Moviepilot goes ‘all-in’ on Facebook video, with a hand from its fans

Moviepilot might be new to video, but the film-buff site is pretty sure Facebook and its own community of contributors are the key to growth.

“We see Facebook native videos as an emerging canvas for telling stories,” said Jon Handschin, co-founder and chief creative officer of Moviepilot. In the seven months since it started experimenting with video, the company has built a strong pipeline across its 15 pages on Facebook. In July, it uploaded nearly 120 native Facebook videos (the most it has ever uploaded) and generated 47.5 million views.

The decision to go all-in on Facebook video makes sense for the company, which still relies on the social platform for driving nearly 80 percent of traffic to its website. “We are more a social company than a search company,” said Handschin, in describing why he’s “neglecting YouTube completely” while trying to build a successful video business.

And Handschin’s not concerned about the way Facebook measures views, either. “What we’ve seen is that the autoplay — while on the surface maybe a shallow way to build video engagement — is actually an excellent test of audience engagement,” he said. “That three-second connection shows curiosity has been piqued and challenges the user to then engage further.”

Most of Moviepilot’s Facebook views are happening on content either produced in-house — such as this original piece about iconic movie scenes that were actually improvised, which has nearly 1.3 million views — or official trailers and clips sent in by film studios.

But Moviepilot has made its name on the back of movie lovers who regularly contribute articles to the site. That won’t change as the site experiments with video, according to Handschin. “We are having conversations with hundreds of [our regular contributors], and many of them are interested in doing video,” he said.

Take, for instance, a contributor named Nicole Renee, a big horror-movie buff and student at the LA Film School. In having conversations with her, the group came up with the idea to shoot her as she explored the neighborhood where “Insidious” was filmed. The resulting four-minute video has nearly 1.1 million views on Facebook and could lead to a new “recurring format” for Moviepilot, which is looking to build an actual slate of programming and formats that can be done by its in-house creative team or its network of contributors. “We look at it as a laboratory that we try to open up to the outside,” said Handschin.

That isn’t the only way Moviepilot plans to invite its contributors to do video. The site is pretty well-established in the film world. It’s the seventh-biggest movie site in the U.S. at 12.2 million uniques across platforms in June, according to comScore. Its worldwide audience has surpassed 30 million uniques, according to the company, and on Facebook it’s nearing 30 million total fans. With that kind of reach, Moviepilot regularly receives invites to press junkets, red carpet premieres and other high-profile Hollywood events. It wants to open up that access to its community.

After the success of her Facebook video, Renee was sent to cover the premiere of the third “Insidious” movie in June. Moviepilot, via its Comic-Con partnership with Entertainment Weekly, also sent four young creators to San Diego in June to interview their favorite celebrities and cover other aspects of the annual showcase.

Moviepilot doesn’t pay any of its “creators” yet, though it’s something that the company isn’t ruling out for the future. For now it’s pitching contributors on the dual advantages of reach and access that they wouldn’t have on their own. “That exposure, and the opportunity to be close to the entertainment industry and attend premieres and events, is what brings thousands of fans to our platform,” said Handschin.

Images provided by Moviepilot

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