WCSFP ’19: Leading executives outline how to develop a digital strategy

TOKYO — We all know digital strategies are a key part of factual production as we head into 2020, but they come in all shapes, sizes and degrees of organization. The 2019 ...
December 3, 2019

TOKYO — We all know digital strategies are a key part of factual production as we head into 2020, but they come in all shapes, sizes and degrees of organization.

The 2019 edition of World Congress of Science & Factual Producers tackled this question yesterday (Dec. 2), exploring the various implications of using digital tools to grow your brand.

The panel, provocatively titled “WTF Is Your Digital Strategy?,” was moderated by Alex Hryniewicz, head of owned channels at Little Dot Studios.

Panelists were Mariko Ide, content producer for short documentary films at Yahoo! Japan’s ‘Creators’ program; Danielle Steinberg, digital lead for content and strategy at PBS Nature; Steve Hulford, co-founder and CEO of Underknown; and Sam Barcroft, CEO of Barcroft Studios.

The discussion started with Barcroft outlining the advantages of working on programs for social channels as opposed to linear platforms.

“We get to decide what we do, within parameters,” he said. “Our teams have great autonomy on those platforms. It’s much more editorially fulfilling to actually come to work and make what you think your audience is going to want to see.”

He singled out Snapchat as a particularly appealing platform, offering flexibility and a high degree of ownership of finished products.

“It’s like a commission, but you have to pay for the content up front, which would make most people in this room say ‘right, I’m not going to do that,’” he explained of the mobile-first social network. But the advantage is that you keep the rights and you can put the content elsewhere to re-monetize it on top of ad revenue sharing with Snapchat.

Revenue sources were a big part of the conversation, with Hulford, a former software entrepreneur, explaining that through data mining and other research, he built a content-focused platform knowing monetization could be relatively straightforward.

“Today, you don’t need a sales team that’s selling advertising. The money will flow automatically into your bank account,” he said.

Of course advertising isn’t the only way to earn money, and Steinberg pointed to a distinctly digital way of earning back your money: crowdsourcing.

“The crowdfunding sites are really important,” she said. “Because people are personally invested in other people’s projects, they want to see it through, and they want to help, and they want to come back for the finished product.”

Beyond money, Steinberg has to contend with being a part of a legacy media brand, and one that skews older, which has led to discussions around digital to seek to bring in new viewers, not simply by dropping full episodes online, but by using digital strategies to entice new demos.

What does that look like? Primarily, it looks like getting the most out of existing work, such as isolating clips that might work well on their own.

It also looks like making behind the scenes footage available for the first time.

“If something doesn’t make it into our broadcast, most people don’t get to see it, and that’s really sad,” she said. “It’s a way to connect with people who maybe don’t watch the show, or want more of the show in these exclusive clips.”

PBS is also working on podcasts and even a sleep sounds app to get the most out of its content.

The 2019 World Congress of Science and Factual Producers in Tokyo, Japan, wraps up Dec. 4.

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