I really think this post by Louis Gray on the deluge of information streams that are vying for everyone’s attention is among the smartest and more important things I’ve read recently. Gray focuses on the social technological interruptions that are impacting our lives but all that has application for those who are creating “bigger” content in the form of the books, TV shows and movies that he says are being interrupted. Not only is it harder to have a nice, quiet experience with those things but the decision is occasionally made to skip them altogether because we’re afraid we’re going to miss an email or can feel the RSS items building up in the two hours we’re in a theater seeing a movie.
He’s dead on when he says that early adopters are already burning out on this constant drumbeat of updates and have begun not only pruning our inputs – cutting down on our RSS subscriptions, trimming the number of people we follow on Twitter – but personally I’ve just had to make a concerted effort to turn these things off. For an hour a day I sit down and actually read a book. On the weekends I barely open the computer. These are coping mechanisms to get out of the rush of information.
Gray says this non-stop influx of information is creating short-term memory loss and I think he’s right. We’re also losing some critical thinking skills. If someone were to ask what the latest study on Facebook usability said what would I do? Run a search and accept whatever the first seemingly legitimate result was at face value? Search my RSS feeds for the latest information? Those both are full of potential problems. What needs to happen is more concerted study that looks at a handful of results, measures their scope and takes into account any potential gaps or biases and delivers a thoughtful result. But it’s easier to say “Oh, someone just talked about that on Twitter.”
We need to reclaim our attention and prioritize it effectively. It’s a problem I have myself and need to work on and it’s the only way we can slow down and maintain our sanity.
Reports have been circulating recently of Netflix’s plan to launch a streaming-only plan (Los Angeles Times, 10/20/10) and Redbox looking for a partner to help launch a streaming effort (LAT, 10/28/10), both for customers who feel they have no need of any discs whatsoever. Couple that with this trend story (LAT 10/19/10) about consumer behavior increasingly shifting to emphasize renting over buying, whether we’re talking about physical discs or on-demand, and the question has to be asked: How will movie marketing change when we live in a fully on-demand world?
This question might be limited to the home video market, but the it’s increasingly common for movies to get simultaneous theatrical and on-demand releases. Barry Munday and other recent titles from Magnolia and a couple other distributors have been available on-demand at the same time as they receive a limited theatrical run. And this week’s Nice Guy Johnny from Edward Burns is forgoing theatrical release completely and is available immediately either on-demand through cable providers, on iTunes for rental or purchase and as a physical DVD, again for either renting or owning.
What Burns has done for Johnny is, I think, indicative of what’s going to happen when movies are available through online outlets. He’s been out there beating the bushes to raise awareness and spur interest himself since he lacks a studio’s usual support mechanism. And since he’s built up a personal brand (yes, I’m going to go play in traffic after using that phrase) he has been able to leverage the fanbase he’s built up over the last 15 years to promote this new movie.
More importantly, all of that press has the potential to pay off in immediate action on the consumer end because the movie is available, as Burns has often intoned, everywhere and in whatever home viewing format people prefer. So if someone sees him on “The Today Show” (where he appeared the morning of 10/27/10) and is interested in the movie they have the opportunity to turn that interest in to action by going to their computer and searching iTunes or checking out the VOD options during the next commercial break.
That’s where the future of marketing in an on-demand world lies. Whether we’re talking about a “Today Show” interview or a profile on a niche interest group website, the availability of the movie at that particular moment makes all the difference. Connecting the marketing and the ability of the audience to take immediate action is going to be extraordinarily important.
Even today, that importance is evident by looking at examples of that connection not being made. Word-of-mouth might be great for a small movie that is just loved by those who see it. But if the people they’re talking to don’t live in one of the 12 markets that it’s been released theatrically to the hearers are unable to complete the circuit. But as more of these movies move to hybrid or strictly on-demand/home video release patterns that barrier will fall and we’ll see more success stories where these releases are able to find their audience strictly because the audience was able to act on their interest and find the movie.