Posted by Dan L. on February 20th, 2014
Closed to the public?
Right now Poptent.net is running 15 commercial assignments. That’s an impressive number but unfortunately you and I aren’t eligible to participate in any of them. That’s because 100% of Poptent’s current commercial assignments are “Invite Only.” Some of these are run like traditional assignments but only a handful of pre-approved Poptent members are allowed to submit entries. But many private assignments are direct-hires. They’re open to just one filmmaker who is guaranteed to make a sale. In both cases, the selected filmmakers are promised a few hundred or a few thousand dollars upfront so that they can cover their production expenses.
Poptent has been moving in this direction for more than a year but until now they’ve had at least one public assignment up and running at all times. But their last public assignment ended on February 10th. That means the site has been 100% Invite-Only for more than 10 days. It’s reasonable to assume that February would just naturally be a slow month for video contests since filmmakers can’t go out and shoot submissions when it’s 22°F. But currently Mofilm is running 6 public contests, Tongal is running 16 and Zooppa is running 7. So despite the weather, there are still plenty of companies out there that want and need crowdsourced video content.
I’m sure that Poptent will eventually launch a new public commercial contest but the writing is on the wall; Poptent is now pretty much closed to the general public. The staff has cherry-picked a few dozen of their most talented members and now they’re funneling most of their new business to those individuals. I guess I can understand why they’re doing it. Running a big, public video contest can be a hassle. Poptent probably spends less time on the Invite-Only assignments yet they can charge their clients more. And those clients are probably happy to pay a little extra since it means they’re guaranteed to get a decent video from one of Poptent’s best and most successful creators. Plus it’s much easier to control just one filmmaker. In a normal Poptent assignment, the brand has to worry about crappy submissions leaking out and making the sponsor look bad. (Poptent is so concerned about this problem that filmmakers are now required to sign over the copyright to their submissions BEFORE the brand makes their purchases.) So running an invite-only contest is really the safe option. But there’s a big downside to this approach; if you hand-pick your directors you’re sort of missing out on the magic of crowdsourcing. Brands love consumer-generated content because it’s so different from the stuff that traditional ad makers produce. If a company really cared about playing it safe, they could simply cut out the middleman (poptent) and hire a production company directly.
So while I do think we’re seeing the future of Poptent, I don’t think the company’s new business model is sustainable. If Poptent is going to take “the crowd” out of “Crowdsourcing” they might as well just hire the filmmakers they like and become a virtual production company. Right now, here’s how Poptent describes what they do:
Poptent harnesses the engagement and creativity of our more than 50,000 video creators to generate high quality video content for online, mobile and broadcast.
That statement’s just not true anymore. Poptent now harnesses the creativity of about 50 creators….not 50,000. If you’re lucky enough to become one of Poptent’s go-to creators, you’ll get invited to private assignments every few weeks. The work would be so steady and the paydays would be so big that you could quit your day job and focus on entering Poptent assignments full-time.
But what happens when these talented folks realize they don’t need Poptent any more? If you sell a dozen videos to a dozen big, internationally known brands, you’re going to have a really impressive reel and resume. Eventually these semi-pros will become actual pros and leave Poptent behind. So if Poptent is cutting out “the crowd,” where are they going to find fresh talent? Sure, Poptent can draw from their pool of 50,000 members. But how many of those members are still active? 2,000? 1,000? Eventually the people who have been shut out of the private assignments are going to get frustrated by the lack of new public assignments and disappear. And once that happens, I’m sorry to say that Poptent might just disappear too.