Felicia Day's Success With The Guild Highlights The Importance Of Authenticity With A Community

from the keep-it-up dept

Just about a year ago, we wrote about how actress Felicia Day had turned her web production, The Guild into a big success, by building a community of fans, connecting with them, and then coming up with some interesting ways to make money from that, including a unique sponsorship deal with Microsoft. Reader tuna points us to a Fast Company profile that updates us on how the last year has gone, and it sounds like things have only improved over time.

One of the keys to the success is that she chose the sponsorship deal with Microsoft, in large part because it let her retain creative control over the project -- allowing it to remain authentic and true to what her fans wanted and expected.
As buzz built, Day and her company, Knights of Good Productions, signed with ICM new-media head George Ruiz. "At one point, there were 25 different offers on the table," Ruiz says, "including from some major studios and networks and even a director with several $100 million films."

Day turned down every one. "She said, 'George, don't make me take this deal!' " he says. So by the time Microsoft came calling, the agent had a new approach: The Guild is not for sale, but you can license it.

The Seattle-based behemoth bit. Microsoft pays an undisclosed fee to debut each season exclusively on the company's Xbox Live, MSN, and Zune platforms (season four debuted in mid-July). "There is a common perception about Microsoft," says Day. "Especially when we first signed with them, the fans had reservations." But she was impressed that it got what she was doing and didn't want to interfere. "Microsoft doesn't even give me notes [on scripts]!"
This is a key point that often gets lost in business model discussions. When we talk about different offerings, it's amazing how much people discount the importance of authenticity as a scarcity. We see it all the time with companies who want to sponsor something, and then have tremendous level of control -- losing all of the authenticity and, with it, much of the value (and, eventually, audience). It's nice to see a situation where a company (in this case, Microsoft) properly recognized when not to get too involved.


Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 20th, 2010 @ 4:48am

    And on Bing, otherwise I wouldn't be seeing The Guild every monday :)

    Also Microsoft also give its blessing to Red vs. Blue, they are in a sense building their own content and stepping up as the new producers of content, Google didn't miss that and is also doing some deals as people can see in their channels on Youtube, Jackie Chan is there!

    They are slowly but surely becoming alternatives to legacy players in the market and some time in the future search engines could become the new TV channels on the planet.

    Time will tell how they evolve.

     

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  2.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 20th, 2010 @ 5:02am

    Also Lisa Kudrow found a new success in the web with "Web Therapy", unfortunately she signed away with a TV station and that show will probably stop being shown on the web.

     

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  3.  
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    bob, Aug 20th, 2010 @ 5:22am

    I heard about this recently, and I actually had some cognitive dissonance.

    On the one hand, I hate Microsoft and use Linux at every available opportunity. It's free you know.

    On the other hand, I really like the Guild, and I'm excited to see a growing market for completely independent internet film. If Microsoft is financier that gets that going, it's hard for me to object.

    Someone with big pockets is going to get this stuff going, and once it's out there on Xbox Live, Netflix IV, etc, there's another case of freedom and control.

    But watch out independent film producers. Microsoft is still evil... mostly.

     

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  4.  
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    Call me Al, Aug 20th, 2010 @ 5:43am

    I love the Guild and am looking forward to when Season 4 escapes the Microsoft monopoly and moves to the rest of the net. I hasten to add that I do not begrudge that wait in the slightest, it is a quality program and I want it to be successful, if allowing Microsoft a temporary monopoly on it will help that then go for it. It will get round to me in time.

    I particularly like Microsoft's hands-off approach to this. They clearly recognise that it is, in itself, an excellent production and that they won't add value to it. Resisting the urge to tinker is very difficult to do, and for a company of Microsoft's size to do so is encouraging.

     

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  5.  
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    Dark Helmet (profile), Aug 20th, 2010 @ 6:02am

    I think what's difficult...

    ...is building up the critical mass audience. It's great that MS acted right on this project with their sponsorship. The key is how Felicia got there in the first place.

    It's something I'm struggling with myself. I believe in my work. I get positive feedback on it from others. The question is how to build an audience through active participation without coming across as a pushy salesman....

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  6.  
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    Chris ODonnell (profile), Aug 20th, 2010 @ 6:17am

    @Call me Al - What wait? I watch The Guild on MSN every week, in Firefox on Ubuntu.

     

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  7.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 20th, 2010 @ 6:22am

    Re:

    Voltaire ey!

    http://ninapaley.com/mimiandeunice/archives/voltaire/441

    "I may not like your institution, but I'll totally take your grant money"

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  8.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Aug 20th, 2010 @ 6:28am

    Re: I think what's difficult...

    Read to your children at night dude!

    Please make a channel on youtube, or vimeo, or bing or in all of them and read stories to your children, use some graphics to illustrate what you are reading in the videos and point to your point of sale...hum, hum I mean your website.

    e.g.:
    High Beams - Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-zpUcK_SAyU

    You can also partner with Nina Paley to do some funny illustrations of your stories :)

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  9.  
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    Dark Helmet (profile), Aug 20th, 2010 @ 6:54am

    Re: Re: I think what's difficult...

    Wow, those are actually really good ideas. I HATE talking on camera, as you can see in my piss poor Kickstarter video (probably going to update w/another try soon), but I'll just have to get over it.

    Maybe mixing in reading chapters/exerpts with discussing the settings of the book and/or it's themes/concepts would work well?

    And I would jump at doing something with Nina. In fact, maybe she could help with this TechDirt cookbook thing I'm starting (also looking for collaboration on it, people!)....

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  10.  
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    Hephaestus (profile), Aug 20th, 2010 @ 7:07am

    Re: I think what's difficult...

    "The question is how to build an audience through active participation without coming across as a pushy salesman...."

    Well you are from Chicago, so we need to socialize you a little bit ... Big Ole Grin ...

    Responding quickly to "ALL" e-mails and blog comments makes people feel good. That immediate response or near immediate response works really well. It gets and keeps people interested. Mentioning by name and-or thanking them in blog entries also works wonders. It makes people feel appreciated. Throwing an e-mail out to the person you have mentioned in your blog with a link also works wonders ...

    "Thanks for the info, it was really helpful I used it in my blog here is the URL"

    They tend to help you more and promote you.

    Explaining things people don't understand or don't get also works wonders, if you do it in a way that doesn't insult a persons intelligence or show you struggled with the concept yourself...

    "How a stirling engine works is pretty simple. It actually took me a good day to figure it out. You need to know three things ... "

    Hope that helps.

     

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  11.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 20th, 2010 @ 7:09am

    You can say a lot of things about Microsoft. That they don't understand business is not one of them. I think another likely candidate for this sort of business is Amazon. Woot's deal is living proof of it.

     

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  12.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 20th, 2010 @ 7:36am

    Re: Re: Re: I think what's difficult...

    I have an amazing recipe for smoked holocaust victim.

     

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  13.  
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    Dark Helmet (profile), Aug 20th, 2010 @ 7:48am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: I think what's difficult...

    And on a related note, one of the two recipes I've written up already is Basic Trolloaf Delight....

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  14.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Aug 20th, 2010 @ 8:04am

    Re: Re: Re: I think what's difficult...

    If it makes you comfortable you can alter your voice, it still be you but you can pretend it is not.

    Audacity has a plugin called "Autotalent" that you can use to sound ominous or like a Chipmunk, it also can be used to create different voices for different story characters.

    Also if you are like me and can't draw anything, I recommend buying a wacom bamboo to use it in Gimp where you can get some photo up, trace it and color it, it does work wonders, people will be impressed with your artistic skills LoL

    About your question "Maybe mixing in reading chapters/exerpts with discussing the settings of the book and/or it's themes/concepts would work well?"

    Can you make the discussion funny? If you can almost anything you do will work.

    I know you can, I see you do it here, but can you deliver on video? Have you other people to exchange ideas like a back and forth playground?

    e.g.

    http://www.youtube.com/user/filmriot
    http://www.youtube.com/user/scamschool
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=voLCnyqW_E0 (blue vs red)

    Those are making money, they have something to teach to everybody.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  15.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 20th, 2010 @ 8:20am

    Re: Re: Re: I think what's difficult...

    Also don't forget the "donate" button which I prefer "buy me a soda" button. Remember multiple streams of income, every penny counts.

    The forum will be on the video plataform you choose so you can talk to people there.

    Network with others artists so they can be guests on your channel and do funny things. Contact people with different skills sets that you think you can put to use inside your store aham I mean your website.

    On the youtube channels there are at least a dozen people who get millions of views, watching what they do may also give you more ideas on what you can do.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  16.  
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    ChurchHatesTucker (profile), Aug 20th, 2010 @ 9:02am

    Re:

    I think the key here is that MS isn't a traditional media company, so it probably doesn't occur to them to 'send notes' about scripts et al. I suspect you'll see more of these kinds of companies building the web content marketplace.

    (Also, Hi Al!)

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  17.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Aug 20th, 2010 @ 9:03am

    Re: Re: Re: I think what's difficult...

    You can steal a techdirt concept and use it, to make jokes you could pass them to a select few insider who would choose what you show on your videos, you know so you don't get the weird jokes out.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  18.  
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    theangryintern (profile), Aug 20th, 2010 @ 10:08am

    Re:

    Linux is only free if your time is worth nothing.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  19.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Aug 20th, 2010 @ 11:28am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: I think what's difficult...

    I have approximately the same recipe I bet. When are you starting the collaboration?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  20.  
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    Dark Helmet (profile), Aug 20th, 2010 @ 11:46am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: I think what's difficult...

    ASAP. As a kindness (since I think I already know what his answer will be), I asked Mike if it's cool to use the TechDirt name/logo....

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  21.  
    identicon
    Gene Cavanaugh, Aug 21st, 2010 @ 6:31pm

    Microsoft and authenticity

    Or you can look at it another way. Microsoft has historically done everything they could to stifle anything innovative that interfered with their business, but is okay on trivia like singing a song or some sort of entertainment.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  22.  
    identicon
    joe, Sep 14th, 2010 @ 4:44pm

    only reason why I visit bing/zune

    really, if it wasn't for the guild, who would want to go visit the lame zune marketplace?

    microsoft's "bought" something worthwhile watching, and it's money well spent IMO.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]


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