Jonathan Coulton left his day-job to become a musician. he put out a new song for free every friday. Eventually, a few of them got picked up and passed around. Make it as easy as possible for people to consume what you are putting out. Put up the easiest file format to share, and put it out whether you think it’s good or not. The internet is really good at causing the good stuff to float to the top.
Markos Moulitsas (Daily Kos) claims he wasn’t the best or most original writer in his field. He stood out in two ways. He had a very narrow niche that no one else was hitting – at the time it was polls and the war in Iraq. He served in the war, so he had first hand experience. He also had good branding – orange became the color of his site and represented him and his brand. People confuse you with other sites if you are using a generic blogspot background. Use colors that no one else is using. Use iconic icons! They will remember and build associations with your writing. He was a comments nazi, banning comments from right wingers, which created a “safe haven” for progressives to chat in the comments.
Burnie Burns (Red vs Blue) was a professional film maker, and after a year of shopping films to film distributors, made a hobby video and put it up online. It got great distribution, and they realized they didn’t need someone else to be a distributor for them. They keep up with current events (holidays and news), which encourages people to spread the videos quickly and keeps things fresh. Being linked from Fark was key, so they started advertising on Fark for $25.
Brett Gaylor (RiP: A Remix Manifesto) gave his users challenges to remix and cut up different pieces of video with the goal of putting together activist videos. He recommends including the community you are targeting in your work. He included Cory Doctorow in his video, and got a link from Boing Boing.
More detail on the panel after the jump!
It’s very important to communicate on every channel available. All it costs is time and effort to join all of them. Be available in as many ways as possible. If that gets too overwhelming, find out who your audience is and communicate with them where they are. Spending an entire day communicating with your audience is totally worth it.
95% of Daily Kos is generated by advertising. 5% is generated by “membership”, which basically just means you can turn off the advertising. They have a paid staff of nine and a seven figure annual budget.
Red vs Blue had no advertising for the first five years. He did do some commercial videos. He introduced a dvd and made a premium membership level that got content in advance. He didn’t reach out to lots of different social networks. He can’t learn to use new networks as fast as other people can learn how to hate them. He’s now introduced advertising on the site.
40-50% of Jonathan Coulton’s revenue comes from people buying music online. The rest comes from live shows and physical merchandise. He used creative commons because he was hoping that other people would do his distribution work for him. It also allowed people to make videos for his music that then took off into niche markets that he wasn’t even aware of (like WOW machinema).
None of these folks have used traditional marketing methods. They are just doing what they are passionate about and putting it out as far and wide as they can. Daily Kos commissions polls, which are important original content that gets picked up in other news outlets. He creates news instead of spending money on advertising. A good publicist is important because it can be really difficult to maintain relationships with mainstream press. Having someone who knows how to navigate that landscape is very important. On the internet, however, people can smell marketing from a mile away, and they ignore it.
How do you influence your audience to spread the word about your content? Get them involved. Ask them what they want in the next video. Do giveaways, trivia contests, and blog open ended questions. Once the audience has some level of ownership over it, they will spread it. Put digg and facebook chicklets on the bottom. Make it easy for them to share what they are emotionally invested in. Don’t be ashamed to ask influential people to post a review of your work. Your fans are interested in your personal backstory, so don’t be impersonal.
It seems like you all work 24/7. Is there a way to build your online brand without putting that much work into it? It is hard to be both the creative and the business side. There’s too much competition to slack, but you can hire staff based on advertising revenue.
Our biggest links come from the most unexpected sources. Don’t do “coming soon”. Don’t do paper marketing. Don’t do TV marketing. Don’t do newspaper marketing. Let people distribute links so that users can get the content immediately.
How do you structure your day? Hard and fast rules. Tuesday is creative day. Turn off your computer. People will call you if it’s important. Only work until 5, then force yourself to stop. It will be a real sacrifice for you and your family. Multitasking can influence your creativity because you have lots of inputs going on at once. Make sure you have your own website that people can come to in case the social networks you use go down or go out of vogue. Publish your twitter feed on your website. Make sure people can get all the content you produce in one place.