Machinima’s mobile play is about community, not just video

Machinima, the gaming and “fanboy” network backed by Warner Bros., is huge. Currently, its YouTube network averages 154 million unique viewers and 3.6 billion views per month, based on data provided by the company.

However, as other YouTube networks and creators are also witnessing, more than half of those views are now happening on mobile. Compare this to three or four years ago, when mobile only accounted for 20 percent of Machinima’s overall YouTube views, and you can see how the smallest screen has become a vital part of every YouTuber’s business. For Machinima, the rise in mobile viewing has forced it to re-think how it wants to engage with with its audience on smartphones and tablets.

“Clearly people are consuming short-form video on mobile devices, which made it very important for us to build an experience for that audience,” said Machinima’s vp of product Ed Lopez. “The challenge from our perspective was, well YouTube already has a mobile app, so why would you want to be on Machinima’s app versus YouTube’s?”

Machinima, like other YouTube networks and creators, likes to boast about how it has a highly engaged fan base. The numbers do support it. In the last 30 days, its network had an engagement rate (which is calculated by adding likes and comments and then dividing that number by total views) of 6.9 percent, according to video analytics firm Tubular Labs. In comparison, the average engagement rate for gaming creators (with 1,000 subscribers or more) is 6 percent, and the average for all creators (again, with 1,000 subscribers or more) is 3.8 percent.

But that is only measuring likes and comments. Sensing an opportunity to do something more interactive, Machinima recently partnered with app-builder Victorious to launch a completely new app, which can be best described as a mini social network for Machinima, its creators and fans.

It offers videos produced by Machinima and its talent network, sure, but also provides a bunch of community features designed to keep users active on the app. These include the ability to post videos, create memes from videos and images, post “emoji ballistics” for terms such as “LOL” and “WTF” (something gamers and fanboys love to do, apparently) and create and vote on custom polls.

“There already is a great platform where you can consume video, and it’s called YouTube,” said Sam Rogoway, co-founder and CEO of Victorious. “There has to be a reason for consumers to not just download the app but keep coming back to it.”

According to Rogoway, roughly 20 percent of viewers of digital video content are driving 80 percent of the engagement. These are the people who are “looking for more than just consumption — they want to express themselves,” he said. These super-fans have already taken to some of the other apps built by Victorious for YouTube creators. “We have seen a number of fans become creators in their own right … having upwards of 10,000 followers [in the app],” said Rogoway.

Machinima is looking to develop a closer relationship with a large swath of its fan base, and use the app for a variety of objectives spanning content, distribution and monetization.

“We have a general idea of who our audience is and we know where the views are coming from, but we don’t know who they really are — that info sits with Google; it doesn’t sit with us,” said Lopez. “We want what’s resonating and what isn’t [for users] when using the app to impact how and what we program.” For instance, Machinima is currently experimenting with the idea of releasing some content early on the app before bringing it to YouTube.

“If you really want to understand your audience, this is the way to do it,” said Lopez. “You control the narrative. You control how you communicate with them and you get a sense of why they are your fans to begin with. I think a lot of that gets lost on YouTube.”

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