Moviepilot cashes in on a platform approach
These days, every publisher wants to double as a platform. And with the success of outfits like Moviepilot, it’s easy to see why.
The film-buff site, which opened itself up to contributors in June, has posted some big numbers since going the platform route. Its 5,000 contributors post 4,000 articles a month on movie topics such as horror (“The 6 Goriest TV Scenes of 2014 – How Many Have You Seen?”), superheroes (“Lunch With The Real Ninja Turtles” ), and young-adult movies (“Before They Were Vampires: The Nina Dobrev Edition”).
This has given the 2-year-old site some significant traffic growth. ComScore says that Moviepilot got 16 million unique U.S. visitors in November, a 900 percent increase over the same time last year. That makes the site the fifth-largest U.S. movie site behind IMDB, Fandango, Viewster and Flixter, according to comScore’s rankings. Being a platform clearly has its benefits.
“Technology has hit the entire content industry hard, and it’s time to build new publishing models,” said Moviepilot CEO Tobias Bauckhage. “We’re trying to create the first fan-centric new generation media company. And technology has to be an integral part of that.”
Moviepilot isn’t alone, of course. The publishers-as-platforms list has grown rapidly as of late to include sites such as as EW.com, Yahoo Finance, Condé Nast Traveller, Time Out, Harvard Business Review, Gawker and Forbes. And all of these publishers are looking for the same things: low production costs and big traffic.
But Moviepilot, which has built its own article editor and analytics tools, fashions itself not just as another publisher platform but rather as part of the wave of so-called “full stack” media companies, which create their their own complete end-to-end technology and services. It’s the same pitch pushed by the likes of BuzzFeed and Vox Media, which are using their custom tech platforms to attract both brands and big-name investors.
But even the most tech-minded media company still has the same distribution bottleneck: Facebook. Over 80 percent of Moviepilot’s traffic comes from the social network, where it links to roughly 100 of its articles a week via its dozen Facebook pages, which have 29 million fans, collectively. That, of course, exposes the site to some significant risks, considering that Facebook hasn’t been shy about tweaking its algorithm.
“That’s definitely something that keeps us up at night,” Bauckhage said. “On the other hand, we wouldn’t be as big as we are now without Facebook. It’s a great opportunity, but it’s also a great risk.”
Moviepilot only recently began running standard display ads. For now, it is concentrated on mining user behavior to sell audience segments off the site. The site’s large base of 2 million Facebook-connected users and Facebook fans has given Moviepilot a large body of data, which the site uses to run Facebook audience-extension campaigns on behalf of movie studios. For a film like “Hunger Games: Mockingjay — Part 1,” for example, Moviepilot is able to tell marketers about other film franchises (“Frozen,” “Mortal Instruments,” etc.) that the target demographic is interested in. Moviepilot then uses that data to target certain Facebook fans. Its audience effectively doubles as one big Hollywood focus group.
“Magazines over the past hundred years have been promising that they reach influencers, but they never delivered numbers to prove that promise,” Bauckhage said. “We’re actually doing so.”
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