Starting with an acute industry problem
Before we had a name, an idea, or wrote any code, we began with intense focus on a specific question. How can we improve the way artists connect to more of their fans around the world? We were acutely aware of this critical problem at Topspin Media, a company I co-founded in 2007. At Topspin we worked with incredible artists who should have been playing and selling to 10X or a 100X their existing fanbase.
It was clear to everyone that these artists were worthy of a much bigger audience, but there was no effective way to find all of their potential fans. This is a tragic inefficiency for any type of creator including film producers, entrepreneurs, designers, makers, product developers, photographers, authors, brands, or anyone trying to reach their undiscovered fans. It was the biggest problem that needed to be solved. If we cracked it, the revenue back to the creative community would be massive.
How do you plan to solve the problem?
Our goal with Fluence is to make a transformative impact and fundamentally improve the way media is promoted across the web. We believe the best way to reach your full audience is to first connect directly to curators, domain experts, and other trusted sources who can give you feedback or recommend you to others. As more media is produced than ever before and everyone’s attention fragments limitlessly online, curators are increasingly essential in reaching the right people.
Based on this premise, we built a system to improve the way digital media professionals manage their inbound flow of media submissions. It was designed to unlock our capacity to help each other with feedback and referrals. Our vision is to improve how we connect to inbound media by providing a platform to manage the demand for our attention. It will help great media find its intended audience and drive the creative economy.
What do the Curators get out of it?
We work to meet the needs of curators and other trusted sources. Everyone’s trying to get their attention, and they’re overwhelmed with inbound media. There’s not enough time for it and most of it is template SPAM without any relevance to their interests. As we dug in deeper, we saw ways to improve their workflow and craft of curation.
Typically we found curators chained to a desktop buried in email with dozens of browser tabs open and easily distracted as they reviewed media on services like YouTube and SoundCloud. So we built Fluence as a way to streamline and improve the way they focus on inbound submissions. Curators set up a profile to easily filter the media they’re interested in receiving. They can manage their inbound media in a centralized application and review it conveniently anytime, on any device, and on their own terms.
Fluence is designed to encourage and collect useful feedback. It’s easy to express how you feel and send quick thoughts on submitted media. If you like any media, you can share it publicly or choose to keep all feedback and communication completely private and confidential. One of the strongest signals you can give media is referring it to others. Even if the media doesn’t fit your tastes, you can easily guide it on its way to other curators who may be more interested in engaging with it.
Helping the creative community
As we solved these problems for curators it improved the way they connected to creators and small businesses looking for their attention. Anyone with art, a product, or an idea can reach out to a global base of curators, domain experts, mavens, investors, advisors, and other trusted sources who can provide feedback or promotional advice. All activity and feedback is tracked and accessible in a central application, which makes it easy to manage any media outreach.
The system helps media move forward and connect to people who may be interested in it. Large artists and agencies are using Fluence for their video premieres, and many DIY media producers are also using it to test out their material and exchange ideas. Businesses send their product and company videos for feedback and promotional consideration. People are connecting around the media and sharing their honest and helpful thoughts. The system provides a safe way to get private feedback, while giving people control to share publicly. It’s been exciting to see collaborations occurring and connections being made.
What have you learned?
As we built the initial platform, we began to see curators use Fluence to give more thoughtful and useful feedback than we expected. Some curators gave substantial feedback and generously shared their expertise and referrals. It was inspiring to see how deeply people valued this feedback and how open curators were to giving it.
As the demand on curators’ attention increased, we were asked if there was a way to earn for their feedback since many of them were strapped for time and money. They were willing to give more feedback, but the realities of their day jobs and family commitments made it difficult to justify the time. We kept hearing that there was significant value in the feedback and referrals flowing through Fluence and that people would pay for this help. So we let curators set the rate for their time and attention and began to measure and arbitrate any money owed and paid between curators and those sending them media.
Valuing a Curator’s expertise
After we let curators earn for their time and attention, the feedback that came through the platform was more thoughtful, thorough, and useful. They were giving their full attention to submitted media in order to provide honest and productive feedback. Even if it wasn’t a fit, they were referring the media to other curators who may be more interested in their work.
Our goal is to let curators recognize the value they create and let people self-organize around the features we build for them. The intention is to let people connect through each other’s feedback and promotional advice in a model that treats everyone fairly and equitably.
Many people use the service for free and do not charge for their time and attention. Others donate their earnings to charity. Greater than 50% of our usage is free as curators simply use Fluence as a utility to better manage their inbound media and are not interested in earning anything. People also use Fluence without any money involved purely to follow and browse other curators and discover new media.
Where is it going?
We love seeing deeper collaborations forming and more dialogue emerging between curators and people sending them media. To further fuel these connections, we built private referral and messaging functionality to support their interactions around media. We’re iterating and fine-tuning a service that unlocks our human capacity to help each other with helpful feedback and recommendations.
We believe that by improving the way media reaches its intended audience, it will help the creative economy reach its full potential. More people will engage with media that they are likely to enjoy and new fans will be reached who ultimately turn into paying customers. As our system and model emerges and matures, it can be applied to many industries. It could improve the bottom lines of many kinds of artists, entrepreneurs, authors, designers, photographers, brands, and anyone who produces great media. Long-term, the model could be applied to a more aligned advertising experience where the world can engage with any kind of promotion based on their own relevant interests and terms for engagement.
We’re just getting started with Fluence and are committed to shepherding our system with full integrity and great care. Most of our development is focused on the initial problem we started solving, and the rest of our effort is spent supporting communities who are connecting in different ways around our platform. We will continue to build, adapt, and grow as we work on our mission to enable the creative economy. Reach out to us directly if you’re interested in finding out more or would like to work with us.