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Undervalued Attention Economies:
GaryVee and TribecaX

June 16, 2022 - late this week, as my attention was elsewhere

I’ve been writing and talking about the attention economy for many years now, but I feel like people still don’t “get” what a big change this has been, and how artists and businesses need to understand it to find success. I was thinking about the attention economy again this week, as I struggled to get my attention focused on anything to do with the Tribeca Festival – going on in NYC right now – when there’s so much else competing for our attention in NYC that it can almost seem like Tribeca is a figment of the industry’s imagination. Does it really exist?
Well, It barely existed for me, as my attention is firmly focused on the beach during the Summer months, but they did force me into town on the Ferry (from Rockaway Beach) for a day to attend the TribecaX event. It’s one of the odder events on the circuit – an expensive ticket that is only attended by others working in the brand funded content space (it’s not just film, but also series, immersive and audio), and none of the public knows it’s even going on. But it was packed, mainly I think for two reasons – people who hoped to meet the brand reps attending, but quickly learned that those folks leave the room quickly before they can get hit up; and second, to listen to GaryVee, who was speaking about the future of streaming, and nearly everyone I met had shown up just in time to hear his talk. Which was mainly about the attention economy, but with a twist.
GaryVee pointed out that the gigantic explosion of content and fragmentation of our attention has been going on ever since we moved from three channels to hundred via cable, and it has only accelerated via the internet, and will only do so more now when you add in the explosion of AI and the next iterations of Web3, etc. Audiences have more choice than ever before, and they only want to watch what they want to watch, when they want to watch it, and when their friends and the (proper) algorithm has brought them what they want to watch (or listen to, or play, or experience, or…). They don’t want to watch ads – except during the Super Bowl – and they don’t want to watch anything boring, not genuine, or not made for them and the platform they’re on right now. Yet, brands keep making bad ads, and throw them out via programmatic means, focusing on lowering the CPM rates, and wondering why it doesn’t work. And filmmakers keep wondering why they can’t get anyone’s attention for their doc in theaters, which people only want to go to for the biggest, most important films. And on and on. 
But more importantly, he reminded us – and me – that the most important thing you can look for as a creator are the pockets of undervalued attention. The subjects, themes, platforms, etc. where there are a lot of people who want to give their attention, but they aren’t being served by the market. (He also calls it underpriced attention, which is why he says the Super Bowl ad is underpriced, because so many people want to see those ads). That’s the sweet spot for creators of all types (whether it’s for film or TikTok or both), for brands, for marketers and even for new products. It’s simple, but also easy to forget when one thinks about the attention economy.
It's also always been true, but never more so than today. If you look back to the beginnings of an artist like Tyler Perry, he realized that there were millions of underserved folks who wanted to give their attention to fun, uplifting (and religion-friendly) media for the Black audience. No one else believed him, and look where he is now. My buddy Will Packer did the same thing – when he made Chocolate City and Trois, no one was paying attention to that audience, and he opened his films outside of NYC and LA, and took them directly to the Black, underserved audience (with a lot of help from Bronner Brothers), and he’s now one of the most prolific and successful producers out there. Today, you can see this with the rise of more diverse content – everything from Flamin’ Hot to Reservoir Dogs to Yellowjackets. And it’s also true of the best creator content on social media, where targeting an underserved niche can lead to viral popularity, and audiences are connecting to what they want to watch more than ever before. 
But this here’s a newsletter about film, and as such, that’s the lesson I think more filmmakers need to take away – there’s riches in undervalued niches. The key being the undervalued – that doesn’t just mean a niche, but a sizable one, that isn’t getting the stories it wants to see. They aren’t being bought by the big streamers, necessarily (yet), and are probably being missed by most distributors. You can probably see their audiences showing up at festival screenings, special events, or in the corners of fan sites like Letterboxd. I can name a few of these communities, but I won’t – because the point here is for you – whether you are a creator, or a brand or studio working with one – to target those undervalued audiences with the best dammed storytelling, and you’ll likely find success. If your stuff is good. If it’s not – it won’t fly, which was the other lesson GaryVee brought to the stage – if you aren’t getting traction with an audience, it’s not the fault of the gatekeepers or the algorithm. It’s probably a fault with what you’re making. But that’s also ok – because if you take some humility from that, and focus more on what the audience wants (or doesn’t know yet that it really wants), that can also lead to more success. 
So, In spite of my reluctance to turn my attention towards the City and the Tribeca Festival, I’m glad I spent a little of my attention gold on the fest. I relearned a valuable lesson. But now, it’s late Friday, I’ve used up your attention on this post, and if you’re still with me, I recommend you do what I’m about to do – redirect all attention to the sand, the waves, the (once-again) blue skies, and things other than the future of the movie business.

Stuff I'm Reading

14 Year-Old Animated a Scene in Spider-Verse: Preston Mutanga, a 14 y/o from Toronto (whose parents are from Cameroon and immigrated to Toronto by way of Minnesota), made a short computer-generated Lego video of the trailer, and it became a viral success that made it's way to the producers of Spiderman: Across the Spider-Verse. They called him up and had him animate a scene for the actual movie. He taught himself how to do it via YouTube videos, and now he's one of the heroes making a hero movie. Cool story, and you can read all about it, and watch his original video, in the NYT story by Carlos Aguilar. (BN)

Penske Media Takes Over More of the Media World with Globes: Penske Media, owner of Variety, Deadline, Indiewire, The Hollywood Reporter... and SXSW, among others - now owns the Golden Globes. See any conflicts of interest there? Ha! Me Neither. You know, 90% of the trade's income comes from ads for awards season, and a ton of their editorial as well. Not to mention, there's Saudi money involved, too. This should be interesting.I could write more, but Richard Rushfeld already tore this one apart in The Ankler, so read it there (it may be a paywall thing).

But, one also has to wonder if their next take-over will be The Gothams, given that they've just announced a big Variety partnership for a new "Gotham Week," which also happens to feature a tiny sentence near the end informing us that their "Market" won't take place this year - due to the Writer's Strike. But with rumors of layoffs in the organization (via Zoom, no less... jeesh), one wonders if that's the end of their second most important program, and one which has launched many films and careers. I'm hoping we'll learn more about this soon. It feels a lot like putting more emphasis on the glam and less on the substantive programs the field actually needs. (BN)
Branded Content
TribecaX Award Winners - Including a Sub-Genre Client Project - The TribecaX Awards took place on Wed. June 14th, and there were many amazing projects among the nominees and winners. The winners list is up at IndieWire (at the bottom of all the other fest winners), and I was super happy to be there to see Sub-Genre clients Adobe and Anonymous Content win for Full Bleed, a new series directed by Patrick Daughters. This is a great series about designers and architects, which we'll be bringing to wider distribution later this year. I know many of the other nominees and winners, and congrats to everyone. (BN)
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