A UK-based blog about short films and short film-making.

16 May 2005

Exploiting the long tail

So there's a theory from the editor of Wired magazine that implies that short films can now make their money back, thanks to the combination of online distribution and the sort of technology that tells Amazon customers that if they bought book X then they might like book Y.

The online distribution means that the cost of selling an additional copy of your film is next to nothing (no VHS or DVD to copy), just the cost of building and maintaining a website and providing storage and bandwidth to allow films to be downloaded. This makes it profitable for online companies to shove as much material as they can onto their websites. Almost anything is worth offering on the offchance it will find a buyer - even if they only ever sell a few copies of a film, they can make a profit on each unit sold (no minimum print run in the digital world). So it's not just the best-sellers that make profits for these companies - even niche films like shorts can make money (the idea of the long tail). According to the Wired article
"...eBay is mostly tail...niche and one-off products."
It's the combination of these low costs with the Amazon-type software that allows an online company to direct you towards films that you might like, and can also take account of 'viewer's recommendations', so that if your film is a good one people will be more likely to find it.

This sounds plausible to me, but there are a couple of drawbacks if this is to be a way for shorts to make money. The first is, I don't know of a site that currently has the very high quality, well known short films that will draw people in in the first place. The sites I don know with some high quality shorts don't charge for them. The second problem is that I imagine the price for - say - a 7 minute film will still be very low. Say that my share as a the film-maker were to be 10p for each download. That's still a hell of a lot of downloads before you make back anything like the cost of a short film. And it's not really an established thing to pay for a short film, in the way it always has been to pay for a music single or a book. So while it may be a plausible model for getting my film seen by more people, and a small amount of income would be better than none, it's not a business model from my point of view.

Thanks to Matt Milloy whose posting on Shooting People drew this article to my attention.


Post a Comment

<< Home