the potential audience, fishing where the fish are.

As we all know, Youtube is one of largest social network in the world, with more than 1 billion monthly active users. As Robert Kyncl, the VP and Global Head of Content for Google/YouTube said, “Audience development is equally as important as great content. By creating fantastic content and spending zero time on audience development, you are certain that you will not succeed on YouTube.” This is exactly why Tran is successful, she knows her how to entertain the audience!

According to Nielsen, YouTube reaches more US adults ages 18-34 than any cable network. Thus the audience of Youtube can be considered as a younger generation group. In Tran’s case, like she cited previously, she would like to entertain someone during his/her lunch break, therefore it is quite a wisdom choice to satisfied these young generation with making her videos so witty funny and with humor at the same time. Therefore, her loyal audience is built solidly on these funny, observational, often self-deprecating, a mixture of sketches and monologue videos.

Moreover, another successful method of distributing utilized by Tran is set up a RSS feed. How does this work? From my point of view, if you update your video on a regular basis, offer an RSS feed subscription to the audience is clever. This will allow your subscribers to be alerted when you post new content. Like the newsletter, your RSS feed gets delivered to your subscribers. So you are bringing your recent content right to them as soon as it is published. The great thing about an RSS feed is that it can also be used to syndicate your content which can help you promote your videos to new audience. Uploading your RSS feed brings your information straight to your social media followers as soon as it is published.

Opportunities

Digital platforms are witnessing an incredible growth in the number of talented people producing content, providing opportunities for creators and producers to reach a local, national, and global audience at the same time. It has given creators and producers opportunities to reach many audiences, whether they are in the next village, across the country, or around the world. It has also allowed thousands of creators and producers to distribute content where they never could before because of high barriers to entry. This gives many, many more creators and producers a chance of success, as they no longer have to meet the audience and content requirements of broadcast executives who have to please a mass audience (ie. TV and newspaper). Like the success of Natalie Tran, who exemplified the possibilities of how social marketing enable the low budget video series to receive more than 400 million views. Additionally, more funding could emerge for online content. Programmes such as the Youtube Partner Program offer the copyright protection while providing them a means by which to monetise their output through a majority share of advertising revenue earned for ads that are shown alongside their content

Key Challenges

Digital distribution may be a double-edged sword: it expands the potential audience for content, but that audience does not want to pay for the content. Although content creators may accept a larger audience for their work in exchange for distributing the work for free, there is no guarantee that the increased popularity of the content will be completely translated into revenues. Why is this happening? From my perspective, I think one reason is because the digital platforms such like Youtube is providing access to unauthorized copyrighted content and, more importantly, user-generated content. In other words, audience not only can consume the content for free, but can also through every unauthorized channel who maybe downloading the content from online source.

Also, the freedom of comment may impact negatively when distribute your video online. The aggressive, not to say vituperative, tone of the anonymous commentators can create a great deal of heat, even personal attacks to attract people’s attention off your work. This may challenge the amateur especially and discourage them from doing this again. If so, many talented vloggers would disappear in result could be an incredibly lost, not just to the audience, but the whole industry.

Conclusions

The purpose of this report was to observe and discuss the online distribution from an independent content creator and producer perspective. Based on inference from existing studies, the report attempted to identify how an independent vlogger can success through this new distribution format and the opportunities and challenges that they may face. In terms of practical example, I chose Natalie Tran’s Community Channel as a case study model. As such, the following salient points could be inferred: (1) Content created by users has become tremendously popular as the most frequently visited sites on the Internet are primarily user generated; (2) The most common barrier faced by most amateur before WEB 2.0 is reduced significantly because of the emergence of various digital distribution platforms; (3) Internet especially WEB 2.0 helps creators/producers thrive who can now reach global audiences/markets with ease; (4) Engagement is a critical part of social media that allows content creator to engage back which can improve the marketing effectively; (5) online distribution does present some threats to the businesses of content owners, but it allows for even greater opportunities.

Reference:

Boyer, J. M. (2008). Interactive Office Documents: A New Face for Web 2.0 Applications. São Paulo:DocEng

Harrisom, T. M., & Barthel, B. (2009). Wielding new media in Web 2.0: exploring the history of engagement with the collaborative construction of media products. New media & Society, 11 (1&2), 155–178.

Chiang, I.-P., Huang, C.-Y., & Huang, C.-W. (2009). CharacterizingWeb Users‟ Degree ofWeb 2.0-ness. Journal of The American Society for Information Science and Technology, 60 (7), 1349–1357

Cormode, G., & Krishnamurthy, B. (2008), Key Differences between Web1.0 and Web2.0, New Jersy.

Burgess,J. &Green, J. (2009), YouTube: Online Video and Participatory Culture, Cambridge

LOST ON THE WEB:DOES WEB DISTRIBUTION STIMULATE OR DEPRESS TELEVISION VIEWING? By Joel Waldfogel: http://www.nber.org/papers/w13497.pdf?new_window=1

Culture Boom, How Digital Media Are Invigorating Australia:

http://www.bcg.com/documents/file101187.pdf

Entry into the Market for Online Distribution of Digital Content: Economic and Legal Ramification:

http://www2.law.ed.ac.uk/ahrc/script-ed/vol5-1/meisel.asp

Screen Australia: http://www.screenaustralia.gov.au/funding/games/games_production.aspx

THE GROWING BENEFITS OF INNOVATIVE ONLINE DISTRIBUTION OF CONTENT OUTWEIGH ANY COSTS, ANALYSYS MASON REPORTS: http://www.analysysmason.com/About-Us/News/Press-releases1/Internet-content-creation-Jun2013/

Online Video Distribution: how will the market play out? http://www.telco2research.com/articles/eb_online-video-distribution_summary

How to succeed in video blogging without really trying-YouTube spreads its viral culture by tapping into the market: http://chicagomaroon.com/2012/04/17/how-to-succeed-in-video-blogging-without-really-trying/

How Much Money Do The Top YouTube Stars Make? http://longzijun.wordpress.com/2013/05/28/how-much-do-the-top-youtube-stars-make/

Natalie Tran: Bigger than free TV:

http://mumbrella.com.au/natalie-tran-bigger-than-free-tv-41924

GROUNDBREAKING AUSTRALIAN BOOK GETS TO THE HEART OF THE YOUTUBE PHENOMENON:

http://cci.edu.au/post/groundbreaking-australian-book-gets-heart-youtube-phenomenon

Statistics from Youtube

http://www.youtube.com/yt/press/statistics.html

Community Channel on Youtube:

http://www.youtube.com/user/communitychannel

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