Moonshine Moonshot Blog

Are film audiences different to YouTube audiences?

May 31, 2022
film and youtube audience

Are film audiences different to YouTube audiences? 

I thought I’d start this post with a question – and it’s not a tough one. Where’s the best place to see a film? At the cinema? In your lounge room? The back of an aeroplane seat? What about on your smartphone while you’re waiting for the bus? Or on your laptop in between meetings? 

Honestly, I could waste 500 words musing viewing scenarios! Because video content is everywhere – and between YouTube, Netflix and the local independent theatre, it’s hard to keep up with it all. 

And guess who else it’s hard for? Your audience. You know, the people you’re creating video content for. So if you want those people to actually watch your content, you need to ensure that your video is perfectly tailored to the platform it’s published to. 

I don’t know about you, but going to the cinema is a very different experience for me than watching a few clips on YouTube on a Monday afternoon while I wait for my kids to finish cricket practise. Experience being the operative word here. 

With a trip to the cinema – I’m all in. I’m focused, I’ve set aside two, sometimes three hours to immerse myself in a story. I settle into my seat…hopefully a reclining one, turn my phone off (ok, I put it on silent), and I begin to relax as the curtains widen, the lights dim and the experience begins. 

But when it comes to YouTube, I’m a bit more passive. I’ll dip in and dip out as needed and I’m usually trying to do something else at the same time.  Unless of course it’s the latest episode of the Moonshine Moonshot series starring none other than Mike Hill and myself… Ahem, shameless plug aside, it’s just a different way to experience content. 

You’re probably the same, especially when you’re watching Moonshine Moonshot of course – I know you give your full attention to every episode… 

The point I’m trying to get at here is that while these two platforms might serve the same purpose – to share moving pictures –the audience (or at least their expectations) are quite unique. 

And as a content creator, it’s something you should definitely be mindful of. Which is why I’m diving into it today. 

The cinema-goer 

There’s something to be said about watching a film at the cinema.

The heady smell of buttered popcorn. The technicolored carpet. The hope of a scoring a vanilla choc top but knowing you’ll just settle with mint (why is that flavour always sold out!?). And that’s just the foyer. 

By the time you buy your ticket, take your seat and wait for the lights to dim, you’re so in the zone you almost forget the outside world exists. It’s a total escape. All you can do is sit back and be swept away on an incredible visual journey –  from the safety of a plush lounge chair. 

I mean in what other scenario do you voluntarily switch your phone off for upwards of two hours? 

I can’t think of any. 

Yes, nothing quite beats the cinema. And if you’re producing a long-form documentary, an action blockbuster, heart wrenching drama or romantic comedy, you’re most likely to hook your audience at the cinema. 

And their motivation for going is quite deliberate, too. They’re either interested in the genre. Or perhaps they admire you as the producer or director. Or maybe they like the actor you’ve cast in the main role. Either way – you have a captive audience. But with YouTube, it can be a little harder to hold your audience’s attention. 

So let’s take a look at those fickle, YouTube-watching folk … 


The YouTube watcher 

It’s estimated that YouTube has 122 million active uses every day. Mmmhmm. That’s just a few more than make it to the cinema.  

People are turning to YouTube for a range of reasons too. Someone might be keen to learn how to make kombucha. Or how to plant chilli seeds at home. Maybe they’re looking for tips to build their Instagram following. Or the latest beauty trends. Perhaps they just want a few funny cat videos to help them shake off the day. 

This is the wild and wonderful world of YouTube. If you want to watch it, you’ll most likely find it. 

And you can consume as much – or as little – content as you like. Unlike a cinema, where you’re committed to watching a film for multiple hours, with YouTube you might just watch for 30 seconds at a time. 

The reasons people frequent YouTube are a little different too. While entertainment is a big factor, according to YouTube Playbook for brands, people mostly tune into YouTube to be educated or informed. And they want their questions answered quickly, with videos between seven and 15 minutes performing best.

So now I want you to ask yourself …. 

What sort of video do you want to make? 

Because it will really help you to decide where you should share it And guess what?  You don’t have to sacrifice reaching a cinema audience to go viral on YouTube. 

In fact, most of the film-led campaigns we produce at Moonshine Agency have content tailored specifically for YouTube and the cinema. Take our impact film Conquering Cancer for example. This documentary feature was released theatrically in 2021 (in the middle of Covid – that’s a story for another time), but the team and I also created a series of short films, which we published directly to YouTube well before the film made it to the silver screen. 

Conquering Cancer has been seen by cinema-goers around the globe (more than 100 event screenings and counting) and the YouTube channel has amassed close to 260,000 viewers. 

While the content complements each other, it’s not the same. The films we made for YouTube are shorter, well under 10 minutes.  But the feature film is over an hour long and offers the complete cinematic experience, journeying across six countries and presenting multiple points of view. 

To get all this content right, we had to know exactly who we were talking to and tailor it appropriately. 

I think you know where I’m going with this, but to spell it out …you need to understand your audience. No matter if you’re sharing your film on YouTube or have your sights set on a sell-out cinema screening in a major capital city, it always come down to your audience. Always. 

If you’re having trouble figuring out just who that audience is, then please come join me in the Define Your Ideal Audience online course. Until then, all this movie talk has got me desperate for night in with good flick. Any recommendations? Share your recommendations in the comments below! 

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