Can The Distribution Model Work For Films?

One of my favorite new discoveries has been the daily newsletter. The idea of adding a daily email to my life is huge, as I’m pretty protective of my email, but after just two days of trying it out, I was hooked. Here are a few things I feel could be applied to film distribution:

Provide Value

Axios’ whole model with this email is to provide as much value as possible in a single email. Just take a look at their manifesto.

Every aspect is crafted to fit that vision. The headline is long and covers the top things in the email. There’s a quick out if you need it. Nothing sounds particularly interesting today? Delete. Wait until tomorrow. That’s valuable, it’s my choice to read on, I’m not being forced into anything. This is on my terms.

Then the email is laid out in a way to provide the most value as possible. The 10 items in the list seem to be in descending importance, so they’re not trying to bait you into reading to the end. They’re frontloading it so that you get the most important info every morning.

The cool thing is that they’re not in it to drive traffic exclusively to their site either. Many of the links they provide go to competing sites, but again, it’s not about making money or some other goal, it’s about providing value to their readers.

How can distributors do this? I don’t know of a single distributor that’s putting out a regular email that’s focused on providing value no matter who benefits from it. Show me an email newsletter that tells me about the best, unmarketed indie films out there every day and I’ll sign up. Find ways to provide value other than “here’s 10 ways you can give us money today”.

Get Permission

I stumbled across Axios because it was mentioned by the guys on the Pod Save America podcast. Then I subscribed. Then I followed them on Twitter. After all that, I haven’t seen a retargeting campaign, a facebook ad, or any other sort of interruption marketing. They aren’t trying to push their newsletter on people, because they know that if they provide value, that people will share it, and people will sign up on their own accord, giving them permission to email them every day.

A week later and I honestly can say that I’d be a little let down if the email failed to show up tomorrow.

It’s hard because most distributors don’t have enough content to put out a daily newsletter. But that’s not the point. The point is, no matter what your schedule of releasing films, you’ve got to structure your content and your marketing in a way that it’s so desired, and so welcomed by people, that those aspects take care of everything else. Word of mouth marketing is way cheaper than buying TV ads to get people to the buy tickets to your film or rent the movie on iTunes.

If you have to push your content in front of them, interrupting their social media or browsing experience to try and sneak something in, or chase them around the internet with retargeting pixels, you don’t have their permission.

Own The Audience

How many distributors have your email address? Your contact info? The ability to reach you directly?

Not even my favorite distributors, the ones that provide me and my family hours of pleasure each year – Disney, Annapurna, A24, Lionsgate… none of them have an audience. None of them have an email list or a way to reach their “true fans”.

Why is that? Is it because they feel that money spent on marketing can make up for the time it takes to invest in an audience?

I don’t know how many people are on the, what I believe is fairly new, Axios newsletter. I’d bet it’s well into the 6 figures, and wouldn’t be surprised if it had surpassed 1 million already. That’s an audience that Axios owns. They can reach them directly, every day.

And every day, they provide insane amounts of value without asking for anything in return. They don’t even push the sponsor links on you, those come after the first three items on the list, and at the very end, and they’re native to their email and pretty subtle. Arguably, their sponsors can do to provide more value in their copy to get me to click on the links…

Imagine what would happen if a smaller company like A24 that’s just venturing into distribution started a weekly email newsletter so that every month or two, when they need to tell their audience about a new film and ask for their help with buying tickets and getting their friends to go with them, how much easier that ask is after all of the value they’ve given.

If you own the audience and treat them with respect and try to make their lives better by providing value, then when you finally ask for something, the number of people that respond is exponentially greater than if they relied on interruption marketing and social media, where they don’t own the audience, but rather have to pay to reach them.

Make Your Film Easy To Share

The Axios newsletter makes it incredibly easy to share. You can simply forward the email to a friend or family member, as I’ve done numerous times already, or after each item on the list, you can share a perfectly crafted tweet or Facebook post using their share buttons.

What would that look like if you were a distributor? If you’re self-distributing, you could mail people an extra DVD for each one they buy from you, so that they have to share it with a friend. Cost to you – a few dollars. Value given – tons. You turn people into your marketing department, and, as mentioned before, a more effective one due to word of mouth. A recommendation from a friend who has spent money on something is way more valuable than any marketing campaign you could concoct.

What if Disney gave you some money, say $.50 or $1.00 for each ticket you sell to your friends through their app. You recruit people to see the movie, then you get to see it for free?

The reward for sharing Axios is that you feel good for being in the know, and you’re sharing something of value with people. How can you do that with your film?

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