In content marketing circles there is a concept known as “hub and spoke” that I happen to be a big adherent of . The idea is that content originates on the “hub,” which is usually an on-domain website or corporate blog and then radiates out to the spokes, which are the managed networks like Facebook, Twitter and so on. Because content on social networks can be ephemeral – an issue only exacerbated by the rise of apps like Snapchat and so on – and is hard to archive and therefore resurface, it’s important that you have a single repository of what you publish. That way you can find things and resurface them in new blog posts, can share them again on Twitter in light of some related breaking news and so on. And most importantly, you’re not subject to either the terms and conditions of a social network or the whims of investors, who can influence not only the presentation of your content but also its very availability.
Movie studios have never been big fans of this strategy, mostly still producing websites that are more or less static and not using social networks to drive traffic back to those sites unless it’s to get people to buy tickets. And now it seems they’re moving even further away not just from the tactical benefits of this strategy but also from the central idea of “own your stuff” that’s behind it.
That’s because as I’ve seen more and more, studios are increasingly building the official websites for movies on Tumblr. Just in the last two or three weeks I’ve seen the official sites for Sleeping With Other People and Hotel Transylvania 2 that are built on the popular blog network. Yes, they’re nice sites, but they’re still Tumblr blogs, albeit heavily customized ones.
What the studios seem to be going for is ease of media hosting and the network benefits that are built in to Tumblr. The content on these sites is largely geared toward what works well there, including lots of GIFs and other media, and all of these assets are easily shared by visitors on their own Tumblr blogs or on their Twitter or other social networks profiles. The studio’s design team does a little bit of CSS work and then it’s off to the races with content that’s just pining to go viral.
For any other company in any other industry I’d be throwing red flags left and right if someone I worked with came and suggested this as a strategy. Using Tumblr as your primary web presence means that not only are you sacrificing long-term content viability – who knows when Tumblr will disappear or change things around to break that precious CSS – but it all lives on Tumblr’s servers, not your own. That makes you subject to their ToS and means you can’t manage or troubleshoot downtime, you just have to wait like everyone else when it goes down or when problems emerge.
This is where Hollywood once again differentiates itself from other industries, though. While I’m still not a huge fan of this tactic, studios have never been as concerned about evergreen or long-lived content as companies operating in, for instance, the security software industry. It’s not as if studios are constantly resurfacing old material years later in the context of breaking news. They may occasionally share an old GIF on Twitter as part of #TBT, but that’s almost exclusively media that was native to social networks to begin with.
That’s not to say that there’s no value in studios embracing what I would call a traditional hub-and-spoke strategy, which is built around an on-domain blog with content distributed outward. There is. A lot of value, I believe. Platforms like WordPress would allow for them to build a framework that would allow for official sites for new and upcoming movies that are much more sustainable than Tumblr allows for.
I get that studios often aren’t thinking long-term about marketing content. They want to drive audiences to the theater opening weekend and then it’s on to the next effort. But with a few tweaks – some large, some small – they could put a much more sustainable framework in place that would allow them to see value from those marketing assets that are posted well beyond a single film’s release window.