• Learning from TurnHere's Strong 2009 Growth

    Given the pervasiveness of gloomy economic news, I'm always on the lookout for evidence of growth, especially in the broadband video space. That's why news that TurnHere, the broadband video production and advertising company, shared with me last week caught my attention. The company will report later this morning that its business has doubled in '09 vs. '08. John McWeeny, TurnHere's COO briefed me last week on what's behind the improved numbers. Understanding TurnHere's model offers plenty of lessons for other broadband video market participants.

    As background, TurnHere has developed a global network of 7,000+ independent filmmakers, which it taps into for soup-to-nuts creation of made-for-broadband content for its clients. TurnHere only accepts into the network well-credentialed professionals who are thoroughly vetted. The company's clients come from two sources. First, from channel resellers, who are primarily Internet Yellow Pages companies selling online ads to local businesses that increasingly want a video presence online. And second, through direct sales to brands who increasingly want to capitalize on video's impact on their web sites. '09 growth is coming in equal parts from both sides of the business.

    Listening to John describe TurnHere's business, I was repeatedly struck by the fact that this is a pretty complicated business to run successfully. Clients are in multiple locations, necessitating multiple filmmakers to be involved in projects. Yet brand standards and formats must be adhered to for consistency across videos. And often there's a 3rd party agency or marketing/online consultant involved that must be pleased as well. Tight budgets and timelines are the norm. So making all this work is not trivial. In fact John remarked that one of the company's core competencies is "how to leverage a distributed network of creative people." That seemed like a spot-on assessment to me.

    To succeed, TurnHere has developed strict internal policies and procedures to guide its work. Everything from recruiting filmmakers to selecting them for projects to scoping the project with clients to managing the video production process to reviewing filmmakers' work has some formal structure around it. John explained a key differentiator for TurnHere is its laser focus on video that is made-for-broadband. The company is not aiming to make commercials that run on-air and cost hundreds of thousands of dollars. Rather, it looks to produce high-quality, yet inexpensive shorts in a documentary-style, with real people, not actors.

    The result is that for clients used to getting just one ad for their budget, they are now getting dozens or even hundreds of web-only videos. TurnHere's surging business is due to more marketing executives opting to allocate budget to the new broadband video medium to reach their target audience vs. following traditional TV advertising rules. When you read research about ad budgets shifting to online, TurnHere is right on the front lines of making this happen. The company has done work for brands like InterContinental Hotels, Williams-Sonoma, American Express and others.

    Emphasizing attributes like process development, specialization, customization, flexibility, affordability, reach and quality are the reasons TurnHere is succeeding, despite the down economy. In fact, a lot of what John said echoed what Demand Studios' EVP Steven Kydd told me recently. Demand Studios too is focused on building processes to crank out large volumes of high-quality web-only video. Yesterday's post on how SundaySky is enabling automated video from web-based content is yet another example volume-based video production.

    The common themes here are that broadband video is a different medium than TV. People who want to succeed in the broadband video medium - whether as content providers themselves or in service to content providers or brands - need to recognize the differences and engineer their businesses appropriately. Scale and cost-efficiency matter a lot more in broadband than they did in TV where expensive, hand-crafted video was the norm. In this context, learning how to blend technology with creative talent is going to be a real competitive differentiator.

    What do you think? Post a comment now.