I'm a backer of the Veronica Mars film project, and as such I was entitled to a free download of the film on Friday night. When I discovered that the film would be delivered via Flixster, a service I only faintly remember as a lame website and an even lamer Facebook app, I did what I expect a lot of people did that night.
I rented it on iTunes.
After all, I shrugged, I backed the project to see the film become a reality. I'd pay a little more to help ensure the film did well and increase the chances of another. But as the weekend wore on, it became apparent that the use of Flixster was not simply a matter of that service being able to deliver the film to all backers worldwide simultaneously. It was also the service (or rather, tangled web of barely functional services) owned by Warner Bros, the film's distributor. Well that figures.
By now you've probably heard about the nasty fallout, the disappointed fans, the offers of refunds to backers who ended up buying copies of the film from Amazon and iTunes. It speaks a lot to how much services like iTunes have become the default entertainment ecosystems and the fact that, if you want to try to buck that trend with a Veronica Mars-shaped Trojan horse, the execution had better be flawless.
I could say more, but there's a really good editorial from the creators of indie streaming service VHX on IndieWire today that pretty much says it all.
"Think Like A Fan" means putting yourself in your customer's shoes and consider how they would feel about each and every one of your decisions. In this era of social media and crowdfunding, in which your fans feel an even larger sense of ownership and participation in your work, "Thinking Like A Fan" is an essential business practice. Fans are the center of your universe. The "Veronica Mars" mistake was not thinking like a fan when it came to the actual delivery and user experience of distributing the film.
Tip o'the hat to crowdfunding authority Joe Beyer, whose Save Rex Ranch project continues to defy the odds.