VHX is among the leaders in tools for distributing content online, as is demonstrated by its cache of partners and filmmakers who have chosen the platform. Now that the competition is fierce for online distribution tools, VHX is upgrading the backend for its users and poising itself as a social destination.
What's new in the latest VHX update in a nutshell? Creative Director Chad Pugh explains:
"We’ve streamlined the video publishing process and made it easier to navigate. We’ve integrated tons of help and guidance, because we’ve seen that education is really important for our users’ success. We’ve optimized for mobile so publishers can ogle their stats and sales data on the go."
We've covered a lot of VHX activity in the past and we thought it was about time to sit down with VHX Co-founder & CEO Jamie Wilkinson to discuss their new features, their philosophy on low barriers of entry (for creators and buyers) and how net neutrality could affect all of us.
If you can't reach your fans then they're not your fans.
NFS: When you meet with your team every day what are you trying to push? What areas do you feel like you wanna do better than anyone else?
Jamie: Our mission is to better connect creators with their fans and their customers, and in that process help them be more successful and make more money. But if you don't know who your customers are, then how can you expect to build a business or a career? If you can't reach your fans then they're not your fans. So, how can we continue to bring people together? Bring artists and fans together, fans and fans together and connecting creators with each other -- because it opens up all these new avenues for being successful and enabling more social discovery.
We've done a great job over the last 2 years building a video-watching experience, something that's on par with Netflix or HBO. Now our challenge is to become more of a social platform. To be able to see what my friends are doing, to be able to collaborate with sellers more easily. The direction we're going from here is just enhancing all those tools, giving more ways of reaching fans, but also giving them ways to find each other. It's a hub interconnecting all the spokes of the stores.
People who are most successful on our platform are the ones who do a good job building engagement with audiences.
NFS: How are you dealing with competitors? What makes your outreach unique?
Jamie: We've had releases on VHX where they've crowd-sourced the subtitles. They've asked their fans to make them, and it works! Even in the piracy scene, people fan-sub these movies. The major studios should be tweeting people, giving a free copy of Blockbuster X in exchange for translations, because people love to do it.
People who are most successful on our platform are the ones who do a good job building engagement with audiences. That's the power of the open internet -- anybody can connect with anybody. So you could say that the cost of building an audience, instead of spending millions of dollars of advertising, you could do it arguably for free. But it's a whole new skill-set and it's something that people aren't entirely used to yet.
NFS: What are some of your proudest partners? How do they help you share the VHX model?
Jamie: Indie Game: The Movie is one of my all-time favorites for this, just the way they've engaged their audience for years now. The film has been out almost 2 years you can get an instantaneous response from the directors and they totally feel like real people that you can reach. That's the power of the internet, when you look at somebody it feels like it's just you and them and when you treat your fans like that it resonates. It's the opposite of a corporate, top down, PR whitewashed voice. It's a very authentic, real voice, and that's what people connect with.
We've even seen the Bond360 Creativity Bundle where they packaged 4 films and sold it for one price for a 2-week period. That's the kind of seller-to-seller collaboration that demonstrates the power of the platform.
Whatever a traditional distributor would do, we want to do the opposite.
NFS: How has the philosophy of transparency helped your business model?
Jamie: Transparency is hugely important to us. Expose as much information as possible, share as much as possible. Our public stats page was an answer to people asking questions from people: how many copies have you sold? How many people are using the platform? It seems completely obvious to just publish it.
We have stuff planned on our dashboard around exposing more network level data -- what traffic sources are working well, how your email marketing efforts are comparing with someone else's email marketing efforts. No Film School embodies this philosophy, right? The more you share the better it is for everybody, and in the process it also becomes a source for credibility and trust from the people that you want to trust you.
So we're always brainstorming blog posts for things we could share, pro tips, tidbits, tactical things on the ground. It speaks to the philosophy of being an open technology platform. Internally we say, "Whatever a traditional distributor would do, we want to do the opposite."
NFS: What are your interactions with traditional distributors like? Is the online model eclipsing traditional ways?
Jamie: We're a delivery mechanism. We're a tool to reach audiences. They are professional audience reachers. The value they bring to the tool chain is constantly evolving. That part of the process that includes delivering prints and making DVDs, the costs of that are going down but it doesn't change the nature of the game.
We work very closely with distributors. Drafthouse uses us for all their films. We've worked with Film Buff, Oscilloscope -- these guys are really smart. They know what they're doing. Many of our films are available theatrically or on other platforms, which we found benefits everybody in the chain overall. You still need an aggregator to reach those people. VHX is suitable for everybody -- you could be a lone individual or the biggest distributor in the world and the same thing applies across the board.
NFS: How easy is it to sell and buy with VHX?
Jamie: We want the barriers to entry as low as humanly possible. For sellers it should be free to sign up and totally non-exclusive, and it should be the same for buyers. If I wanna buy a movie, I don't necessarily wanna sign up for an account on this thing I'm not familiar with. I just want to give you my credit card and my email address and watch my movie.
NFS: I see you guys are active in the fight for net neutrality. What else can other people do to help?
Jamie: We're probably the demographic that is potentially the most hurt by these changes in legislation. Not only because we're a small company who can't afford to pay for a fast lane, but we're also a video streaming company. There's not a particularly compelling argument in favor of this legislation.
Filing complaints with the FCC is the most action that people can take. In a lot of ways there's not a lot we can do except raise our voices and cry "foul!" Hopefully it will bring attention. Everybody seems to be very happy with how the internet has evolved and the level playing field it's made for companies like us and the bigger more successful companies out there. Right now, two guys in a bedroom can start a company and reach millions of people and create a new environment. You do not wanna slow that down.