BRISBANE – The 26th annual World Congress of Science and Factual Producers in Queensland, Australia came to a close Friday (Nov. 30), but not before innovative content creators breaking new ground in the digital space had their say.
Moderated by Richard Fabb, creative director of LiveLab, the commercial production arm of Griffith Film School, the panel – titled “The Media Companies of Tomorrow” – discussed the potential opportunities awaiting creatives in an online landscape and the paths of success available.
Fabb was joined on stage by Paul Walton (pictured), producer and partner of Princess Pictures; Study with Jess content creator Jessica Holsman; Snacks and Facts creator Caitlin Hill; Farhad Meher-Homji, founder of Changer Studios; and BrainCraft creator Vanessa Hill.
A new perspective
Despite efforts of integration into the media landscape, there’s a disconnect when discussing best practices between the established and traditional production sector and the emerging YouTube creative.
Princess’ Walton believes that the industry is in real danger of having highly experienced professionals and extremely creative amateurs operating as separate entities rather than in collaboration.
To work with established digital creatives, Walton insisted that traditional producers get out of the way to allow creativity to flow without a fear of failure or reinvention.
“Where it’s been successful is where you’re sharing experiences and guiding them through the gate, but also learning from each other,” he told those in attendance at the Brisbane Convention and Exhibition Centre. “How do we find a healthy medium where we’re growing and at the same time honor the audience? It’s a constant conversation.”
But being a media company of tomorrow isn’t just about setting up a YouTube channel, Walton said. It’s about leveraging a variety of platforms to ensure your content acquires the largest audience it can.
“It’s really key not to get caught up in one platform,” he stressed.
Staying afloat in multiple revenue streams
So how do new content creators going it alone in the digital sphere actually make their living? Not only is generating content across multiple digital platforms vital for success, but it’s an important avenue for attaining a bigger name brand for multiple revenue streams.
In addition to earning money from Google AdSense, which produces a small amount each time an ad plays before a video, Holsman, creator of Study with Jess, capitalized on her digital video success by launching an educational stationary line, writing a book, partaking in public speaking events at universities, and attaining sponsorships with brands.
“You can then work with brands to secure funding for the production rather than going straight to a broadcaster,” she stated. “There are ways of incorporating other companies into the work you’re doing to raise the funds for the projects you want to get up and running.”
BrainCraft creator Vanessa Hill, meanwhile, noted that relying solely on YouTube and AdSense is not feasible due to the ebbing and flowing nature of non-traditional viewing habits. November and December, she added, tend to be bumper months for Internet viewing, though January and February tend to dip in audience numbers.
“For me, licensing my content [to PBS Digital Studios] has been the most stable stream so far,” Hill said. “I also do sponsorship with brands – everybody has heard an Audible or Squarespace read – and I acquire grants from non-profit foundations like Screen Australia. That’s the core business for my videos. Aside from that, I do public speaking and different live events.”
The importance of flexibility
Despite the cutthroat world of digital content creation – where, if a creator stops uploading content, they become irrelevant and forgotten – the three creatives on the panel feel as though their future as a media company or brand is relatively secure. The reason, they agreed, is due to their flexibility and a willingness to try new things without fear of failure.
“I’m not afraid to fail – I’m a big failure. I don’t find anything wrong with the Internet, as long as you won’t be offensive or hurt people, you can delete stuff and apologize if you make a mistake or factual error,” said Snacks and Facts creator Caitlin Hill. “I think our main issue is brand flexibility – they need to not be afraid of the people they back making mistakes and trying again.”
“It’s important to be flexible, but we need to acknowledge that the audience wants to feel engaged and part of what you’re creating,” added Holsman. “It’s really important that we’re creating content with what the demand is and being open minded with new platforms that pop up.”