MarTechSeries: Interview with David Mason, CEO and Founder, StudioNow

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Tell us about your role and journey into technology. What made you start StudioNow?

I have been an entrepreneur for the past 25 years. Along the way, I have dabbled with having a normal job here or there, but always found that my passion was to create ideas and companies from scratch. My key ingredients have always been to identify a large-scale trend (internet retail, WiFi communications, digital video, etc.) and then create a new business model for that industry that utilized technology to disrupt the status quo. I started one of the first internet bookstores in 1994, which later became, which was then sold to Rakuten. I started StudioNow in 2007 because I was taking a ton of birthday and vacation pictures of my five- and two-year-olds at the time and never got around to doing anything cool with that content. While thousands of these pictures and videos were clogging up my hard drive other and more experienced individuals with film school backgrounds and editing software were uploading funny and entertaining videos to YouTube and generating millions of views. My original idea was to create a marketplace where less experienced individuals (people like me) could be matched with video experts to turn their pictures and videos into something that was worth watching. StudioNow 1.0 was born and on the first day, we had about 80 video professionals sign up to be part of the StudioNow Creative Network. Fast forward to today, and we now have over 10,000 creative vendors from mom and pop creative shops to some of the largest, high-end production companies in the world. We stopped making video content for individuals in 2008 and our software platform now manages the video creation process (vendor sourcing, bidding, project management, contracting, payment, etc.) for some of the largest companies in the world, including Coca-Cola, P&G, HP, Bridgestone, etc.

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When it Comes to Content, Don’t Build a Wal-Mart when You Really Need an Amazon

Last year, Wal-Mart aquired for a whopping $3.3 Billion in an attempt to play catch up with Amazon in e-commerce sales representing the largest e-commerce acquisition in history. With $14 Billion in e-commerce sales, Wal-Mart has a ways to go to match Amazon’s $107 Billion last year.

One key point made in the WSJ article covering the news was that,

“Jet has said it aims to offer shoppers lower prices than Amazon or Wal-Mart by teaming up with a vast marketplace of sellers rather than building up its own inventory.”

Amazon itself generates close to half its sales from its marketplace of sellers. So what lessons can be learned from this model when it comes to creating content for today’s brands?

Ask almost any marketer how they are creating content today and you’re likely to get a different answer each time. They might be bringing more capabilities in-house. They might be relying more or less on their agency, adding specialist agencies, or experimenting with “decoupling production” at the holding company level. They might be working with a large consulting company like Accenture with vast off shore resources or working more directly with tech companies, media companies or a start up. Regardless of the answer, you’ll almost always hear two things: 1) it needs to work a lot better and 2) over the last 10 years “everything has changed!”

Things certainly have changed in the content space-- the same way that in retail consumers now shop on their phones and want to buy billions of dollars of stuff that you can’t always stock in a store or a warehouse. Similarly, today’s consumers of content live on their phones, their tablets, their social networks, their OTT channels on their Apple TVs. Marketers have to deliver orders of magnitude more content, in multiple formats, on dramatically tighter timelines, and by the way, the budgets aren’t any bigger.

The technology driving these changes doesn’t slow down. It only accelerates. As a brand marketer, agency, or holding company, simply consolidating production, exploring “decoupling”, or just hiring loads of FTEs “in-house” is the equivalent of building a brick-and-mortar SuperCenter.

Just going for economies of scale is not a long term solution and will fail in the end. By the time you build and implement it, everything will have changed again. Today’s devices, platforms, formats, ad tech capabilities, consumption patterns and everything else are in a constant state of flux.

In today’s world, you simply can’t “stock” enough creative inventory.

Consider where we’ve seen the most investment and innovation driving this change over the last ten years. We’ve witnessed massive improvements in chipsets, cameras, and equipment to create content and the devices to consume media. We’ve seen extraordinary advancements in distribution and communication platforms, broadband networks, and the ad tech to target our messages. But for the most part, we still make our content the old fashioned way.

So how can you actually make this content before it’s targeted, distributed and consumed? What is the right process to create content- better, faster, cheaper- right now, but just as importantly what is the creation process that is designed to adapt in real time to this constant state of flux? How do you create a process that handles the constantly diversifying, rapidly growing, and constantly changing content needs of an organization? One that scales? One that controls cost? Maintains quality? Collects and shares critical data? And a process that is actually sustainable for all parties contributing?

At StudioNow, we’re big believers in marketplaces, and more specifically the “gig economy”. While we may see some consolidation among services up and down the stack, we think that the right creation process is one in which the creative supply side is a decidedly “unbundled” one. We’ve seen this approach transform not just e-commerce but industries like transportation, finance, hospitality, healthcare and beyond. In a world where the content demands from enterprises is in constant flux, only a supply side of creative talent that is equally as dynamic, morphing, and growing can satisfy it in the long run.

Just like Wal-Mart has learned, a closed supply chain isn’t enough. You need a marketplace.

David Corts




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