C3 Weekly Update

Editor's Note

Welcome to another edition of the C3 Weekly Update. Our opening note this week takes an excerpt from the Consortium's forthcoming white paper "Hollywood Goes YouTube (?)" by recently graduated C3 researcher Eleanor Baird. Eleanor's newsletter piece lays out the case for looking at the potential of YouTube as a site for effective film promotion. She discusses the motivations behind the forthcoming study, that looked at whether there is an identifiable and appreciable connection between promotion on YouTube and opening box-office revenues.

Our closing note this week is from C3 Consulting Researcher Ted Hovet, who teaches at Western Kentucky University. Ted writes about the differences in context between content on YouTube and that found in officially packaged forms such as the DVD.

In addition to our weekly essays, this week we are featuring a brief introduction to Daniel Pereira, the Consortium's new Research Manager.

Finally, if you head over to the back-end of the C3 website, we have updated the Resources section with the presentation materials from the recent C3 Retreat. Slide shows from each of the presentations by members of the C3 Research team are available there:

  • Spreadable Media: "If It Doesn't Spread, It's Dead", by Henry Jenkins, Xiaochang Li, Ana Domb;
  • Understanding YouTube, by Joshua Green;
  • Hollywood Goes YouTube: Film Promotion, Online Video and Spreadable Media, by Eleanor Baird.

Remember that you'll need your company username and password to access this material. Podcasts of the sessions from the Retreat, including panel discussions from the Friday, are on their way.

If you have any questions or comments or would like to request prior issues of the Update, direct them to Joshua Green, interim editor of the C3 Weekly Update, at


In This Issue

Editor's Note

Opening Note: Eleanor Baird on film promotion and YouTube

Glancing at the C3 Blog

Introducing Daniel Pereira

Closing Note: Ted Hovet on clips, DVDs and teaching film in light of YouTube

Opening Note

Hollywood Goes YouTube(?)

In asking the central question of what value might be created by fans sharing, viewing, creating, and discussing content related to the top 10 summer blockbusters of 2007, this paper presents a series of findings and related implications that may prove useful to companies trying to establish a social media strategy, assess the value of fan promotional activity against copyright enforcement, and best use the characteristics of various media to deliver their messages and conduct further research in this area.

I began this paper with a question: does the promotional activity of fans when they repost, remix or parody a brand or media property have a quantifiable value?

Three things prompted the question and influenced me to work on this project. The first was the ongoing billion dollar lawsuit by Viacom against YouTube, and by extension Google, for lost revenue as a consequence of their copyrighted material being posted on the site by users.

The second was the work I did on a piece for the C3 newsletter in late 2007 that asked what the value of fan activity could be. That research, and the ongoing industry dialog about engagement and how to reflect the value of involved viewership made me want to investigate how video sharing might fit into the puzzle.

The third was the phenomenal success, in January 2008, of the low budget J.J. Abrams-produced film Cloverfield, that echoed the success of The Blair Witch project in the internet age. Following a viral marketing campaign full of mysteries, clues, and teasers that drew in some hard core fans through social media, the campaign received a great deal of attention in the blogosphere and mainstream media that spurred word of mouth and attracted a broad audience for the movie. This success came after a record-breaking summer box office in terms of revenue, not attendance numbers, and actual theater audiences are not growing at the same pace as theatrical earnings.

As C3 began to investigate "viral media" (which we have since redefined as "spreadable media") and wrapped up the YouTube coding initiative, this project fit into our research agenda as a supplement to both, examining how fans of specific media properties were sharing, viewing and discussing popular films through the website.

For the study, the YouTube presence of the top 10-grossing films of the summer of 2007 as the "product" to study because they enabled some degree of control for external factors and represented a set of similar products to evaluate, even if the consumers were different in some cases. The rationale for this data set also included:

  • The films are a similar type of product, "consumed" in a similar context ad price by all who see them in the first weeks of release;
  • They had defined release dates supported by large media campaigns leading up to those dates;
  • Many people would have been aware of them through the mass media; and
  • Earnings are reliably reported by a number of sources.

Moreover, given the relatively short lifespans of films in first-run theaters and the importance of that period in recouping the investment, viral marketing strategies, where audiences promote the movie to their social networks online, could be vital to reach the right audiences at the right time. And, as we saw with some recent box office successes, notably Cloverfield, The Lord of the Rings movies, and possibly the upcoming Star Trek film, an active fan base on a number of platforms draws attention and interest from the mass media and the broader population.

Key questions

By looking at YouTube data on the most viewed and most discussed videos from April 28-August 12, 2007, this white paper is intended as a first step towards answering the following questions:

  • Could audience participation in YouTube be an indicator for the commercial success of a film in the critical first weeks?
  • Do user participation patterns around accessing film clips on YouTube mirror advertising activity on television?
  • How can we (and should we) compare mass and social media activity? Does a view on YouTube have a similar value as an "impression" on television? How does the reach compare across media?
  • Are there patterns in terms of when trailers, film clips, and related materials are circulated through unofficial channels and become the most viewed or discussed on YouTube and the web before, during, and after the opening?
  • Are there patterns in the nature of the content or who uploads it?
  • Are the patterns and observations about the type of videos, uploaders, and other participation similar to those across YouTube?
  • How might YouTube relate to other promotional channels?
  • Are there patterns or findings in film promotion that may be applicable to consumer products?

Some of the key findings of this study include:

  • YouTube is not an effective way to drive large volumes of impressions in the short term
  • Users interact with UGC and PPC differently, viewing PPC in greater volumes, but discussing UGC more often
  • Viewing and discussion on YouTube increases later in the week, particularly Thursdays
  • Majority of top videos are uploaded by individual users
  • Properties studied with familiar brand names, characters, appear the most
  • Additional products/events can boost YouTube presence post-release
  • Post-release an optimal time for word of mouth via UGC, discussion over dissemination of commercial messages
  • There is no apparent link between YouTube views or discussion and offline revenue
Eleanor Baird recently graduated from the Sloan School of Management at MIT, where she worked with the Consortium as a Graduate Researcher. She is now with web analytics company Compete.

Glancing at the C3 Blog

The Dangerous World of a GPS That Does Not Exist. Geoffrey Long writes about the ins and outs of the Knight Rider GPS, a branded GPS device that brings the novelty of 1980s television into your Pinto. What's next, Geoff asks, an Enterprise themed GPS with the voice of Jonathan Frakes?


Internet Media For Niche Audiences (Not The FCC). Both Joss Whedon's Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog and Warren Ellis' G.I. Joe cartoons for adults open up a discussion of the viability of the 'web-to-DVD' model. But is it only really for niche properties?

Follow the Blog

Don't forget – you can always post, read, and carry out online conversations with the C3 team at our blog.

Introducing Daniel Pereira

As I mentioned in the last update, this semester the Consortium has taken on a new Research Manager - Daniel Pereira. Daniel joined the Consortium in July after time spent at the IBM Digital Media Laboratory, and working in new media and digital media production. As Research Manager, Daniel will be helping steer the Consortium in new directions and be the key point of contact. We're excited to have him on board and look forward to a prosperous year.

Daniel T. Pereira received his B.A degree in 1992 from Harvard University in English and American Literature and Language. He also pursued film production and theory studies in the Department of Visual and Environmental Studies. He attended the USC School of Cinema-Television, Division of Animation and Digital Arts, as a member of the MFA Program in Film, Video and Computer Animation. He has been privileged to study with international film directors Miklós Jancsó (Hungary) and Arturo Ripstein (Mexico), as well as cinematographers László Kovács (Easy Rider, King of Marvin Gardens, Shampoo) and John Alonzo (Chinatown, Scarface, Norma Rae).

From 1994 to 2001, Daniel was the Technical and Creative Manager of the IBM Digital Media Laboratory located at Universal Studios, Hollywood. In partnership with the UCLA Extension Department of Entertainment Studies and Performing Arts, the lab was designed to produce innovative academic programming in an effort to understand the impact of new technology on the entertainment industry. Lab courses were designed around new uses of the computer in traditional film production, computer graphics/special effects software and the growing 'new media' technologies. In this context, Daniel provided strategic market research, hands-on training and digital media production capabilities to various digital media companies, most notably Sony Pictures Imageworks, mun2, Warner Interactive, Walt Disney Interactive Group, Universal Music Group, Fox Interactive, IBM Digital Media Solutions Group, Macromedia, Adobe and Ifilm.

Through over 15 years of academic affiliations, management consulting, high tech entrepreneurial ventures and independent media projects, Daniel has been exposed to the entire spectrum of media production and distribution models, as well as narrative, quantitative and qualitative methodologies in a broad range of industries, disciplines and subject matters -- including digital media production, the Hollywood model, Latin American cinema, screenwriting, the independent film movement, documentary filmmaking, experimental animation, international football (soccer) fan culture, social psychology, visualization, demographics, information theory, avant-garde culture, scenario planning, regional/creative cluster economic development, urban culture, location-based entertainment, innovation, creative collaboration, race, sexuality and communication. Daniel is a native of Southern California and currently lives in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

He can be contacted at dpereira@MIT.EDU.

Closing Note

Film history and the pedagogical "clip" in the age of YouTube

Every two years I teach an introductory film history class. To supplement the weekly viewing, I require students to research one major figure in film history that we are not otherwise covering. Students present this research to the class, supplemented by any materials they would like to share. Up until a few years ago, almost all of the students marched into their presentations with a stack of DVDs (and even a few ancient VHS tapes), eager to show clips that demonstrated the style and importance of the director, writer, producer or star they had researched. Now, those stacks are almost entirely gone, as students simply switch the video input to the Internet and fire up YouTube.

While some of the exact same clips get shown, I am struck by the different choices and different contexts in the assembly of their presentations, and by the shift this suggests in media history and media use in the classroom. The possibilities and the limitations of using YouTube for clips are entirely different than those of using a DVD. Obviously, there will be a limitation in the number of clips available, as students choose from what is available online instead of from the entire content on a DVD copy. For instance in a presentation on Hitchcock, a student showed the opening title sequence from Psycho (1960). Why that clip? Most likely because in a search on YouTube for Psycho, that is one of the first three clips that comes up. In one case a student told me that he had loaded on his own clips because nothing from the silent film he was researching was online, but typically students preparing for these presentations will make use of what is immediately available, with little active control over it. (Copyright note: I provide students with a handout on guidelines for fair use of clips in the classroom, an issue I have discussed at more length on the C3 blog and in the closing note to the C3 Weekly Update, March 30, 2007 [available in the newsletter archives on the C3 site]).

At the same time, using clips from YouTube opens up contexts and connections that would not be found on a DVD. In searching for materials online students have discovered old TV interviews with directors and stars, surprisingly obscure clips of famous figures, and many parodies of famous moments in film history (there are at least three parodies of Psycho within the first dozen or so links on YouTube). In short, students create their own package of "extras" to surround the clips of the actual film text. If they have less control of the text itself, they have much greater and more active control of its context. I have also observed that the YouTube interface creates a more active audience. In the past when students have presented DVD clips of, say, an international figure not familiar to most the others in class, questions and interactions tended to be limited. But when the YouTube screen comes up, an interface all students are familiar with, I have noted a stronger engagement; at times other students have even shouted out requests for other clips they see listed (this, of course, when the clip stops playing and the screen suggests related clips that are a mere click away). Even if the presenter shows the clips on the full screen view, they first call up the main page with its menus, lists, logos, commentaries, and so on. Starting a clip in this environment gives it an entirely different context than it would otherwise have; an area calling much more study as we consider its impact on how students use and understand film history. Classical film texts, generally considered fairly autonomous and "fixed" at the point of consumption compared to more interactive media, now suddenly find themselves in much more heterogeneous surroundings as they are dissected into a collage of clips. Which ones get loaded on YouTube or other Internet sites and why? What patterns are there to the related links that appear when one calls up a classic film on YouTube? How are users shaping and reshaping these contexts? As cinema history plays out in an entirely different environment it will inevitably be learned (and taught, and researched) in a different way.

Ted Hovet is an Associate Professor of English and Director of Film Studies at Western Kentucky University. He teaches classes on American studies, film theory, the history of narrative film, and composition and has published on early film exhibition, pedagogy, and film adaptation. He is currently working on a project on "Framing Motion: Containing the Image in Early Cinema and Beyond".

The Fine Print

Compiled and Edited by Joshua Green ( for the Convergence Culture Consortium.


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