New-media firms seek aud buzz

Social media sites new big thing for studio marketers

Word of mouth that drives box office via social media sites is the new big thing for studio marketers, a development that Web portals SocialGuide and Next Movie’s Movie Tracker have jumped onto.

Both sites differ from traditional movie sites like MovieFone and Fandango, whose mission is to sell tickets, even while providing content about films.

SocialGuide recently began tracking movies based on public comments on Facebook and Twitter, after generating the same sort of measurements for television networks and programming earlier this year.

The Brooklyn, N.Y.-based company says it has created the first such real-time guide that ranks all firstrun films from pre-release through theatrical runs, and that it will continue to track them to DVD and video-on-demand.

“We believe this social word-of-mouth will become another important factor in how consumers decide where to spend their money at the box office,” says Sean Casey, founder and CEO of SocialGuide. “We also believe the data we are collecting around movies can be instrumental in understanding a movie’s success or failure at the box office.”

Chasing similar ground is Movie Tracker, launched Oct. 31, a product of Viacom Networks and available on its new movie site, Next Movie (nextmovie.com/movietracker). In addition to comments on social media sites, its metrics also take into account the blogosphere. Unlike SocialGuide, it also provides related articles about each movie.

“We start tracking a project as soon we see people starting to talk about it, which could even be a title on the New York Times bestseller list or something in the production pipeline,” says Scott Robson, VP and general manager of Next Movie. “The thing we’re striving for is to enable people to have a snapshot of what’s buzzing now. It’s like an interactive, highly engaged Billboard chart, with a trending up and down view that is constantly updated.”

For instance, the upcoming 2012 release “The Avengers” occupies a top slot on Movie Tracker, in the wake of a recent panel at New York Comic-Con.

On SocialGuide, buzz is measured by the number of comments the movie has on Facebook and Twitter, and includes a “social exit poll” that displays only comments from moviegoers who have actually seen the film, while another metric reveals “intention to see.” Also available are friends’ comments, the most re-tweeted comments and filtered social streams of critics’ takes on the movie, often with links to the reviews.

Each film’s page in the SocialGuide online database (socialguide.com/movies) features information that other sites list, such as show times, cast and synopsis, its ranking the previous week and a trailer, but it also logs the number of people talking about the film in the past 24 hours and the number of people who intend to see it, along with a graph that shows the percentage of buzz over time in relation to the release date.

“How many people want to see a film is a unique metric that we think is something studios may be interested in,” Casey says.

The company plans to release a proprietary movie data product in the first quarter of 2012 — and license it to studios and agencies — that will make correlations between intent-to-see and box office results.

Movie Tracker’s format also includes information about a film, but allows users to post their tweets about the movie directly from the site.

It also uses an algorithm provided by Trendrr, a social intelligence platform that crunches real-time online activity, measures the percentage of positive and negative buzz and denotes its peak position, number of days on the chart and number of comments counted.

Robson says there are plans to migrate Movie Tracker to other MTV Networks programs and websites and to create apps for iPad, iPhone, and Android.