This afternoon I had the pleasure of meeting Steven Starr, founder (and CEO turned Chairman) of Revver.com. In case you are not familiar with Revver, it’s a video sharing site that tracks and monetizes videos and shares the ad revenue with the content creators (unlike sites like YouTube and Google Video). We were lucky to get Steven to come speak to our Entertainment Resource Professionals Association group, and it was a nice intimate setting in which to pummel Steven with our questions and pick his brain. Steven took it all with good humor, and his do-gooder ethos (apparently developed while working with Bob Marley) fit right in with our group.
If you are reading this blog, you probably already know about how the entertainment environment is shifting from being dominated by media conglorporations towards a more democratic model where anyone with a camera and some creativity can become a producer or a star. Power to the people and all that. Revver is contributing toward this shift, with a mission of empowering and rewarding creators of great content.
We had a lively discussion about how nonprofits can jump into the world of online video, and here are some of the ideas that Steven and others offered:
- Don’t forget that online videos need to be SHORT (under 3 minutes). If you have more to say, do it with a series of episodes of 3 minutes each. Each one should advance a story, be entertaining and have some sort of “cliffhanger” at the end so that people will want to watch the next one.
- Authenticity is key. Anything that looks like it was created by a PR agency will not be of as much interest as something made by a “real person.”
- Look for your favorite online video creators (especially those who already have a following) and contract with them to make a bunch of videos for your organization to post online. The cost per video will be a fraction of a standard PSA, and the video creators will be thrilled to get money to do what they already love and are good at. “Create your own celebrities.”
- Run a contest for the best video on your topic, with a prize of some sort.
- Find existing content that matches up well with your message or organization and buy ads on those videos via Revver.
- Bring in your own sponsor for your videos and get an additional 20% of the revenue, or at some point down the line, Revver may be able to match up causes with interested sponsors.
- Ask people in your own network (e.g., your organization’s members and supporters) to take your videos and put them on their websites, blogs, social networking pages and send them via email to syndicate the content as much as possible.
- Ask people to make videos around a common theme, then use excerpts from each to make a movie. Steven gave the example of people from all over trying to get to CBGB for its final closing night making videos about their experiences, which could then be made into a longer length movie that weaves the different storylines together.
Steven is now putting the finishing touches on a documentary he’s been
making about water mentoring about the global water crisis (correction per Steven), called “For Love of Water.” It’s been a labor of love over several years, and hopefully it will be coming out soon, so watch for it.
When I came home after the meeting I was flipping through an old Far Side book I’d gotten from the library for my son (who is now discovering the joys of Larson). One of the cartoons resonated exactly with what we had just been talking about:
I then saw, while poking around in my feed reader, that Ashley Cecil had a new time-lapse video of her latest painting, which is hosted on Revver. I clicked on the ad at the end (because, as I learned today, the artists do not receive any money unless people click on the ads), which turned out to be linked to a site called What Kind of World Do You Want.com. Taking off on the Five for Fighting (careful – link has audio!) song “World,” the site encourages people to “tell the world what kind of world you want and raise money for charity by making and uploading a video of yourself, your friends or your family answering the question, “What Kind Of World Do You Want”.” Or by watching the clips posted by others and clicking on the sponsor’s ad, a donation of up to 49 cents will go to one of six selected charities. While the contest seems to be over, it’s an interesting example of how a nonprofit might structure a similar contest.
For organizations that don’t have a lot of money or the ability to create and run TV commercials, the opportunity that online video offers to get your message out is enormous. But remember that no matter how “worthy” your organization may be of attention, you will not get noticed unless your content is engaging and entertaining. It’s a true meritocracy out there (at least as judged by the whims of the audience), so find the people who know what they are doing and join forces. Dip a toe into the water and come on in!