On Google Video and the New Paradigm
Some of you may have caught the 48-hour free view of Helvetica on Google Video… uhm, that wasn’t legit. In our efforts to have Google take the video down, I got a few emails that went something like this comment, from a chap named Raymond Pirouz:
I learned about the movie through Google Video. Because of that exposure — however illegal or unauthorized — I am going to purchase it, and I suspect that others who were exposed to it thorugh Google Video may do the same. Those who were exposed to it and will not purchase it may not have ever purchased it anyway, but they had the opportunity to be exposed to information with a positive impact on their lives. How is this a bad thing? I think that movie producers (especially independent minded documentary producers whose films can actually lead to sales of associated products as you so generously offer on your web site) can only gain by increasing the exposure of your movies to as wide an audience as you possibly can. Services like Google Video should not be seen as a “place for seedy pirates” but as a venue for generating publicity and product awareness.
You are not getting a high-quality video there, but you are being exposed to videos that — if you actually like — you can purchase and/or support in other ways. I have told several people about the video because I saw it on Google Video — and I suspect others have done the same. Why would you want to lose that type of free publicity? We need to begin using the new paradigm that the internet affords us instead of sticking to the old world mentalities as promoted by the likes of Hollywood and the such. Think about it.
Well, I have thought about it. And for certain work (music videos come to mind), where it strategically makes sense to give it away free, I believe in it. But the problem with the New Paradigm is that the numbers don’t always add up. Tens of thousands of people watched the film free on Google in the past two days (it was the #1 most watched video today). Do you know how many people have emailed asking how they can support the film? Two people. There’s been no increase in traffic to this site, and no change in our normal daily mail order sales. Most of the blogs and sites that embedded the Google video window weren’t even linking to our site, they weren’t acknowledging that it was an independent film made by us. And they were even selling ads around the video (i.e., making money), some had Google text ads that were tagged for fonts, typography, etc.
And in terms of generating awareness and publicity through online video, isn’t that what all those clips we uploaded to YouTube are for? I think you can get the idea of what the film’s about from those, and decide if you’re interested.
My biggest issue is that it should be the artist’s decision whether to release their work for free. I don’t think it’s fair that someone else can decide to give my work away, and profit from it. We’ve talked about letting people stream Helvetica for free from our website, but for now we’re still focused on DVD sales, TV broadcasts, and other “old school” distribution models. I realize that this may be the last year that those old models will still even work.
The Google video has been taken down, but someone else will probably try to upload it again, and then we’ll take it down again, etc., because if we’re going to upload the film for people to watch for free, we’re going to do so on our own terms. Again, I’m ambivalent about this issue… I can see the benefits of both sides, so let me hear what all of you think about it. You might sway me.
And I’d love to hear from people who’ve already purchased the DVD… how would you feel if the film were suddenly available online for free?