VanCity Buzz - Q&A with George Fleming, CEO & founder of SoMedia Networks

Dec 19 2017, 7:30 am

Who is SoMedia Networks?

SoMedia Networks is a pioneer of globally scalable cloud-based video content production services, crowdsourced workforce management systems and automated video production platforms.

We provide resale, white-label, and on demand video production services across North America to web marketers, digital agencies, corporate brands and media. Our technology first approach, and North American-wide crowd sourced workforce allows us to provide a range of ground breaking video production services and products which break down the traditional barriers of cost, volume and reach; making it easy for our partners to deliver online video products to their clients simply and affordably, anywhere, at scale.

George Fleming

How does SoMedia source qualified videographers?

We source a niche workforce “crowd” of video production professionals and manage their actions through defined requirements and tasks – turning them into a temporary workforce pulled together on a project by project basis.

We recruit videographers through a variety of sources: online registrations, word of mouth from proven videographers already in our system and through advertising in markets across North America.

The qualification process for our videographers is stringent. While traditional crowdsource platforms qualify the crowd through minimal automated criteria, SoMedia is extremely focused on quality control so we review demo reels and complete skype interviews with every video professional who signs up before they are green lit to take on video production work. We assess their experience level, technical knowledge and quality of gear, communication skills and professionalism before giving them a rating. We have a four level rating system.

How many videographers are currently in SoMedia’s network?

We have more than 3400 videographers, editors and producers in our managed crowdsourced workforce. Qualified production teams are pulled together from across North America through our cloud based platform on a video by video basis. Although videographers are always locally sourced, producers and editors are frequently based thousands of miles apart with quality control centralized at SoMedia headquarters in Vancouver.

How did you come to the conclusion that a management system needed to be developed?

When YouTube launched in 2005 it ushered in a boom in user generated video production. Initially there was so much excitement generated over the massive amount of video being uploaded to the site everyone thought crowdsourced user generated video would be used by businesses and brands. But by early 2007 it started to become obvious that user generated video wasn’t a viable commercial product; often violating trademarks or privacy, lacking quality control and unable to be produced at scale. It was entertainment more than a business solution.

We saw the demand for quality business video starting to take off and thought that solving the “video problem” was a massive business opportunity. So we focused on developing a scalable solution to video production that leveraged the reach and scalability of crowdsourcing while adding the concepts of workforce management and ISO style process controls to video production and the management of a specialized crowd. We call it crowdsourced workforce management and define it as the re-organization of complex tasks into a series of defined and controlled groups of micro tasks which can be completed by a specialized and distributed crowd.

How is SoMedia able to manage and employ professionals that are located outside of Vancouver?

The use of a cloud based management system allows SoMedia to develop video production projects, organize them by tasks, standardize the requirements of those tasks, and employ a specialized crowdsourced workforce to execute those tasks on a video by video basis. Since each step of the production process is defined and controlled we’re able to use cloud based platforms to create on the fly production teams that can be based anywhere – the videographer is always local but the producer and editor and quality control oversight can be located anywhere in the world. Today most of our producers and editors are based in Canada and the US but we intend to begin using editors based in the Philippines within the next year to reduce production costs further.

How is SoMedia’s business model unique from other crowdsourcing models?

We have evolved the concept of crowdsourcing to something we call Crowdsource Workforce Management.

Crowdsourcing is the practice of obtaining needed services, ideas, or content by soliciting contributions from a large group of people.

The principle of crowdsourcing is that more heads are better than one. By canvassing a large crowd of people for ideas, skills, or participation the overall quality of content and idea generation will be superior due to the large sample size. However, the process of crowdsourcing requires the management of large numbers of poor results in order to discover the few high quality results found within the crowd. As a result complex tasks are difficult to crowdsource and the quality of outcomes hard to predict. For a complex creative process like video production the concept of crowdsourcing has only be successfully applied as a project focused open call for ideas. The actual production process has never been successfully crowdsourced or scaled using crowdsourcing until now.

To develop a scalable solution to video production that leverages the concepts of crowdsourcing SoMedia has applied workforce management and ISO style process controls to video production and the management of a specialized crowd. By breaking the video production process into micro tasks they can be organized, standardized and outsourced to members of a crowd on a project by project basis. The use of a cloud based management system allows SoMedia to develop video production projects, organize them by tasks, standardize the requirements of those tasks, and employ a specialized crowdsourced workforce to execute those tasks on a video by video basis. The system goes a step further and allows the project team members to be located anywhere.

Crowdsourced Workforce Management can be defined as the re-organization of complex tasks into a series of defined and controlled groups of micro tasks which can be completed by members of a specialized and distributed crowd. Key aspects are the standardization of tasks, the application of detailed requirements and outcome definitions, micro level task tracking, pervasive quality control, and the organization of a task based workforce by skill level and expertise. Benefits of Crowdsourced Workforce Management include scale, reach, quality control and reduced costs, plus standardization of outcomes.

Who benefits from the ScalableVideo service? How is it beneficial?

Small to medium sized business across North America are the real beneficiaries of our ScalableVideo service. Before we entered the market video production was generally expensive, local, complicated, and not scalable.

We’re the first company to turn video production into a scalable turnkey business product. As a result our partners are able to provide video production services to their clients anywhere they need then, when they need them, at the lowest price points, without any knowledge of video production.

We describe our core market as the Web Services market which is made up of companies who provide internet marketing services to small to medium sized businesses. This group includes web marketers, digital agencies, SEO and SEM specialists, website designers etc. There are over 80,000 of these companies across North America and they serve millions of businesses.

What is the process after SoMedia receives a project request?

At the front end of the cloud based ScalableVideo platform is sophisticated order entry and project development system that gathers creative input through a short online questionnaire. We ask basic questions that any business person can answer without any video production knowledge. Answers are automatically inserted into a production template and customized by the producer assigned to the project. From there a videographer is chosen and a production assignment is provided – the assignment contains detailed instructions covering every aspect of the shoot including shot lists, interview questions, equipment requirements etc.

The videographer shows up at the clients’ place of business on the day of the shoot and follows the instructions contained in the assignment. Most jobs take about two hours. Afterwards the videographer goes home and uploads the footage into the cloud based production system where it goes into QC and then on to editing. An editor is chosen by the producer and assigned the project – the editor can be located anywhere. Based on templated and predefined editing guidelines the video is completed, goes through QC again, and provided to the client for screening. Any final edits are completed and the final video is delivered. The whole process from shoot to delivery takes no more than 14 days. Guaranteed.

What challenges has SoMedia encountered introducing the ScalableVideo service to the video industry?

Before SoMedia entered the market most web services companies didn’t offer video production services. We surveyed our partners last December and found that only 26% of them had previously sold video production. We also found over 80% saw offering video production gave them a competitive advantage and over 90% felt video production would become a profit center.

So although there is significant pent up demand there is a lack of experience and video knowledge. We’ve found that there is a significant learning curve and the need to provide sales and marketing support in order for a new partner to become active.

The other issue we needed to overcome was simply the speed at which the market was developing. A year and a half ago businesses were interested in video but didn’t see it as a necessity – now they do and soon they’ll need two or three videos instead of one. The use of video by business is just getting started.

How has SoMedia overcome these challenges?

We’ve developed a sales and marketing program designed to provide a custom implementation program for qualified partners and a standard package for those that don’t. When one of our sales people signs up a new partner they immediately begin helping them integrate video within their business by offering website content, video galleries, white label collateral and white papers, email and blog content etc. We look at market development as long term strategic process. Because we don’t have any direct competition our goal is to sign up as many partners as fast as we can and integrate them with our video marketing materials.