Case study: Lovefilm – moviegoers’ Mecca

Online film rental service Lovefilm has put content at the core of its web presence. By creating, commissioning and aggregating an abundance of material, the brand has developed a hub for movie-goers that reaches beyond a simple subscription business.

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Lovefilm
Avoiding a clash of intent: Lovefilm keeps its impartial news and reviews of films separate from the subscriptions part of the site

On its own website and a YouTube channel, Lovefilm gathers news, reviews, images, trailers and interviews from a variety of sources. These include an in-house editorial team covering new releases, in-house and external critics, film distributors, and users themselves. According to chief marketing officer Simon Morris, these outlets attract 60 million page views per month.

He says: “Quite a large percentage of our monthly unique viewers are people just coming for information. Our view on that is that it is just good for the brand,” he says. “We have an international audience. There is no harm in us getting our brand out there in different geographies and on different platforms.”

By design, Lovefilm has come to function as a publisher in its own right, with regular editorial meetings to determine what content will be produced and commissioned, and which themes and topics will be addressed.

The site has even turned into a specialist news wire, syndicating its own film updates to other publishers. “We are just launching a Lovefilm news feed on IMDb [the Internet Movie Database],” Morris says.

But the editorial is not solely controlled by the brand. Lovefilm’s users contribute by adding film reviews and ratings. “People will review Italian zombie films,” he continues. “I did not even know there were any. People will write reviews of adult films, even, because that is what they are really into.”

For a commercial business that ultimately has an interest in consumers making orders, there are twin concerns to account for when making a foray into editorial content. The objective is to provide both a compelling reason for users to engage with the site and information on the products it makes available. There is clearly a danger that, with a foot in both camps, each aim might defeat the other, leaving the brand with little credibility.

Lovefilm addresses this by keeping the news and reviews part of the editorial separate from the subscription service. Critics are as likely to give a film a one-star as a five-star rating, while reporting focuses impartially on the films themselves. For example, action film Clash of the Titans (pictured) earned three out of five stars by Lovefilm reviewers. Similarly, users are free to review whatever they wish, however they wish. Links within the copy allow users to sign up or order the relevant films if they are interested.

The entire process is led by Morris’s marketing department, which controls the editorial and content budgets. Despite the wide range of disciplines required, he believes all these practices are absolutely the business of marketers. “I see it as a branding exercise, I see it as a PR exercise, I see it as an engagement exercise,” he argues.

He must be able to justify this activity with data, he says. The brand monitors activity on its site, tracking sign-up rates and linking this with how users have interacted with the site.

“I can show how customers who engage with our content are customers who are not going to leave. That adds massive value. It is so much cheaper to keep a customer than it is to win one,” explains Morris.

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