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From Streaming Media Site to Vibrant Content Ecosystem

In 2012, my team collaborated with the streaming media company,SnagFilms to create mobile applications to connect better with its customers. SnagFilms is not just a streaming video service, but more importantly a progressive web-based start-up with an immersive platform providing instant access to independent films and documentaries. As a company that generates revenue using ads, the aggressive move towards mobile was strategic to creating significant growth in the business.

Even against the popularity of streaming apps such as Netflix, HBOGo and Hulu Plus, SnagFilms serves as a paragon to strategically positioning niche media distribution. With a library housing thousands of independent films and documentaries, often touching upon wide reaching social themes, SnagFilms content is where its value lies. Thanks in part to innovative technologies, SnagFilms was able to position itself as a certified player in an industry dominated by large competitors and their distribution capabilities. Web-based companies from any industry can serve to learn a lesson or two from SnagFilms’ success.

Ad-Supported Content Distribution

By integrating pre-, mid-, and post-roll ads into its streaming, SnagFilms gave independent filmmakers and content providers a solid distribution platform that could also generate revenue. The decision to develop intuitive mobile apps to increase audience exposure was logical.

Free streaming video services are highly popular; and attracting a wider user base via mobile apps helps to broaden advertiser reach, making the value add more attractive. Given that the content is available for free, audience engagement has a direct role in the success of the company. Mobile apps can serve to increase web visits in addition to the formation of new self-created exposure from mobile downloads and interactions.

In 2013, Gartner has projected mobile advertising revenue to reach $11.4 billion. As advertising on mobile continues to mature as a central component of today’s marketing initiatives, SnagFilms made a timely decision to solidify their mobile presence.

Incorporation of Social

Social integration with the mobile app, was an obvious incorporation into the strategy of this emerging web-based business. For SnagFilms, it’s an effective way to expand the impact of the platform, natively encouraging strong suits of social such as viral sharing, ongoing interactions, and a deeply engaged user base, all through organic growth.

Incorporating Facebook authentication for logging into the app, allowed for integrated sharing, commenting and queuing functions for tracking interesting films while using the app.  Favorite films or must-watch films, are queued and linked to the users Facebook profile.  Rather than have users exit the app to share content on Facebook, integrating the social network with the app allows for seamless sharing and engagement with no need to disrupt streaming.

When mined correctly, social media usage data is especially valued by marketers hoping to better target and understand pertinent demographics. By assessing the different types of content as well as the attitudes and interests of users, advertising will be more effective and revenue will continue to flow.

Quality Content is the Key to Success

SnagFilms’ focus on high quality content is a major factor in their success. Users have shown they are eager to share their favorite content and engage with the community. Similar companies that depend on their content for ad revenue, understand fully how important extended interactions, social sharing and increased retention are to success.

Essentially, such web-based companies build their brand directly through the content they curate on their site.  By focusing on a niche area like independent films and documentaries, SnagFilms was able to base their entire business model on content curation.  While everyone can access blockbusters and high-budget films, not everyone can find a thought provoking film.  Through a focus on high quality content that meets the needs of your audience, web-based companies can solidify their success by attracting ad spending.

By including extensive background information on the filmmakers, related films and organizations, as well as the ability to connect and engage like-minded users, SnagFilms utilizes content curation as a major revenue driver.  By actively seeking high quality content to expand their site’s value, advertisers are more enticed to spend and users are more likely to stick around.

“SnagFilms had established itself as a premier destination to watch free, independent cinema online, but we wanted to increase our presence on the mobile front,” said Manik Bambha, CTO of SnagFilms. “Streaming video is not just for mainstream networks and production companies, but it’s a viable channel for distributing content regardless of funding or studio backing. Working with Icreon Tech, we were able to provide better quality streaming videos, a place for Indie film fans to connect and ultimately an improved end-user experience so they keep coming back to the site and the app.”

Making the jump from a website to a progressive media platform was made possible by SnagFilms’ wholehearted embrace of mobility. In addition to their focus on mobile, SnagFilms went to partner with Xboxas well as include their library on iTunes, Amazon.com and DirectTV. The iOS mobile app effectively expanded their ecosystem to reach as many users as possible.  Web-based companies should consider the same approach as a viable way to grow their business, expand their audience and attract advertisers.