CROWDFUNDING WITH FILM THREAT: I’M DOING SOMETHING WRONG

Back to the numbers and campaigns conversation, today I’m going to talk about a few tools I’ve been using to keep the campaign alive on Twitter, talk and show the video I made for the weekend’s failed “Rapture” and discuss a couple interviews I did over the last week that opened my eyes to how I could’ve framed all of this very, very differently.

CAMPAIGN MOMENTUM ON TWITTER
One thing I’ve noticed with other campaigns, and even my own, is that having an active presence on Twitter for your campaign is important. Sure, it may seem like you’re just repeating yourself to the same people every day (and to an extent, this is true), but as anyone knows, unless you follow a small group, you don’t see every tweet that everyone posts every day. In other words, just because 5 people saw the tweet today, doesn’t mean 5 more people won’t see it tomorrow, meaning… active presence.

For the most part, I am very active on Twitter. That said, during the day I get very busy with the other duties I have here at Film Threat, from editing content to site maintenance to graphic design, and hours just disappear before I notice that, hey, I probably should’ve been talking about the campaigns today. To combat this, I looked into tweet scheduling, and found a browser app called Buffer.

Buffer is a simple scheduling app for Twitter that has different pricing tiers, depending on how much scheduling you want to do. While you can set different times, and add many time slots, the idea behind Buffer is that there are a couple times of day when your tweets would be most effective and, in the off chance you can’t tweet at those times, Buffer will do it for you. In a previous blog entry I talked about what times of day are best traffic-wise based on the work schedules of the film industry on the East and West Coast, and Buffer has allowed me to be sure to have campaigns-specific tweets available for those times. And if, like me, you just want simple scheduling for 10 tweets or less a day, it’s free. It also offers analytics tracking on the tweets, so you can see which tweets did better at what times of day. For example, thanks to Buffer, I know:

“Support Film Threat’s return to print! http://kck.st/iYayt4” posted at 10:07pm EST on Friday, May 20th, was retweeted 11 times, with an estimated 495 clicks and reaching an estimated audience, based on who retweeted the link, of 57,629 people.

A warning, of course. Twitter is notorious for having an evolving rule set when it comes to tweeting, so be aware of the rules so that you don’t break them with Buffer. For example, don’t tweet the same status multiple times in one day; Twitter doesn’t like it (doesn’t even allow it, I think). Basically, this is a simple tool and, like most tools, don’t abuse it.

JESUS CHRIST AND FILM THREAT

Leading into Friday night, I noticed the most searched terms on FilmThreat.com were relating to The Rapture. Not surprising, what with said Rapture supposedly happening the next day. Likewise, the Rapture was trending on Twitter and… it made sense to hop into the stream and see if anyone outside of the current audience would be interested in showing Film Threat some love. So I made a new pitch video for IndieGoGo and Kickstarter, starring Jesus Christ:

Jesus Shares Details on the Real Second Coming from Film Threat on Vimeo.

It was a “happy accident” that the Jesus Christ Pose just so happens to line up perfectly with the Film Threat logo at the end. Who knew?

So did the video work? Did it spread the message? Yes, yes it did. Did it raise much money? No, no it didn’t.

THINGS I’VE LEARNED FROM INTERVIEWS
Over the last week I was interviewed by Earl Newton and Rob St. Mary of Detroit Public Radio about Film Threat’s return to print. Both were helpful for me, because the questions asked obviously meant that the answers were not as obvious, or easy to find, as I had imagined. The interview with Earl, for example, went on for around 90 minutes, and he asked so many questions that it really forced whatever vagaries might have still existed in my mind about why I’m doing what I’m doing into sharper vision. Some of what I learned:

  • People Know About Film Threat, But Not Necessarily The History
    The audience that reads FilmThreat.com, or the filmmakers and industry currently involved, do not necessarily know about Film Threat’s previous existence as a print magazine. If they do, that doesn’t mean they ever owned or read an issue. In other words, the assumption that Film Threat going back to print is a “good” thing is just that, an assumption, and one that would benefit from more information about Film Threat’s history and the reasoning behind the return to print.
  • If Film Threat’s History Is Slightly Mysterious, Mine Is Nonexistent
    Even folks who know Film Threat, don’t seem to know me very well. This is understandable; unless you knew me from film festivals, most of my work with FT prior to purchasing it was behind-the-scenes. Most people don’t know that I worked with Film Threat for 8+ years; many don’t know I’ve worked with Slamdance and Seattle International Film Festivals, spent years holding different jobs on indie film sets (most consistently as a script supervisor and post-production supervisor), or even that I made my own (shitty awful) indie film. It’s easy to assume I’m crazy or silly without the knowledge of the context of where I come from.
  • Focusing On A Return To Print Raises More Questions Than It Answers
    While I did address the “why” in a lengthy blog entry, it doesn’t address the fact that one of the gut reactions to returning to print has been the assumption that we’re not going to keep up with the times. Most criticisms have questioned why I’m going backward, and not forward; I should “get with it.” Had I focused instead on the creation of the quarterly digital magazine, and its connected app, and then added as a bonus that Film Threat was returning to print, the confusion or criticism of neo-Luddite tendencies would’ve been minimalized. As it stands, however, how I phrased the title of both crowdfunding campaigns is what I’m stuck with, even if now it would appear that a simple flip-flop of project focus could’ve gotten a better reaction.
  • No One Knows How This Is Going To Be Different
    I never explained what going back to print even means. At first thought, most think it means I’m going to print thousands and thousands of copies of the new edition and then drop them at newsstands all over the place, like has been done for most magazines, and pray folks buy them. Therefore, most think I’m asking for funds to create an unsustainable model, and that the magazine will fail right out of the gate, since so many are going to digital instead of print. However, the strategy of the return to print is a print-on-demand model with targeted outlets and minimum risk. Those who want the print edition can get it delivered direct to their door via single issue purchase or via subscription. As far as availability at newsstands and book stores, those outlets will be targeted as the ones most open to succeeding with the magazine. Think film book stores, comic book shops, collectible stores, film festivals, rep theatres… at least to start. If the demand necessitates going wider with the print release, then it will happen, but these campaigns are about building the system and getting the ball rolling so that the demand always covers the supply. It’s the most cost-efficient and risk-averse model of print magazine that I could think of doing, especially when you consider that the cost and process of preparing the digital version of the magazine is the same for the print; since you can design one magazine and then release it in two formats, why not do it?

WHAT DOES IT ALL MEAN?
To me, it’s obvious that the questions and concerns above need to be better addressed in a better pitch video on the campaign pages. Since there is so much history and questions to answer, just appealing to the audience in a concise manner is not good enough; my assumption that returning to print is a “good” thing is not one held by everyone, so I have to address the why better. It’s so obvious and simple, and I know that IndieGoGo and Kickstarter have already pointed this out, but your video needs the who, the what, the where, the when, the how and the why. So my main focus for the next few days is to write and film a pitch video that touches on all of the above, looks good and then go from there. I know the eyes are on the campaigns, the analytics show that, but the step from interest to pledged support is not happening. This means I need a better pitch video, and re-tooled project description and pitch. Learning on the job here.




Posted on May 24, 2011 in Blogs, Crowdfunding with Film Threat by
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7 Comments on "CROWDFUNDING WITH FILM THREAT: I’M DOING SOMETHING WRONG"

  1. Dan Tabor on Tue, 24th May 2011 12:47 pm 

    I have been seeing this a lot lately, the crowdfunding of a return to print media for certain out of print publications and the reason it never works is sadly print media is dying a slow painful death and most people realize that. I mean the people savvy enough to donate to kickstarters are also the ones who own kindles and ipads and have no use for magazines and are migrating towards a more digital media diet. Trust me I use to work in the print industry and watch so many house close I changed professions.

    I know I personally dont buy magazines at all anymore, I mean by the time its printed its usually out of date honestly and for film news there are so many sites out there cannibalizing each other its a bit scary.

    Dont take this the wrong way I am a fan of Film Threat and wish you the best, its just to quote the internet, “You’re doing it wrong.” Maybe if you went all digital created an app and paid your writers, that is an idea.


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  2. Mark Bell on Tue, 24th May 2011 1:09 pm 

    Dan, we are making a digital version of the magazine, creating an app and paying the writers. Did you read the blog? We’re doing all of that AND returning to print.


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  3. mjw on Thu, 26th May 2011 8:48 am 

    My thought, beyond what you’ve mentioned here, is that your tiers/rewards are pitched too high. You need a $5 option (send a postcard?) and possibly a $20 option. Lots of fundings are successful because of the mass numbers of bottom-tier supporters, not just the top-tier stuff. People like “free” stuff and to feel as if they’re getting a bargain for their “altruism” (crazy, but yeah…). A poster that is a niche object that’s only really going to appeal to fans of the original print edition isn’t a selling point (to me, anyway). A $500 shirt that’s probably only suitable for (some) guys? $500? (Yes, you get other stuff with it but that’s what people see and how they react.)

    (What the hell is a workshirt, BTW? I am not an American and that phrasing is alien to me. I also can’t really tell what it is from the photos.)

    Have a look at this successful project to see how people think and react:
    Pogo Presents World Remix: Tibet


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  4. Mark Bell on Thu, 26th May 2011 10:26 am 

    I think those are very good points. The problem I keep running into is that, save the magazine, we don’t actually produce a physical object to reward anyone with. Most of the rewards dance the line of “cost to produce reward vs. tier level.” I was afraid of getting caught in a scenario where we raise the money, but then a vast chunk of it goes to creating rewards and never goes to the actual projects, so I, admittedly, over-extended the tier levels. Since I can change them, as long as now one has already pledged them, I can mix things up. The workshirt (and I’ll explain in a second), I can bring down, probably move the $1,000 full digital collection down to $500, etc. I am completely re-writing and re-tooling the main pitch pages now, and will be adjusting rewards too.

    If a postcard was a $5 reward, would people really want it? I feel a reward-centric blog entry coming on, and I will check out the link you posted.

    And a workshirt is another way of saying uniform. The workshirt in question, which you can see on the campaign pages, is one that I had made specifically for me while on my film festival travels. Essentially, I have a bunch made up and those are all I wear when representing FT; I’m very easy to spot. I thought of it as a reward because I get asked many times per festival where people can purchase a similar shirt and, until these campaigns, they have not been available (and will be specially made). $500 is too high (as you said, I was hoping it would be seen as the bundle of tiers prior and not just the shirt itself), and I will bring it down quite a bit.


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  5. mjw on Thu, 26th May 2011 1:22 pm 

    Thanks for your response and explanations. I understand your problem about not producing tangible goods so it’s hard to find things to offer without chipping into the funding. Postcards seem popular, though. I would definitely opt for a $5 postcard pledge. At the moment I’m indecisive about going for the $25 pledge as it’s a little too high for my sensibilities, especially since I fear you may find you have to slap on an extra $15 charge for international postage (have you factored that into the equations BTW?).

    [My instinctive thinking on the $25 is that it includes a poster I don’t want (because I already have piles of posters for which I have no wall space, not because I don’t like the idea), so what I’m really paying for is $25 for one issue of a magazine, which is something like 2/3 the cost of a year’s subscription to National Geographic.]

    I would pay $20 for the first issue plus a postcard (assuming no extra $15 charge), however. Mathematically does that make much more sense? Not really, but this kind of stuff is equally about emotion. This balance is right in making me feel I’m getting value plus making a donation. If the balance swings too far the wrong way then I stop feeling altruistic because, technically, this is a donation to a commercial undertaking that may or may not be a good idea.


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  6. Nancy Fulton on Fri, 24th Jun 2011 2:48 pm 

    Great blog :) I wanted to mention that filmmakers who set up their website with WordPress can use several tools that will turn every post they make into a Facebook Post or a Twitter Post. WordPress is free (and there are thousands of free templates, and you can hire folks on elance and elsewhere) to make it really pretty.

    And the plugins are free (Wordbooker & Tweet Old Post). The Film Funding Club (www.filmfundingclub.com) has a bunch of free ebooks that cover how to setup websites, market independent media, get funding, etc.


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