Harnessing digital content: from Epic Rap Battles to naked, invisible art!

As I contemplate my navel on a beautiful Sperlongan beach, I am questioned AGAIN on Brexit!  As an Anglo-Italian with a strong Roman accent, my beach dwelling neighbours do not hesitate to share their views; so far, I have been asked if us Brits are racist, self-serving or weird Islanders! I argue our case of course, we are not perfect but the UK is a place with opportunities for all nationalities and the Olympics demonstrates this best of all! However, when it comes to political knowledge, I can’t help thinking that if politicians and mainstream broadcasters could take these 5 simple lessons on harnessing the power of digital content, British voters would have had a more balanced ‘inbox’ and more open and informed discussions. Maybe so many of us wouldn’t have Googled ‘What is the EU?’ after voting to leave?

1. The power of simplicity
Max Gogarty, Content Editor BBC3 and previously Vice’s Head of Development, explains how simplicity is the key; if you have a clear concept then digital platforms allow the freedom to deliver content for what the story needs. His films can play up to 18 minutes long.  Talking about BBC3’s ‘Drug Map of Britain‘, he highlights the simplicity of the format:

 “One person’s story with one drug,
in one place in Britain”

2. Personalise content – create self-curated content journeys
Kelly Sweeney, Maker Studios and Producer of ‘Epic Rap Battles‘ says that you need to keep making more content, using the constant feedback available through digital interaction, to be able to deliver to your viewers their own personal programming experience.  Digital gives you the ability to make, learn, change and adapt. As Kelly said,

“Harness the constant feedback; it’s like a drug!”

3. Naturally shareable content
Andy Taylor, Little Dot Studios, who built Big Brothers’ live streaming website at All3Media, explains that above all else, content needs to be shareable. His Formula E Promo was naturally shareable, with a stunt man performing a blind car dodge over an inaudible E-car: this hit all the papers, the press and captured the public’s imagination on Twitter, Facebook and Youtube.

4. Design content to hook people in the first 10 seconds
Adam Lee, Commissioning Editor at Channel 4 and with 13 years working in Transmedia Content, accounts his high viewing rate of over 90% on average to his refinement in film-making for short form content and to selling his content in the first ten seconds. He even bemoaned that,

“Regular TV is difficult to watch because it’s so flabby”

His whole series, ‘Naked & Invisible’ on Performance Art, can be viewed in just 20 minutes! Can you see the Personal Trainer, Ashley Lewis?

5. Right talent, right platform, right content
Finally, Randel Bryan, Director of Content & Strategy UK Endemol, describes how marketeers and media companies are realising that there is profit in the digital wilderness: with digital content delivering commercial and marketing value far beyond the film itself. Randal suggests watching and understanding how your audience find content and then mirroring this for your content to travel.

“Before producing content, think about distribution channels and why is someone going to share this video?”

400 hours of content is uploaded every minute (!) on Youtube and it is not the easiest platform to stand out or share content.  Apart from embedding content on key channels like the Huffington Post and Daily Mail, or having a good title; Randal suggests that for content to fly, people’s feeds on Facebook over delivers and authentic content is stickiest.

And so, back to Brexit and the beach I must leave tomorrow. I wonder what digital content these talented individuals would have commissioned or created to bring to life the EU Referendum debate? I believe that we have missed an opportunity to harness a medium that grew from porn and cats, to one that is just as able to deliver informed, balanced political debate in a way that is shareable, memorable and authentic. Might it have mattered to have a comedic Cameron v Johnson Rap Battle or powerful stories from one Brit, one place, one EU life? We will never know. But what we do know is that the demonstrable and increasing power and influence of digital media will command the highest salaries in the future and I am learning all I can!

“Digital content making budgets estimated to double in the next 2 years”

Many thanks to RTS Futures, Pat Younge and Donna Taberer for their work to inspire the Producers of the future.