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AD: Fans, Friends & Followers

Friday, February 13, 2009

What's the Right Word for Those People Formerly Known as the Audience?

I'm down in DC today for the excellent 'Making Your Media Matter' conference... and I will try to post some audio later today from a panel that just took place about outreach, marketing, and audience-building.

Afterward, I wound up talking with some of the conference participants about terminology.

Media-makers today live in a world where the people formerly known as the audience can do so much more, and contribute in so many new ways...

They may help finance your film.

They may help contribute research to a documentary...or suggest people for you to interview.

They may help scout locations for a narrative feature.

They may submit footage or edit sequences that wind up in the finished film.

They may post comments on your blog, or video responses to your YouTube channel.

They may submit a song that winds up being part of the soundtrack.

They may help you organize house parties where the film is shown, or help you find bigger venues in which to show your film (theatres, churches, libraries, etc.)

They may help you spread the word once the film is available on DVD or as a digital download.

They may review it on Netflix, Amazon, or their own blog after they've seen the DVD.


Is the term "audience" outmoded?

The audience used to be a cinema full of passive, hopefully appreciative, consumers of your work.

Obviously, a big chunk of people who see your film will still be passive -- they watch it in a theater, on a TV, on an iPod, and do nothing else.

But some percentage will be much more active and engaged.

Are they patrons? Collaborators? Your community? Your supporters?

Co-conspirators? Team members? Partners? Associates?

I'm asking: what term feels right for you?

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  • Media scholar Axel Bruns uses the term "produsers" which I like:

    Thanks again for the Connect the Docs presentation a few weeks back... has given me a lot to think and talk about with fellow filmmakers and musicians.

    By Blogger Sean Flynn, at 4:56 PM  

  • We shouldn't kill off the term "audiences" so long as plenty of people want to passively consume art and entertainment. But those who want to consume it AND play a role in its construction are more like crew members. So maybe "crew" is a good term?

    By Blogger Eric Kohn, at 8:15 PM  

  • As new as it seems - isn't this very similar to "street team" which has been in effect for a while. I think it's great to point out how active people can support a project. Since the audience does imply a passiveness - of someone who is simply there to enjoy, a fan is really someone who gets a more active involvement and reviews the projects - buys everything they can to support - but if they start working with the filmmaker's or musicians it seems that they become part of the "street team."

    By Blogger The Unknown Filmmaker, at 8:32 PM  

  • Hey Scott - I know that the capacity of audiences has changed drastically with the explosion of digital media platforms. But I have yet to be convinced that watching a film is necessarily a "passive" experience. Just because it may not be followed by a click on a website, the joining of a group, a signature on a petition, a tweet or a blogpost, participating in solitary or collective film viewing is often an active intellectual experience, a transformative emotional one, a moral or ethical act in and of itself.

    Interactivity has had a profound impact on narrativity and storytelling -- whether short or long form, films often require active viewing and participation of a different sort to truly understand the totality of the film's expression. I would say that watching a video on demand on tv while you check email, post to facebook, order from Zappos, and send a text can be a more inherently passive experience than fully paying attention to a well-told story.

    Call me old school...

    By Blogger wendy, at 9:10 PM  

  • In my projects, they are my community.

    By Blogger GBH, at 2:14 PM  

  • I like and use "community" - partly because I kept hearing people use the word in their feedback on blog posts "hey, you guys are so good at building community around your film..

    so filmmakers, ask YOUR readers, what do they like to be called? How do they see themselves?

    Mitch Teplitsky

    By Blogger MTeplitsky, at 12:06 AM  

  • I agree with Eric's first point, that there's still life left in the term "audience" since it's not as if passive viewing is completely out of the picture.

    For those taking a more active role it might be best to co-opt a term from the social media world like "friend, "follower" or "subscriber." there are categorizations people are already familiar with and therefore come with existing definitions and expectations. Mostly, though, by using a social media term it comes with the implied notion of interactivity and participation.

    --Chris Thilk

    By Blogger Chris Thilk, at 11:04 AM  

  • i agree with eric!

    By Blogger what the crust, at 10:38 AM  

  • Bit behind the times here with this comment sorry. Buy anyway - I use supporters or friends. As in 'friends of the film'. It keeps it friendly - by definition!

    By Blogger Tim Clague, at 4:28 AM  

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