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Harnessing data for better drama
WHEN filmmaker Kenny Tan was approached to join Viddsee in April last year, he was nonplussed. His response, he recalls, was: "I'm not really the curator type, I do creation!"
Co-founder Ho Jia Jian then explained that the video platform was going into content creation too.
Now Mr Tan, 35, heads that new arm of the firm, Viddsee Studios, which was launched in November.
He started out in the industry years ago as a freelance director and producer, before joining a media company in 2014 to produce content with an online focus.
One major thing that working at Viddsee differs from his past experience, he says, is that the firm has "the data (he) needed to tell stories better".
Previously, all he had to go on were general surveys such as those carried out by Nielsen, with relatively limited sample sizes.
In contrast, Viddsee's films have had over a billion views to date, with each one being a useful datapoint.
Data analytics allows for audience profiling: figuring out what specific segments and demographics prefer.
"For me as a filmmaker, that's exciting," says Mr Tan.
Available data include viewing duration, time spent on Viddsee's site in a single browsing session, and whether users click through on content pushed to them via emailers.
Also tracked are shares, likes and comments, both on Viddsee's site and other platforms where its videos are hosted, such as Facebook and YouTube.
"As a filmmaker myself, I never had that kind of data," says Mr Tan.
Much of his filmmaking used to be based on assumptions about what worked. For instance, he would rule out what he thought of as cliches. Yet there may be an audience to whom such "cliches" are still fresh, he says.
The lesson: "Don't be myopic. You have to look at the data."
By analysing viewing data, Viddsee is better able to offer viewers content that they are likely to enjoy.
The viewing completion rate for Viddsee's videos is usually over 50 per cent, even for films lasting 11 or 12 minutes - no mean feat given the usual online attention spans.
It also helps that the firm has earned a reputation, he adds: "When you build a brand that revolves around storytelling, people are more willing to watch longer content."
Insights from data also inform Viddsee's content creation services.
If a client has a specific target demographic in mind, Viddsee can crunch the data to see what such audiences enjoy. Says Mr Tan: "It helps you target them better."
Yet even as Viddsee's filmmaking efforts are informed by data, the team never loses sight of the heart of their enterprise: creativity.
As an adjunct lecturer at a polytechnic some years ago, Mr Tan saw students who gave up creative work for corporate jobs or ended up in other roles in the industry.
Part of his goal at Viddsee is "finding work for the filmmakers" to keep their creative spirit alive, he says
The Viddsee Originals series commissions work from filmmakers.
By working with Viddsee, young filmmakers also get a chance to work with big brands and build up their portfolio. This is possible because clients trust Viddsee to match them with the right directors, says Mr Tan.
The filmmakers also gain from Viddsee's insights, particularly on the difference between a captive cinema audience and fickle online viewers.
These tips can be as simple as avoiding an extended black screen at the start of the film - "People will just swipe away" - or providing subtitles so viewers can watch videos even without the sound on, as they might do during their commute. Says Mr Tan: "We're all about supporting filmmakers and keeping them going."
Brought to you by The Future Economy Council