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Report from Sundance

Rebecca Weeks
Report from Sundance Rebecca Weeks
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The Sundance Film Festival's premieres and parties draw a glamorous and elite crowd each year, but this week's event included several new faces. With AOL, Klipmart and Myspace all sponsoring well-attended parties, I reflected back to 2001, when Sundance festival organizers wondered if the web would be an ideal place for film viewership and planned a panel entitled "Movies on the Web: Is Anybody Watching?"


This year the panel's title should be: Is everyone watching? And will the web fully invade Hollywood?


Many entertainment executives will still deny it, but the truthful answer is yes, entertainment has been fully liberated from the living room. The recent explosion of digital video content and viewership on the internet will be the single biggest force on media and entertainment in 2006. We saw the trend emerge in 2005, as the grassroots type of video dominated. The young adult audience, known as the group that hungers most to consume movies and television, has been democratizing the entertainment business right before our very own eyes.


Who's to blame-- or applaud? The internet. The 'little engine that could' is the tool empowering novices to level the playing field. Just as blogs have given suburban housewives a voice, film and video websites are providing amateur directors a real distribution outlet. It points to the increasing power of consumer-generated content, the most influential factor in today's media landscape.


Now, not only are novices creating and uploading thousands of videos every day, major entertainment companies are formatting their sports, music video and news libraries for the web.


If entertainment brands want to be everywhere that their audiences are, they have to reach out through interactive media channels. It's no longer appropriate to distribute content based on company structures but instead give consumers content the way they want it: on their own schedules, in a variety of formats, and at a low price.


Executives owning and using traditional media channels such as television, who have been known to defend themselves by saying, "Well, at least we have the eyeballs," are afraid to admit that internet eyeballs are quickly catching up. iFilm's website, which offers content from studios and amateurs, counts over 10 million viewers per month and there's no limit to how many millions Google Video will attract. Additionally, those who boasted, "At least we have quality," are forced to face the fact that the quality of web video has steadily improved as the number of broadband-connected households has exploded. And as some of the largest media organizations and studios develop original content for the web, the quality will only get better.


Take Amazon, Yahoo! and CBS for example. In an effort to draw in web shoppers, Amazon.com announced this month it will begin broadcasting a weekly internet show featuring comedian Bill Maher and guests from the worlds of books, music and film. Yahoo! has teamed with Mark Burnett and Live Planet to develop "The Runner," an original online reality program that serves as a game to viewers. It plans to make money through advertising and product-integration packages. And CBS' web-only news coverage and behind-the-scenes segments draw audiences for hours on end.


New film studios target internet users and teens


The recent wave of new studio announcements indicate that teens' habits and needs are being taken seriously.


This week, Atom Entertainment announced the launch of AtomFilm Studios, the first development house dedicated to producing content solely for distribution online. Although networks have already begun repurposing content for internet TV, AtomFilms is investing resources to develop original content only for the internet. It announced six development projects and plans to produce dozens more projects during the course of the year. The company's website has built a monthly audience of more than five million consumers.


Video websites like Vimeo.com and YouTube.com have learned that the videos and films with the most promise are those that deliver quick, instantly gratifying entertainment experiences. They're leading the move to expand broadband video beyond repurposed television fare, such as news and sports clips, which seem to be the most viewed web video content to date.


Another film studio recently formed to serve a specific niche is Fox Filmed Entertainment, which will target teens and young adults and complement News Corp.'s acquisitions of online networks IGN and MySpace. The division will be expected to produce and acquire up to eight films per year and distribute them through the main 20th Century Fox channels. New division head Peter Rice said the division will also seek to develop content for new media channels including internet downloads and mobile phones.


Next: What makes films on the web different from traditional films, and the implications of online video to marketers and traditional entertainment executives.

Chief technology catalyst


It’s the kind of job title that feels like honey on the ears. It’s got class, respect, and ends with a fun snap. It’s almost the sweet and sour chicken of job titles. This position is responsible for providing technology insights to brands and helping them utilize it as a creative tool. It's a relevant marching order in today's world and makes marketers swoon with excitement. If you're looking for some 21st century street cred mixed with a creative flare, you may just find what you’re looking for as a chief technology catalyst.


One marketer who once held this title is Lori Schwartz, managing partner at StoryTech. Here’s why this position encompasses so many important marketing aspects and strives to align technology with creativity to impact positive brand change.


Change agent/transformation coach


Anytime you can incorporate "change" or "transformation" into your job title, it's an exciting prospect. No one walks around with more Nostradamus swagger than a change agent or transformation coach. These people your guiding light to future trends and how you should adapt to an evolving landscape. They are regal creatures prancing gracefully through the agency world causing wide eyes and flushed faces. Much like the Elves in Lord of the Rings, they are to be awed -- not feared. Plus they love Lembas bread.


Aimee Reker, managing partner at FRWD speaks about why change agents are so critical in helping marketers navigate industry trends.


Marketing technologist


Well slap my face and call me Shirley. If that isnt an attractive job title then you've buttered the wrong side of your bread. This elegant position is tasked with understanding the analytics side, as well as the engagement and human aspects of marketing. It's a rare breed seldom encountered in the wild. However, there is no doubt that to be a marketing technologist is to tickle the fancy of every industry player you come across.


Dorothea Bozicolona-Volpe, principal at Social Espionage explains why this position represents such a rare kind of marketer and why young professionals should aspire to achieve this title.


Futurist


Boom, there it is. Why exist in our mundane universe when you can transcend to a higher dimension of esteem and respect by becoming a futurist? Futurists are like Tibetan Monks occasionally gracing us special glimpses of wisdom and knowledge. These enigmatic players are responsible for looking ahead and analyzing how trends are converging and defining the industry. Being a futurist comes with heavy responsibility and theres no room for teasing. Well, maybe a little.


Chip Gross, director of client services for AKQA talks about why he admires the "futurist" job title not only for its cosmetic appeal, but for the vital analysis that these industry players take on.


Chief enabling officer


I'll give you a moment to put your socks back on because I know they were just knocked off.


When the acronym CEO is thrown around, it's rare that people associate it with chief enabling officer. These playful chameleons are responsible for enabling a whole corporation, group, or enterprise to accomplish the innovation that will create great customer experiences. Nothing makes this position more fun that having an exciting array of people by your side. They enjoy making magic -- together.


Morely Winograd, partner at Mike and Morely, LLC explains why this job title actually represents a very fundamental but often forgotten theme of marketing: enabling is as important as executing.


Chief innovation executive


It's the kind of job title that drips off your chin like biting into a ripe mango. With this position, you are bestowed the allure of being perceived as innovative as well as a serious executive. Plus you also get to be a chief. That's cool. This job requires you to look at the landscape of new media platforms and minimalize the risk of early adoption. Everyone wants to be a trend setter, and chief innovation executives allow you to do it.


Reed Berglund, CEO at FullBottle speaks to iMedia about why this position is extremely important in this world of new media and fast evolving distribution platforms.


Brand ambassador


Slow down there, Mr. President. With all that exciting political lingo in your job title, you'll be heading to the top in no time. A brand ambassador is responsible for being an extension of the brand. If a brand is your arm, a brand ambassador is your fork, and the public is your delicious meal. Eat up and enjoy.


Shelby White, senior marketing manager for Waffle House speaks to iMedia about why she finds this title so appealing and important.


Chief/digital prophet


David Shing. Ya'll know what I'm talking about.


Chris Carlin, Sr. marketing and social media manager for Upper Deck explains his opinion on digital prophets.



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"Macro close up of woman's mouth eating strawberry" image via Shutterstock.



 

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