Digital technology and the rise of the internet has transformed the way visual stories can be told. In this event presentation, MediaStorm founder Brian Storm discusses the need to embrace new modes of storytelling and how to package video and interactive experiences online. Storm showcases the MediaStorm Platform, a tool that enables storytellers to create and publish sophisticated digital packages using video, images, audio, maps, timelines, and slideshows. He details his strategy for how creators and publishers can take back control of their audience relationship and create a sustainable publishing strategy by leveraging the power of interactive storytelling.
David Campbell: Well welcome again everyone to this event with Brian Storm on “A Guide to Online Storytelling.” It’s a real pleasure to have Brian with us. I think of Brian as one of, if not probably the pioneer for expanding the horizons of photojournalism and documentary into the online space and how to do storytelling. Brian founded MediaStorm in 2005, after working in senior posts at msnbc.com and Corbis. And personally, I came into, I came across MediaStorm I think 2008, and then Brian and I met actually doing a workshop in China, which was fantastic. And I was blown away with what the opportunities for storytelling were. And I remember to this day seeing Kingsley’s Crossing, one of the first MediaStorm productions for the first time and I thought if you could take photojournalism, like Olivier Jobard’s fantastic story on Kingsley and turn it into that incredible film with the context and so on, then there was a really exciting future. So, and 13 years later, all sorts of new things are possible. So, Brian, fantastic to have you. And I’ll hand it over to you for the presentation.
Brian Storm: Terrific, thanks, David. Well, the first thing I want to say is, thanks to Suzie and her team at PhotoWings, it’s so inspiring what they’ve done and how they are helping, you know, our profession move forward by sharing good ideas. And Suzy is just a gem. Like, she supports so many different organizations. So thank you to her and her team for making this possible. And David to you, man, like I was so excited to see you enter this role with VII because you’re like the perfect guy to help that organization, you bring so many skills to the table, and I’m just really happy to see your, the best of you getting utilized by such a killer organization. So great fit really exciting. So thanks for giving me a chance to share what we’ve been working on. What I was going to do is share my screen with you guys and walk you through the way I’m thinking about the world right now. And then hopefully at the end, we can do some q&a. David, I don’t know if you’re gonna follow along with the chat. But I can do that at the same time.
David Campbell: Yeah, no that’s fine. I’ll watch things and just a reminder to everyone- put questions in the q&a box, I’ll watch that. If there’s a quick one during the presentation. I’ll drop that in. Otherwise, we’ll bring them in at the end and have a session then.
Brian Storm: The end will probably be better because there’s a good chance I’ll ask him to answer questions. But let’s see. Are you able to see the screen there, David?
David Campbell: Yeah, all good.
Brian Storm: Okay, awesome. So I just want to give you guys a little context for where we’re headed right now. As David mentioned, we started in 2005. We’ve made about 350 films now over the last 16 years. And it’s been an amazing journey. It’s been so you know, just outrageously fun to collaborate with some of the best visual storytellers out there to help them realize their stories. And there’s really been three areas that we have focused on to date. The first is that we created our own publication, which we call Publication because we’re terrible at naming things. But the basic idea here is that we were putting together films like David mentioned, Kingsley’s Crossing, where we would fund the production, and we would collaborate with the photographer to make a film, and then, you know, share in the success of that as it moved forward. So we’ve done about 40 films for the Publication. We launched a transaction capability there, which I may or may not talk about today, I’m not sure. So the Pub was kind of the heart and soul of the company, and we launched originally with six films. And we’ve worked with a lot of VII photographers over the years. And it’s just been a great journey working on the Publication.
We’ve also done a lot of client work, where that’s been, you know, the thing that’s kept us in business is collaborating with others. I think it’s pretty clear today for all the freelance photographers out there that there is business to be had in this space if you are a still photographer, and you can tell stories, particularly if you can shoot video, super helpful today to win in client work. And there’s so much opportunity because every brand wants to tell stories now. They all want to be authentic. They want what you guys do, so it’s a really good time for that.
And then another thing that’s always been important to me really since I was in grad school I’ve been trying to teach people to do these things. You know, it started really with audio. Audio was always the gateway drug to me to getting to video. And we’ve done a lot to help still photographers think about how to take this step from being only a still photographer to being, you know, in multi-platform, multimedia storyteller. There’s always some new name for whatever that is, I call it storytelling. And we’ve created a lot of workshops around that. We actually have two workshops coming up one on November 13, which is our one day. And then we have a four-day methodology that’s kind of our crown jewel workshop where we teach people how to run a company just like ours. And then we also have an online training offering I’m super psyched about that, obviously, really picked up during the pandemic as a need. It used to be used in a flipped classroom model. And now it’s sort of like just how people are learning. So those were kind of the three pillars of the company for a long time.
And in the background, for many years, we have been working on a toolset. A product that we’re calling the “MediaStorm Platform.” And it really started for the first, you know, iteration of it was all about us packaging video and taking control of our future, you know. And now it’s really become this interactive toolset, where the film is a part of the experience, but we’re using other forums to tell the story in the best possible way. And so I want to start by showing you guys just the way I’m thinking about the world right now, what I see happening to, particularly to independent publishers, which is what I care deeply about, I think that is so important to like a healthy universe to have like really great independent storytelling that’s happening. So let me show you what I think the challenges are today. You’re still seeing my screen there with the challenge?
David Campbell: Yeah, yes.Yep.
Brian Storm: Okay. So this, to me is the big problem is that I, I believe we’ve ceded control of very fundamentally important things of our audience relationship, of our brand experience of our creative approach to storytelling, and our monetization capabilities, to these other platforms, we are literally building our farm on someone else’s land. And I think it’s so dangerous that we have gone down this road. And so a big part of my philosophy is, how do we take that back? How do we take control of our future? How do we own these four really important sort of pillars of the storytelling ecosystem? That’s something that we’re trying to empower with our toolset. And when I think about the arc that we’ve been on, you know, I’ve always been trying to build things that I think help the profession. I mean, my headline here is, I love this field. I love photojournalism. I love visual storytelling. I think what we do is so important, but it’s so misunderstood and not respected in the way that it should be, not compensated in the way that it should be. But I have some good news, I think the future is going to be really kind to the best storytellers in the world because all the infrastructure is finally emerging for us to take back control of these things.
Alright, so a couple examples of what I mean by this issue. This is our Facebook feed, we have 26,000 people who’ve clicked a button that says I like MediaStorm, I want to know when MediaStorm publishes something, I care about their content or their brand. The problem is on Facebook, there’s this algorithm that nobody understands that dictates that only 597 of those people actually see our posts, which is insane. Like, we’re not even reaching our fans on this platform. Now, just to rub a little salt in our wounds, we could pay Facebook for the right to reach our own audience, we could literally give them money to reach our own audience. I mean, this is insane. It used to be that we would distribute our content and someone would pay us for the right to have our content. Now we’re doing all the work, giving this platform our content for free. And it’s their business model. It’s their brand experiences, their algorithms, and we get like a bag of likes in return, which I’m really not sure what to do with, I can’t pay my staff with that. I can’t you know, pay the mortgage, right? I mean, what are we doing with a bag of likes, right?
Now, obviously, you need to play in this ecosystem. I see social as the top of the funnel as a way to expose new people to the stories that you’re doing. But it’s really not the place where I want to build out my full offering. I see social platforms as the appetizer, I want the full meal to be on our owned and operated site for us that’s MediaStorm.com, and I want a toolset that allows me to tell the definitive version of that story on our website. So lets you know think about social as top of the funnel marketing. So the other issue is that these businesses that we are building our farms on like Instagram, which is obviously been amazing for photographers, it’s a great platform, but they kind of continue to evolve and change their approach. You know, like they recently said, “We’re gonna pivot to video.” Well, if you’re still photographer and you don’t care about video, that’s not great for you. You know, it’s like, “I came here because I wanted to show my photography.” And this is my story about here building your business on someone else’s land. I love that headline. It’s something I think about a lot got to be careful with that.
And of course, these things come and go. This is this amazing animation that was done by TheNextWeb. And I’ve been looking at this for years as things come and go. So when we launched in 2005, MySpace was the top social platform. I don’t know if anyone’s old enough here to remember MySpace, but like, man, we did a ton of work on MySpace. It was like, all throw away because it’s gone now. We just lost every piece of work we did there.
Of course, YouTube did emerge. And it became super important. Facebook came online, it became super important. MySpace started its, you know, slow descent. And then all of a sudden, 2010. Here comes Google Buzz. Oh, it’s Google. It’s going to be so important. Like we rallied resources to get, you know, we have 300 films, how do we get 300 films up on Google Buzz? Like we got to do a lot of copying and pasting to get that done? Of course, that died a slow painful death, right? So this is the point of this animation is that things come and go. As we’ve been talking about this morning, there’s a new service that just launched it’s called Ooga Booga. It’s the hottest thing going on, everybody’s got to be there. Well, how do you do that in an efficient way? Is something that I spent a lot of time thinking about, because really need to distribute to all these platforms, you want to have a presence on all these spaces. But we all know how much work that is today to do that.
Alright, so these come and go. In fact, Facebook is no longer the most popular social platform now it’s TikTok, which, you know, that kind of came out of nowhere, I remember when that was Musically, and it became TikTok. So these things come and go, I think owning your own data is the key here, you know, being in a place where you’ve controlled your data, and you can publish these endpoints kind of seamlessly without starting over and doing a lot of copying and pasting. So that’s one of the things we’ve worked on.
Alright, so this is our own piece of the internet. This is our land MediaStorm.com our owned and operated site. And you know, we built a brand there, we have an aesthetic, a visual way of looking like a color palette, the blue highlight color, a type treatment, a design approach that sort of signifies how all of our films fit together. And I think we’ve set a user expectation there, like people know when they come to MediaStorm kind of what to expect. And, you know, our focus has been to try to be worth your time frankly. That has always been our goal as storytellers. You know, if we produce it, we want to make sure it’s really good and it’s something that you’ll watch and share with your friends. So that’s our little piece of the internet.
Now, when we go off-platform to say, YouTube, we look like YouTube, I mean, there’s just no way around it, right. It’s their brand experience. It’s sort of their playback engine. And this is a, you know, a really good example of what I’m talking about in terms of the appetizer because this is the trailer, it’s a 1:15 version of trailer of Jonathan Torgovnik’s next film, and the 14 and a half minute film is only on our site, that’s where you know, so we’re trying to get you off of our platform and onto. Off of YouTube and on our platform is the goal. The other thing about this, it kind of drives me crazy is that we don’t own the algorithm on the right, this playlist on the right is driven by an algorithm. And really weird things happen there. I mean, this is a very intense film about the genocide in Rwanda and the aftermath of that. And if you look at the fifth item in the playlist here, as a woman in a bikini, like, I don’t really understand why that’s there, what generated that in the algorithm, but it’s quite offensive, given the nature of this film. So again, we don’t control that, which bothers me.
The other challenge is that, you know, there’s these algorithms that will, you know, give you copyright violations. I mean, this is a film we did about Nick Ut’s, famous, you know, Vietnam picture and YouTube flagged it, they said, “We think you’re violating our child safety policy here.” Well, is that the world we want to be in where the algorithms are telling me what I can and can’t publish? Like, that scares the hell out of me, as you know, an independent publisher, I don’t want to be in that situation. So again, I can tell that story on my site, but YouTube may dump me. And then, of course, these guys are constantly changing their model, like we did a ton of work to put our films on Amazon. And they just pushed them all. Like, they just decided we don’t, we don’t want to serve these films anymore. No discussion. It’s just all of a sudden, the next day that part of your business is gone. So it’s just scary. You got to protect yourself. And here’s our ad pocalypse from YouTube, or, you know, David was one of the top YouTube creators was making $275,000 all the way down to $2000. I don’t know if anyone in this call could take that kind of financial hit right? So you got it. As a freelancer, you know, you have to diversify your business that’s a big part of it.
Alright, a little bit of good news. I remember when I started MediaStorm in 05, I was sort of running around the country saying, “All these platforms are going to be competing for content, and they’re going to be paying top dollar for the best work.” Well, that took a long time to get here. And it’s kind of happening now. Where these guys realize that the best storytellers are very valuable to their platforms. And so they’re trying to keep them, right? And to do that they’re paying for it as they always should have, you know, we sort of let this happen in a weird way where we’re like, “Yeah, sure, well, we’ll give you our contents, we get a bag of likes.” And then we sat there and we’re like, “Oh, shit, this isn’t working as well as we’d like.” But now they’re realizing okay, “We better pay some money or if we don’t, we’re gonna lose these guys.”
And then I saw this the other day, which I love, love, love this. The good news is web three. So the start of the web was companies creating content and companies making money. The web two was all of a sudden independent people were creating content, but companies were still making all the money, right? Web three is going to change the equation because it’s going to introduce things like microtransactions, and, you know, accountability with blockchains, and NFT’s and crypto, all that stuff that you’re hearing these buzzy words, they’re really important. And you guys should really read about what’s happening in the space because web three means the people who create the content are also the people who are going to make the money. And here we are 30 years into this internet experiment. And we finally have this transaction layer that’s going to be so important to creators. So I’m bullish about where this is headed. I think, you know, people on this call are probably all really good storytellers. And you are positioned really well for the future.
And then the last sort of setup thing here is that I love this, this tweet “Independent means needs to exist because otherwise, there’s literally no space for ideas and projects that are not driven by mainstream thought and corporate intervention.” To me, the internet, this is what the internet should have done, it should have given like, you know, this, this ability for independent storytellers to rise up and, and I do believe that’s coming because of the transaction layer. That’s the piece that’s been missing. But so that’s the context for which we have been working to build this toolset. And I did this kind of big pivot in the last year or so to really focus on this because what I realized is that at MediaStorm, we were making about 30 films a year. And it was an amazing journey, I got to collaborate with some of the best storytellers in the world, my staff was incredible, like I, you know, got to work with some great people. And I really enjoyed that process.
But what I realized is that 30 films a year is not putting the dent in the universe that I aspire to put into the universe. And you know, when I think about all the people we’ve trained, and all the great work that they’re doing as a result, that really excites me. And when I think about this toolset, I’m like, “Man, okay, instead of 30 films a year, we could have 30,000 projects coming out of here, if we get this into the hands of the best storytellers.” So it’s really a toolset that’s for the field, it’s built for us. But it’s not something that we’re licensing out to other people to help them extend their storytelling.
And so a little bit about how we got to this model was really through client work. We were building a lot of these interactive destination sites that clients were paying us to do. We were learning on their dime, and helping them sort of extend their storytelling process. And one of our big clients in the early days was the Council on Foreign Relations. So really great organization, super-smart people. And we had an opportunity to create a franchise, there called “Crisis Guides,” and they were on, you know, the hottest issues going. And their goal is to try to be like the top search result on Google, like, if you type in Iran is this like high on that first page was their goal. And the way to do that is to make it like kind of the definitive piece of storytelling about that topic.
And so the way these projects would start is they would come to us and say, “Okay, we want to do Iran. We’d like to lead the site with a 10-minute film that makes these 20 points.” And as you can imagine, every time I read those 20 points, like 17 of those ideas would not make sense to be in a film, they’d be things like, what’s the GDP of Iran? Well, the GDP of Iran is data that should be an interactive experience. In a film, that would be a speed bump. Films are good with character, emotion, visually sophisticated coverage, that’s what films do well. And when I reflect back on why we built all this stuff, a lot of it was because I was trying to protect the film. You know, I always wanted the film to be great because it’s like the first thing you see it sets the tone for the entire experience. And so in this case, the film only had to make those three points that made sense to be in a film, and then those 17 ideas, we would pull them out and put them into these interactive experiences.
And what we got good at in this process was building front-end templates that were really beautiful for the client, but also a toolset that allowed them to maintain these very sophisticated experiences. So the templates would include things like packaging video, obviously, interactive timelines for telling historical stories, bubble maps for location-based storytelling, interactive charts for the data, like the GDP stuff. And so we call those titles, those are interactive titles.
And then from there, the next step was, well, how do we get to the cover? What’s the cover of the internet supposed to look like? How do we bind these title types together? So we started by animating our poster frames, so poster frames like the Hollywood movie poster for your film. And so just bringing a little motion to that, still-image. This is where I think the web is going. I think it’s going to be a much more cinematic space. So you take a famous Rick Smolan picture and that animates on screen. It’s still an amazing picture on end, but you give some motion to it to get it going.
So once we have that in place, we started to prototype the cover experience. So this is an example where you have an animated poster frame and then this is we have two covered templates. One’s called “Grid” and this one’s this is Grid. And then we also have Menu. So in this case, you’ve got four entry points into this project, you’ve got a feature-length film, you’ve got an epilogue, and what happened to the family after the story ended, you’ve got a historical timeline on the story, a slideshow that showcases the pictures best. So think of the cover as a way to bind those disparate media title types together, that’s its goal.
You can also set brand experience. So this is our collaboration with the International Center of Photography, their Infinity Awards. So again, we can set some brand experience up-front. And then this is our menu, cover title type. What’s cool about this, obviously, a rollover pub and I get some text in a visual. What’s cool about this example is that I built this myself in under five minutes, right, that’s the power of our toolset. It’s really easy to use, but it creates these beautiful templates, right? These beautiful cinematic playback experiences that are battle-tested, driven by client-demand kind of experiences. Okay, so what we’re doing now is we’re white labeling this player, we’re licensing it out to other people to use. And one example of that, in the early days was Sundance in partnership with the Gates Foundation. Again, they’ve set some brand experience here upfront for the short-film challenge. And here’s eight films in a playlist. But this is their editorial control that, you know, orders the playlist, it’s, there’s no algorithm running against it, right. There’s no woman in a bikini in their playlist. This is their brand experience, their editorial control. So that’s kind of the key idea with the player.
Alright, so let me show you this guy in action here. This is the collaboration with the International Center of Photography. And every year we make the films for the Infinity Awards. Last year, Don McCullin won for Lifetime Achievement. Sure, everybody knows Don amazing conflict photographer. So I had the opportunity to go interview him. And we made this beautiful film about his career. But then we also have a slideshow so this is covered. So to the left, you can go see a film about Don’s life. And to the right, you can go see a slideshow. So it seems very simple, right? And it’s supposed to be. But there’s a big difference between a picture that I put in the film that maybe is on screen for five seconds, versus a picture in a slideshow that you can look at as long as you want. You can read a caption you can transact around it. So that’s kind of why we built the tools to use the right way of storytelling, right, the right form.
Alright, so this is our video playback experience. We did a very important thing here, which is we integrated Vimeo. So this is Vimeos playback here, their cut downs. And it’s their subtitle process, right. And we chose Vimeo because they are amazing at serving video like they have a team of people shaving milliseconds off for the load time of a video player. Like I, as a small independent company, I don’t need to go build the video player. Like they’re amazing at that. So we integrated Vimeo but we don’t look like Vimeo. We’ve wrapped it with our player, which now you can white label. So where it says MediaStorm that can say any brand. And then we have room for sponsorship up here we’re getting Vimeos performance, and then our layers of interactivity. So our interactivity starts with this menu. And the menu to me is really important for adding context to your films. We all know in the photography world, we have IPTC, we have this standard way of sharing metadata with photography it’s brilliant that that was built early on. Video really doesn’t have that. So we built this menu to create a metadata container for our films. So if you click on a bow, this is obviously telling you what the film is about. But it’s also giving me text that Google can now grab and index your film. So you get much better search results really good SEO. And then we control all the fields in the database if you can reuse like credits, and you can show your partners really well. And then these are just basic, simple things like we make transcripts for every film. So we add that, again, really good for STL. But also good for accessibility. We do a ton of research for our films, so we add those links. Google rewards this when you spider in and spider out your search results go up on that topic.
And then we also do merchandising. So this is really important to me. You know, if you’ve watched this film about Don and you realize, “Man, this guy’s epic.” And then you’re like, “Oh my God, he’s made all these books like I want to buy one of his books.” So I can click through, in this case to Amazon. And here I’ve got an affiliate code, which anyone can get an affiliate code, this takes just a few minutes to get set up. And you add this little tag to the end of your link. And that gives you a 10% of the sale, not just of this book, but of whatever people buy during that session. And I know that because someone bought a $700 circular saw, and we got $70 for it. A weird way of making money but I’ll take it, right?
And then of course you could do calls to action. So like ICPs event is a fundraiser really important fundraiser for them. So we can have one click-through to donate. So think of the menu as basically anything you can do on WordPress, we can do in our menu on the left there. And then our next level of interactivity is the navigation index. So there’s a very simple player basically has a cover of film and a slideshow so I can jump to any other part of that experience.
Alright, so here’s the slideshow. Now, the slideshow is where image is the hero of the slideshow, I’m kind of bummed that I had to build this capability. This is the fourth time in my career, I’ve built a slideshow tool. But I just felt like nothing integrated in this way. And there are certain features that I’ve wanted forever that we finally have made available here. So for example, I can show exactly where a picture was shot. This is our map box integration. And we can use GPS coordinates to show you exactly where a picture was shot. This is obviously optional, you wouldn’t always want to do that. But I think it’s a pretty cool capability. And then we can do related audio or video. And so this is Don talking for a minute, three seconds about this first picture he ever had published. Now, what’s interesting about this is this actually was in the film for, you know, a second we had kind of in the narrative of the film. And it just took too long to explain it, it was kind of off spine. And so we cut it. And the filmmakers know, that’s a hard process, you cut these things and your like, “I don’t want to really leave that out. I really like to tell that part of the story.”
What’s cool here is that it’s not in the film, but it’s here against the picture that he’s actually talking about. So as an amazing layer of context. And instead of having to leave that on the cutting room floor, I can now add value through the slideshow experience to it. Of course, we can do visual links here to his book. And then there’s that rich metadata that follows you through the whole slideshow. Slideshow works the way you would expect. But what’s cool is instead of the video playhead well, now I’ve got nonlinear nav down here, so I can jump to any other picture within the slideshow.
And then this is crazy. I’ve been trying to build this since 1998. In 98, I was at msnbc.com, we launched a feature called “The Week in Pictures.” And it became incredibly successful when I left we were doing 100 million pageviews a month with that feature was hugely successful. And what I was trying to do was add these two links really simple to a front-end merge, you know, a slideshow that had 100 million pageviews if the photographers could have had this little link to license that image. In this case, we’re going through to contact press, which is a great agency as well all this is driven by PhotoShelter, a really great company that helps photographers as well. And so these are just third-party links, right, they go to buy a printer license an image. So consumer-facing slideshow with transactions built-in was kind of the goal there. Of course, we have a thumbnail view, as you would expect, you can jump to any picture within it.
Now the most important thing about our player in my mind is the share capability. So if I click on sharing, and I go to embed, what we’ve done here is if you copy that little piece of code, I can paste this into any content management system. So to be clear, we are not trying to replace WordPress or Squarespace or Wix or anything like that, we actually plug into those content management systems with an embeddable player. Now we are a CMS as well, we can replace your CMS but only if you’re really visual if you’re really about video and interactivity. That’s where we are great. I think most content management systems are built with text as the hero like they build the infrastructure around text as the primary tool. But were the opposite. For me, the text is always in support of the stories that I’m doing like my stories are films or visual or interactive. And so the text is a supporting player. So that’s the difference, I think.
Alright, so let me show you what I mean by that. So if I take that little piece of embed code, here, we are on a different website, this is the British Journal of Photography— they’ve rebranded as 1854. And they did this great story about the ICP Infinity Award winners. Now as part of that story, they embed our player on their website. And what’s awesome is it’s as if they’ve embedded a piece of my website on their website, because everything I showed you about that player goes with it, right? This is ours background animations here on rollover, or menu flows through so all of our merchandise is there. The index is fully functional, but it’s our brand, our sponsorship, our editorial control, our analytics, our business model, right? It’s all the things that are good about social, but you don’t give up the control. Like it’s still your content, your sort of storytelling experience. And if you go fullscreen on the player, like why do I care where you would have started that from it could have been on VII’s site or you know, any other website, it doesn’t matter. It’s the same experience.
So this is a collaboration we did with the New York Times called the 1619 project. In this case, you can watch a film about the project, you can see a slideshow, this is Kathy Ryan’s team at the New York Times Magazine so you can see their spreads. You can listen to a four-part podcast series that was done by The Daily or you can see an educational curriculum that was created by the Pulitzer Center. And I mean, just right there just combining those four things in a cinematic way, and being able to distribute in this way, I think is a really unique capability. So here’s another title type we call “Page.” Again, it’s just what like what you could do on WordPress, but it’s all bound together by this really slick index. And again, that was all happening on someone else’s website, right but it’s my control over the experience.
Now what’s really cool is that we can launch a player or we can launch a full-on website. So this is our homage to all the ICP films that we’ve created over the years. It’s a destination site. And what’s cool here is that I built this myself without a line of code, right? It’s all drag and drop. So I built this really cool interactive, you know, a website with, you know, if I go into 2020, what you’re seeing is that Don McCullen player has sort of bubbled into the website. And of course, with navigation, I can jump over to 1619 or I can get back out to, you know, all the other years. I also have a playlist here of every film we’ve done that will play continuously, I think it’ll take a couple of days to see all that. And again, those are the same films that are showcased in the player.
And then the other capability we have is a mapping capability and this is a map box integration. So the same way we integrated Vimeo for video playback, we’ve integrated map box as our mapping tool. So it’s all there- borders and country names. And we bring interactivity to it. So in this case, this is Amber Brackens’s film about Standing Rock, so you can see exactly where that is based on a map.
Alright, now, the other thing that’s awesome is here we are on Twitter. And this is Tim McLaughlin, who’s the editor of a lot of these films. So he tweeted to this website. And here’s what’s crazy. If I click that link, I’m literally loading that entire website inside of Twitter. So in this case, you’re not leaving the social platform, but you’re getting this interactive playback on Twitter, which I think is super rad. Really cool thing.
Alright, so that’s a little bit on the front end, I’ll show you the back-end here. The way we’re thinking about the back-end and the CMS side of things. So we had an amazing opportunity about four years ago, in collaboration with the Carnegie Corporation of New York to rebuild the tool from the ground up really around the specific project, which was how do we do a crisis guide on US-Russia relations, which, four years ago, that was a pretty big topic, right? Like what’s going on, in Russia, with Trump and all the craziness around that. So I’ll show you the back end here really fast a couple of high-level things here. The way we’re organized is around three topics. So we manage your media, which is your audio, your images and your video. We manage your titles, and those are all interactive experiences. And I’ll show you several of those.
And then we have this concept of a release, right. And a release is where you do the authoring of say, a film. And an interactive slideshow or release allows me to launch that into a player like I showed you with that Don McCullen. Or I can take a series of those things and release it into a website like I showed you with ICP, so very unique capability. Where we’re headed next on this, it’s super important to me, I know I was dumping on social but you got to be on social because, you know, 45% of all video played on the internet is played on YouTube. So you have to be on YouTube, but what are you therewith, I say you go there with an appetizer, you pull them to your site for the full meal. So where we’re headed with releases that you’ll author wants and then we’ll say to you, “Okay, send this to Tik Tok and Snapchat and LinkedIn and Facebook and YouTube and on and on right?” So as independent publishers, our syndication needs are extremely high. And so we’re trying to automate a lot of that.
??Okay, so a couple of quick examples in here if I sort by video. Now I open this Madeleine Albright experience. So this is Carnegie’s Vimeo player here, they have uploaded this file to Vimeo, and what we do is separate the data from the presentation. So the data is the Vimeo player the presentation are these five shapes you can use to present Madeline on your website. Now you’ll notice our auto-crop on this vertical is pretty unforgiving, poor Madeline got cropped right in half. What’s cool about our system, I literally could just hit edit and accept and I just fixed that everywhere in their universe. That’s the kind of thing that used to cost me at minimum 20 minutes of my life like where’s that file, open it in Photoshop, crop it, compress it, republish it, like maddening, inefficient? Our toolset is meant for people like me and David, like storytellers, like we want to tell stories, I don’t want to have to work hard to do that. I want to put my creativity into the storytelling process. And efficiency matters to do that, right? So we’re trying to be efficient.
Okay, as I mentioned, we can launch a player or a website, and I’ll show you this concept of a website. What’s cool about what we’ve done here is that we have this really cool drag and drop capability. So all of our stuff works this way. This is literally the navigation to your website. So I can reorder the nav to your website, or I can preview your site. Now when the site loads up, what you’re going to see the first chapter is called “Introduction,” and it has a film. The second chapter is called “Missing Identity.” It has what we call an interactive cover, and it also has a playlist. Okay, so here’s that site loading up. And we’ll get to questions here in a sec, guys. I see someone coming in. Alright, so here’s the “Introduction,” and there’s the film. Here’s “Missing Identity,” right? So now what you’re seeing is an interactive cover. This is all updatable with the toolset and background image type button, all tweakable easy stuff. And then here’s our playlist template. What’s cool about playlists, it can be audio or video. And our unique rub is that we bring folding to it. So you can see engagement is nine films, 44 minutes of content expectation, eight films, 30 minutes of content. And so it’s all bound together. And what’s awesome is on the backend, again, all drag and drop. So this again, it’s meant for storytellers, I can reorder that playlist, I can go into edit mode, I could say, you know, the best of VII photographers right? And that could be a folder. So that’s the goal, really easy to manage on the back-end, and really strong templates on the front-end.
Alright, I’ll show you two more here. The next one is timeline. So what’s cool about timeline is this is great for historical storytelling. So here, I can kind of go one frame at a time. I can, you know, speed scroll to a deeper date within the timeline here. I can go to any other part of it. And what’s cool on the back end is it’s all form-based data. So I just update a timeline template, and I hit publish, and this thing will dynamically update.
The next one I want to show you is maps. So maps have plagued me my entire career, they’re hard to build, super hard to maintain. And the way we crack the code on this is by integrating map box. Map box brings all these style maps to the table, and then we bring interactivity on top of it. So in this case, I can you know, scroll in and I can say show me Afghanistan. So this is all coming out of our tool. We manage these legends, we manage the categories. So like Afghanistan is in the world. But it’s also in Asia, right? So you’ll notice there’s multiple ways to sort of zoom in on it.
Now what’s slick on the back-end, I’ll show you one example of our templates here. If I go to pin map, and I open this map experience here, all of our templates have a short and long description and categories, so you have like basic metadata on the general tab. Map has this unique capability for your credits and your icons. So all those things are updatable, your legends and your categories. And that’s easy stuff. Here’s the hard part. If you load up Afghanistan, see the text that we’re displaying? The two categories it’s displayed in the hard part is where is Afghanistan? And what’s cool is I can make that interactive part is clickable here, or I can support GPS coordinate, all the way down to you know, place, David is sitting right now. So it’s super accurate. And there’s the rich media that we’re displaying when you click on it. Now, I realized that probably doesn’t look very sexy to you guys. To me, this is epically sexy, this client was driving us insane with change requests, right. And now, they don’t have to call us at all they can tweak this map on their own, they can update and you know, manage this very sophisticated kind of experience.
Alright, two last quick things here. So here’s the cover for this particular site, I mentioned, we built this grid cover capability. So it looks really beautiful. It’s kind of cinematic, and it’s easy to tweak. So you can change the timeline or text or button name or image. And it looks great on my big desktop screen. But obviously, you know, not everybody’s on a desktop anymore. So what happens with our templates, they’re all fully responsive, so they resize all the way down to a mobile experience. So we handle that on the template, you don’t have to worry about that. You tell stories the best you can, we’re going to make sure it looks great no matter where somebody sees it. And then the thing that’s wild about what we built is that everything is embeddable, players, embeddable even a website is embeddable. So this is our website mediastorm.com. This is the website I just showed you embedded on our website. It’s like a website within a website. It’s like an extra puzzle. And what’s cool is any change they make to it on page load, I’ll get the update to it, right? Now it’s wild here is we also can do deep linking, so it can start on any chapter. So these can be different parts of your storytelling website, right?
Alright, last quick thing here, and then I’ll stop yakking at you. I’ll show you guys this, I don’t normally show this. Sometimes I show up. Sometimes I’m feeling it. This is a template that we built for this project. We had 400 hours of video interviews on this project. It was a massive, amazing piece of storytelling driven by my pal, Mike Moran. And what was great about this is there were, you know, really smart things that were being said it was a lot of expert interviews, a lot of white dudes in ties, if you will. And we didn’t have the budget to go produce all these films, but the information that they provided was fantastic. So we had like the short in this case is like a two-minute clip. And you know, you’ve got this talking head here. But after a while, you’re gonna be like, Okay, I’m kind of bored looking at this guy. What’s cool is you can go into like interactive mode. And you can look at the data that he’s talking about. And this is where we’re headed with the tool is this deep integration between these different disparate media types, right? So we manage them independently. We also give you good templates for playback and packaging.
Alright, last thing I want to show you guys is a prototype of where we’re heading next. And it’s around podcasting. I don’t know about people on this call, but I am super amped up about podcasting right now. Like I love this format like I will literally drive farther away to go do something right now just so I can listen to a podcast, like, super amped about it. But I feel like there’s two fundamental flaws with podcasting. The first is its strength. It’s audio-only. So it’s great for drive time. But they’re leaving the entire visual layer on the table. They’re leaving all the interactivity of the web on the table, there’s just missing parts of the storytelling process. So sort of one issue. It’s the second issue that drives me absolutely insane. I can’t believe it. But we’re doing it again. We are once again as storytellers giving our content to another platform, iTunes, Spotify, Stitcher, whatever it might be. We’re giving them control of the whole experience. They own the audience. They own all the data. It’s their algorithm. It’s their business model. Their brand. We’re doing it again, we’re doing what we do with social media, right? So I want to take it back. I want to empower storytellers to be visual and interactive with their podcasts and have control of their audience relationships.
So we created a prototype here with one of my favorite podcasters, a guy named Tim Ferriss. And this is, I just want to show you what Tim does today. And then I want to show you how we visualize that in the tool, and then I’ll stop yakking. Alright, so here’s Tim’s, his destination page for a single podcast about Neil Gaiman. And here’s his components. He has a great headline “Neil Gaiman— The interviewer, I’ve waited 20 years to do (#366).” Man, I’m clicking that every time 20 years you’ve been waiting? I want to hear this episode, right? Plus, I love Neil Gaiman. He has a picture. It’s not a great picture. But he has something to share on social so that’s critical. He has a really good setup tax. He’s amazing with his metadata, so he’s going to index really well on Google. He is authoring once and publishing many. He’s on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, overcast YouTube. I mean, you know what this means some poor intern is doing a ton of copying and pasting and uploading and moving things around and wishing their job was more creative. This is super wasteful of human capital. So we have a philosophy for how we’re going to automate that. He has sponsorship. He’s sponsored by Peloton great sponsor, but it’s a text link very down the page. He has books for sale. I’m convinced the reason Tim does content is because he wants you to buy his book like it’s a marketing engine for him. And his books are amazing. You should buy them. I’m a big believer in them. And then this is where Tim goes like spinal tap 11. He’s got related links from this episode. Right? He’s got all his show notes. And he’s got everyone mentioned in his podcast linked out.
This guy’s like a metadata baller, right? His search results got to be amazing and search is critical. We all know what a big driver that is. But the way he’s using the web is really a metadata store. He’s not visual, he’s not interactive about the way in which he’s displaying. It’s not embeddable or shareable. shareable, really. Alright, so here’s what it looks like in our player. And this is what we mean by its white label, white label player. He gets to upload his logo here- Tim Ferriss show top left. He has sponsorship on the right so there’s Peloton which is now visual, and it persists through the whole experience, you could charge more for it. And then we allow you to pick your own color and your own font. So he chose yellow. So his links go yellow, his buttons go yellow, his navigation goes yellow. Now there’s one link here it says powered by our MediaStorm logo. And that just goes to our tools page. It’s tools.mediastorm.com where you can see the capabilities of the toolset and learn how to license it. But aside from this link right here, everything else is Tim’s. It’s our toolset. It’s our strategy, but it’s all his execution. So it’s his logo, his editorial control, his analytics, his business model, right, he’s even hosting the experience when you publish from our tool, it goes to his server so we decoupled from the toolset at that point.
Now my strategy is to kind of fully in play here because obviously, most people are listening to Tim on iTunes or Spotify. And what I want him to say is, “I hope you enjoyed this episode with Neil Gaiman. If you want to learn more about Neil, go to timferriss.com.” Or tim.blog is his URL. And there you can see a timeline of Neil’s entire career. You can see a slideshow of every film he’s ever made. And this is how I believe we’re going to beat social. We are literally going to out publish them, we are going to tell a much more complete and definitive version of that story on our owned and operated site. That’s where the meal is you’ll use social to promote it. That’s top-of-the-funnel marketing. But you always want to drive people to your site where you capture that audience. And that’s your brand experience.
Now you get with our players, all those things, you get all that deep branding experience, but you get this amazing integration as well. So for example, in this case, if I were to click “Listen to the podcast,” I can be listening to it, but I also can say, “jump to a slideshow.” Now when I’m in the slideshow, I’m still listening to the podcast, I can pause it, I can rewind it, but I can go through a slideshow while I’m listening to a podcast. It’s one of the things about podcasts that drive me crazy. They’re talking about a picture but I can’t see the picture. I wish I could, right? Now you can.
And then last thing here is to show you how dynamic this menu is. Everything Tim is doing today, which I think we all can agree is amazing and quite sophisticated on the metadata side. I think we can just help him package that better so you can watch the episode. You can see the bios for the people in it, the show notes. All the people mentioned, linked out, all of his episode links, his sponsorship, but much more visual now with a call for additional sponsors, every episode he’s ever done all of his books fully transactable. And then at the end, get the gold, the gold is the email address. Knowing who your audience is, is everything. It’s paramount so that you can send them an email and say, “By the way, I just made a new thing, check it out.” There’s no algorithm that’s filtering me out there. It’s a direct relationship with my audience.
Now, Tim has something like 2 million people on this newsletter, he’s got a huge newsletter very well followed guy. When he sends that newsletter out, he should not be sending people to iTunes or Stitcher or Spotify, right? He’s going to be on those platforms, of course, but his marketing should go to his own website where he has the best version of the story, the most complete, visual interactive version of that story. And what’s rad is that Neil Gaiman can also pick up that embed code. And he can put it on his personal site. And then he can do social and say, “Hey, I was just on the Tim Ferriss show, go to neilgaiman.com check it out.” And when you get there, you get this player, which Tim Ferriss is psyched about. It’s his logo, his sponsorship, his editorial control, it’s like the best of all worlds that are happening there. And of course, it’s a podcast player so it has to resize down to a mobile experience, all of our templates are what we call fully responsive. They work on mobile and the web. They’re just better on desktop than they are on mobile kind of thing.
So that’s the toolset it’s really built around film originally. But we created these other storytelling formats to allow us to tell the best story in the best possible way. You know, it’s about storytelling, but it’s also about packaging and distribution. But mostly, it’s about us retaining control of our future. You know, that’s, you know, the idea. Obviously, we built this for ourselves, you know, we’re gonna rebuild MediaStorm around this concept. And now we’re helping, you know, other people do it as well. And we’re licensing the toolset out to them. Okay, I don’t know what time it is. I’m probably getting close here. 10 minutes, why don’t I stop there? There’s other things I would share. But let me just stop there and leave some space for a conversation. So let me stop sharing.
David Campbell: It’s an incredible tool, incredible presentation of the tool. And, you know, answers my question what happened in the last 13 years? It went, from producing these linear videos, which are still there, to building this huge, huge system that makes it sound complex. It’s very rich, but it’s very user-friendly as well. Certainly, from my perspective, coming originally, from an academic background, this answer the one question that really got me into thinking about photography, and that really attracted me to MediaStorm at the beginning, and that is, how do you provide context to a photograph? Beyond just a simple caption? And you’ve answered that question in a very, very rich way. We’ve got a couple of questions from the audience, too. And if anyone else in the audience wants to drop questions into q&a, we have time for that. It’s all good. I think this question will probably help clarify one of the points Glenn’s asking, “You talked in the beginning about the dangers of building on other people’s land and their platform. But he’s asking, aren’t we building on your MediaStorm platform here?”
Brian Storm: Great question. Yes, yes, you are in the build process, right. So it’s our tool. It’s all running on Amazon Web Services. So it’s up in the cloud. So you upload and you do all your packaging in our toolset. But when you hit publish, and this was a quite controversial decision we made early on. When you publish, you are actually publishing to your own servers. So you can set up an Amazon S3 server, which we don’t recommend that’s kind of for big companies, where you set up what’s called a Netlify account, and Netlify does third-party hosting, but it’s your server. So at that point, we package up a flat file, and we write it to your server, which you own, it’s yours, right? So you don’t have to continue to use our tool to host your experience. You’re hosting it. And you know, people in the valley are like, “Oh, man, you should lock people in with posting.” I’m like, “I don’t want to win people’s business. Because I’m hosting, I want to win your business because we have a killer tool that helps you tell stories better.” And, you know, once you’ve done that work, and you publish, it’s all yours. It’s your brand, it’s your hosted experiences, your editorial experience, we do have the tiny link, you know, powered by our logo on the bottom right there. But that’s it. Aside from that, it’s all yours, right? So, you know, people in the valley think I should lock people into hosting, I’m like, I wouldn’t sign up for that. Like, I built this for us, right? Like I’m building a system that I would want to live in. And I’m trying to share that with other people because I think you know like I said 30 films a year is one thing. You know, 30,000 experiences like that could change like the way people see the world and you know, that’s kind of the overarching goal is to help.
David Campbell: I also thought it was interesting when you see you’re, so when you see your thing embedded on someone else’s website, you’ve gone from building something on someone else’s land to actually squatting on someone else’s land. They’re paying for the land. And you’re taking advantage of that. Because all your stuff is going with it.
Brian Storm: Yeah, well, in some cases, like with Twitter, that’s amazing that that can happen like Twitter’s you know, open enough. But Facebook, our player used to load on Facebook, they shut that down right? Now you got to upload into Facebook’s player because they want to control, they want the analytics, they want their Playback Engine. And so again, like it’s critical for us moving forward, we know we’re going to publish to Facebook, I mean, at least for a little while longer, Facebook’s probably going to die like my kids are not going to use Facebook, it’ll be in that graph somewhere receding the other direction. And I don’t want all my work there to go away all my work is happening in our database, right. And so when Facebook dies, fine, it dies. But there’ll be this new thing that spins up and all the work that I’ve done, it’ll just be a checkbox for me to say, Send this to this new platform. Ooga Booga, it’s the hottest thing happening and all the kids are on it. How do we get there fast is kind of the goal. And so author once, publish many critical part of the strategy here. Separate data from presentation critical part of the strategy.
David Campbell: Right. Obviously, this next question depends on kind of the project that you’re engaged in. But Mark was wondering about “How much time it takes to put some of these projects together?” I mean, for the Don McCullen one, you’ve got a lot of, you know, good a lot of simple functionality in the backend. But how much time?
Brian Storm: Great question. So with Don, I mean, I would say the hard part of the Don project was, you know, flying that to, you know, England getting an interview with him that was hardest. The second hardest was then, you know, making the film, which anyone who’s made a film knows, like, that’s hundreds and could be thousands of hours to make a film. As I said, they’re just really hard. And we don’t get deep into that production process. We’re a packaging and distribution tool. So we’re at the very end of the process. When you’re adding all the metadata you’re assembling covers, you’re adding interactivity, building slideshows. I mean, I’ve probably spent two days on McCullen’s experience, maybe something like that. I could probably do it in a day now. I’ve just gotten faster with the tool. It does take work. I mean, you know, you’re adding all this editorial context to a project. So that takes work, right? It just does. But the hard part is making the actual film what, that’s the expensive, costly part, what where I think we come in is just presenting it and distributing it in beautiful and efficient ways is what we’re trying to create there.
David Campbell: Right.
Brian Storm: It takes work. The things take work, man.
David Campbell: Oh, yeah, absolutely. So technology has changed a lot in the last 13 years. And since you started MediaStorm, and when you began, you know, you were really and still are, telling photographers rightly to think about how to record audio, how to make video how to get those other assets so that you can build these sorts of projects. Do you think in the last decade or so any of the fundamental principles of online storytelling have changed? Are they the same as when you started? In other words, is this tool embodying some new principles of online storytelling? Or is it building off existing principles and getting a really good way of delivering and showcasing?
Brian Storm: Yeah, I mean, I don’t you know, people have always said to me, “Oh, my God, you’re so innovative.” I’m like, I don’t know, I’ve been doing the same damn thing since like, 1995, to be honest with you right, or 93. Like, so what I built and it’s so ironic. One of our first big launches was actually with College Photographer of the Year and Pictures of the Year, which is where I cut my teeth at the University of Missouri. I was doing interactive CD ROMs there, and frankly, what they’ve launched, and they’re adding to it today and CPOY today, what they’ve launched is what I was hand-coding on interactive CD ROMs in 93. We just made a toolset that made that easier. So isn’t it new? No, I don’t I don’t think anything we’ve done is particularly new. I think it’s unique in that it breaks down the silos and allows you to think about things that maybe were different departments before and now it’s all unified and easy to do. I will say that I still believe that and I photographers hate it when I talk about this.
But you know, filmmaking is a team sport, man. You know, I know we’re all lone wolves and we want to do it all ourselves. But like, you know, to make something truly special, you got to collaborate. You got to find great partners, great teammates to do things that maybe you’re not great at, you know, not everybody can do all these things. Our tool allows everybody to do that. But you it doesn’t mean you should. I can give you the best pen in the world. It doesn’t mean you’re Shakespeare. You know what I mean, like, we all know that visual journalism is a craft. It’s taken us all years to get good at that. You know, doing good maps. That’s a craft making a good picture editing a slideshow, that’s picture editing is a craft, go to Kailash, learn how to picture at it right? So like, you still want to collaborate, but I think our tool allows that collaboration to happen pretty seamlessly. And if you do want to do it all you can, it’s just I think it’s probably going to look like you did it by yourself. If you don’t collaborate. These are hard things to do. It takes skills to do them.
David Campbell: Yeah, these I mean, these sort of projects you end up with because they’re very broad, they’ve got a lot of context or whatever, it takes quite a lot of attention time from the audience. So once you get the audience to your place, you’re asking them to give you a lot of attention. Do you have a sense of how audiences have responded to stories told on your platform or anything similar?
Brian Storm: Well, I’ll go back to Kingsley because he brought it up. I mean, when we launched Kingsley in 2007, that was a 20 plus minute film, and 65% of the people who click play on film, watch it to the end. 65% in 2007, watched a 20 plus minute film online. So I mean, I think that’s exceptional. I think that’s good. And I think the reason is, you got to know like, it’s a great story well told, and you got to know does he make it is he gonna make it like you’re on this journey with him? And, and you know, it’s sort of a cliffhanger, a bit of a cliffhanger. So good storytelling, you know, beginning, middle, and end, surprise, apex, all those foundational storytelling elements have not really changed. The web allows some new capabilities for packaging and distribution. And of course, there’s super innovative things you can do on the web, I’m trying to get like that base-level stuff in place. Like I think if you have developers, you should use them to innovate, they should do these really high-end things. They shouldn’t go build a slideshow or a timeline, or we’ve solved those problems, right? Like, it’s let those high-end developers go to the next level.
And look, I mean, yes, it’s hard to make something great. But like, I think that’s what our field should be doing. You know, think about it, like you never finish an internet session and say, “I’m done. I reached the end of the internet, I wish there was more,” like, that never happens, right? You often finish an internet session and say, “Man, I feel terrible about myself, like, I just spent an hour and I got dumber, like, I didn’t learn anything. I wasted an hour of my life, right?” Our field needs to be the anecdote to that we need to create less things that are better, that are worth people’s time that actually educates them the call to action, that inspire them, right, like, we need to do less better. And that’s what we built the tool to do is to slow down do a higher quality version to be worth people’s time on the internet when they can go anywhere they want on the internet. That’s our challenge, guys. It’s not creating more faster. It’s doing less better. That’s what I would argue.
David Campbell: Yeah, yeah. Question from Rebecca, who has done a workshop with you at BU, I’m not sure which university BU is.
Brian Storm: That’s Boston University.
David Campbell: That’s Boston University. There you go. “Have you considered what you would do if someone used your platform to disseminate hateful content?” It’s a tough question.
Brian Storm: That is a tough question. I mean, I’m an independent company. So I could make the call there that, you know, I’m not gonna license you or tool to do that, right. You know, that puts me in an awkward position. I’m sure Zuckerberg, you know, rolls around in bed all night worrying about that kind of thing. But uh, you know, I’m not trying to put this tool into, you know, 50,000 people’s hands. I’m trying to put it into the best storytellers’ hands. And the best storytellers are pretty much driven the same way they’re trying to do good with the work they’re doing. So, I mean, I’m sure we could run into that problem. That’s a great question. Have it hasn’t happened yet. You know, people that are using the tools are using it to tell important stories. So I don’t know, I’ll call you at Boston University when that happens, and you can help me navigate it.
David Campbell: Yeah, yeah. Got a few people asking, particularly as you know, we have a lot of freelancers in the audience, and so on and independent people about pricing for the tool, whether it’s a one-off cost? Is it a subscription? What’s the pricing?
Brian Storm: Yeah, yeah, so we built that as well. It’s called software as service. It’s a SAS model. And it’s pretty much the way everybody’s moving now. Because what software as service does, it’s like, what Creative Cloud is where you pay a fee, and you get continually updated features. And that’s the way our tool works, too. So you pay a yearly licensing fee. And we’re rolling out new features all the way through the year. And the way we’re pricing it is also, of course, a little controversial. I can’t do anything simple, I guess. But the pricing structure is it’s the same way I’m pricing our film work, right. When we go make films for a corporate client, like we’ve done a lot of work for Starbucks, for example. You know, they pay more for us to make films for them. They’re a corporate company that has big marketing budgets, you know, like, and they don’t pay something that I think they think is unfair, but they pay a higher fee than when we go work for an NGO, for example. And so we have corporate fee structures that are much higher than an NGO or an individual. Most of our clients now are like nonprofit NGOs. And like corporate clients are paying $100,000 a year to access this tool, which for them, that’s a rounding error for their marketing budget for what it does. It solves a lot of their digital asset management needs. It allows them to package stories well and distribute and syndicate like it’s a fair number to them.
Now we have NGO clients, nonprofit clients, they’re using the exact same tool, exact same capability, but they’re only paying $5,000 a year. Because that’s what’s fair to them. It’s not nothing, it’s $5,000. Right? That’s a lot of beer money. But it’s not outrageously expensive that they can’t afford it. Like I wouldn’t want price to be the reason someone didn’t use these tools. If they’re the right kind of storyteller, I want to get it in their hands, right. So mostly, we’re licensing to organizations, we do have a handful of independent storytellers. They’re individuals and they pay $1,000 here. So that’s like our lowest low, you know because I still have to support them the same way. Right. Same work for us either way. But for an independent storyteller to spend $1,000 on a toolset, that’s a lot of money, right? Like that toolset better really help them, you know, do something great. And, you know, I like I said, my goal with pricing is to be fair to have it be a number that matters, like, you know, like, you have to justify it in your side of the equation, but it has to pay back. It has to be something that helps you. So it’s basically a negotiation, right? I mean, I have standard pricing for certain types of things.
David Campbell: Yeah. Sounds good. All right. I think we’re coming towards the end of our time, I’m just scanning over all the questions, but I think we’ve covered one of them is “future developments,” always hard to predict the future? But what about things like VR, AR, and so on? Are you thinking about building incapacity for that? That would be enormously complex, I imagine. But how do you think about some future things?
Brian Storm: It’s in the roadmap, but I wouldn’t say it’s urgent to me, I think what’s more urgent is the transactional capability. So, you know, I think, again, crypto and FTS, like this web three layer that’s emerging now, where the, where the storyteller actually is king, which they always share down, right? People tell on this be the most valuable people in the ecosystem. And you’re seeing it happen, right, it’s happening slower than I had hoped. But you’re seeing like, the major social platforms, like I don’t know, if you saw the Twitch report that came out that showed, like, this thin layer of people is making most of the money. Well, surprise, surprise, the best storytellers make the most money. If people didn’t know that, I don’t know what you’ve been reading or paying attention to. Like, that’s always the way it’s been right? The best storytellers should be compensated more. And then, you know, the middle tier, right. And so what I’m looking more at in the future is things like, you know, the NFT’s and the crypto and the blockchain and, you know, machine learning, like things that are going to, you know, help people do things more efficiently.
So that’s kind of the next layer is, it’s transaction, I think that’s going to be big, I think, you know, if you have a million people following you on Instagram, and 10% of them are, you know, signed up to subscribe to your insider membership experience, like, that’s a businessman. And that’s gonna enable you to go tell the stories that you care deeply about. And man that has been to me, that’s the Holy Grail. If we can get the best storytellers in the world, enough money to where they’re not worried about money. They’re just telling great stories. That’s when things are going to get really good. You know, and I think that’s common. Well, that’s right around the corner.
David Campbell: Right. So one more question to finish up with, from Mike Ico. who really likes the platform. “Do you have any insight or experience about digital security? In some repressive countries, investigative stories and media platforms have been the target of cyber-attacks? How do you protect your platform and the contents?”
Brian Storm: Yeah, great question. Not particularly my area of strength. I do have a really good friend who is deep, deep, deep in this area. And so we’ve been talking about what does this mean going forward? But we’re not doing anything with our code that’s like magic, or super secretive or super special. So you know, I think we’re just as secure as any other internet thing, which means everything is hackable, right? I mean, yeah, this SolarWinds thing. Oh, my God, like we were in this deep conversation about SolarWinds. Like, everybody sort of just ignored this, but he’s like, this is so big, so massive, so scary. So I don’t know that there’s any bulletproof secure thing. If it’s digital, and you put it on the internet. It’s out there, right. There’s the way you gotta think. I suspect there’s a much deeper question in there, which I don’t think I’m the right guy to answer. I would go to my buddy and say, “dude, how do we think about this in a way that makes sense?” Yeah, there’s things come in that, you know, are big topics that we’re going to have to address that we haven’t yet for sure. But I think as a baseline, it’s in a really good spot to give people kind of control of their, you know, their future, which is, that’s my goal. You know, I want to own my future. I don’t want somebody telling me what we can publish and, and ran and how I want to be able to tell great stories on, you know, untarnished if you will.
David Campbell: Yeah. And also, it reinforces one point, which is one of the most important points you made. And that is, you need to be collaborative. And so when you’re branching out into these questions of either new technologies, or security and so on, you need to be working with people, you know, sure, can do all these things themselves, and so on. Well, that’s been fantastic. Kathleen has a question, which is basically for me, “Will the presentation recording be available later?” The answer is, “Absolutely yes, Kathleen.” All our VII insider events are recorded, we get them up online, on VIIinsider.org, hopefully within a week with a transcript for SEO and accessibility purposes a little after that. But we’re working on that process. So yes, you’ll be able to check-in in a week or so find this recording and watch it again at your leisure. Because yeah, there’s a lot of stuff to go over. Brian’s been absolutely fantastic. I think a lot of people are very excited by seeing this. It’s opened a lot of eyes. And yeah, I imagine a lot of people are going to be in touch with you.
Brian Storm: Yeah, well, if you want to reach me, I’m very easy to get just email me I’m [email protected] is my email. And if you want to learn more, you can go to a page called tools.mediastorm.com to learn more about it. And I really appreciate everybody coming today. And look, I’d love to hear what you thought, please email me. You know, we’re just at the early stages of this. I think it’s going to be a really important next step for us and hopefully for the industry as well. That’s the ultimate goal. And David, thanks, man for pulling this together. I appreciate you. You’re the best man.
David Campbell: Pleasure. Talk to you soon. Bye. Thanks, everyone.
Brian Storm: Talk to you soon. See ya.
David Campbell: Bye.