Excessive publicity: Inside GoPro's burgeoning media empire
A solar-pinked face stares down the barrel of a surfboard-mounted digital camera. Mountain biker, Sam Pilgrim, is gently floating in crystal-clear water. Behind him, a backdrop of cotton-wool clouds and brilliant blue sky. This idyllic setting might describe any variety of surf movies shot with GoPro’s rugged motion digital camera, however this one is totally different. Pilgrim gazes up from his board, then impulsively, inexplicably bails into the ocean. Virtually in the identical second, an outrigger canoe bursts into shot over the digital camera — proper the place Pilgrim would have been had his reactions been a millisecond slower. Pilgrim is a professional athlete, however browsing’s not his sport. The second is real, however the circumstances that make it potential are deliberate. This shut shave occurred at GoPro’s current Athlete Summit in Hawaii, and it is movies precisely like this that the corporate is hoping will rework it from digital camera maker to media outlet, because it information for its IPO.
GoPro’s enterprise is motion cameras, these small, silver cubes that adorn helmets, surfboards and, nowadays, just about something. It is a market the corporate dominates. GoPro’s cameras are answerable for a large number of YouTube’s most thrilling content material, with an estimated 6,000 uploads originating from its units each day. It bought simply shy of four million GoPros final yr, a quantity up from 2.three million in 2012, and 1.1 million in 2011. However the cameras are catching as much as the bounds of what is presently potential or sensible for a shopper product; its prime mannequin already data at 4K, albeit solely at 15 frames per second. In consequence, many have requested the place the corporate can go from right here. It does not assist that the cameras it makes are constructed to be virtually indestructible, and subsequently non-disposable. This, then, is a pivotal time for GoPro. It should proceed to broaden and persuade potential buyers there’s nonetheless room for progress.
GoPro’s answer begins with delivery a load of the athletes it sponsors out to Hawaii. Not the place most enterprise reinventions start maybe, however the firm has huge plans. It realizes it is sitting on a content material golden goose. Content material it will possibly monetize. Content material it has to do little or no to acquire. Content material that is already doing massive issues on-line. GoPro tells us it is the highest-rating model channel on YouTube, Fb and Instagram. Adrenaline is seemingly huge enterprise.
Due to this, GoPro’s making the acutely aware and, maybe, pure leap from promoting cameras and equipment to content material creation, curation and supply. As for the athletes? They’re right here in Hawaii to discover ways to crank up the share issue on their movies and seize the instruments to make much more content material for the model. It is making a virtuous circle the place its cameras shoot the content material that it then monetizes on numerous channels. Content material encourages digital camera gross sales and, in flip, a brand new wave of content material creators.
The day earlier than our fast-witted surfer’s fortunate escape, Paul Crandell, VP of selling at GoPro, stands on a small stage in a lodge convention room. He is addressing the massive group of round one hundred skate boarders, skydivers, skiers, surfers and bike riders earlier than him. Amongst them are 14 world champions and 6 Olympic medalists (together with gold winners like US snowboarder Jamie Anderson). At some other summit, it would be briefcases and brogues, however right here, it is board shorts and baseball caps. It is about as removed from company as a company occasion might get, however it’s undoubtedly all about enterprise.
Crandell is telling the group GoPro needs to develop with them. “It is about getting that content material off the system and out into the world,” he explains. The extra urgent objective, nevertheless, is to show the athletes into a military of viral video creators, by means of numerous boot camp coaching periods. Nothing will probably be left to probability. Every little thing from establishing the shot, to modifying the footage, to what garments to put on and what time to publish content material shall be coated. It seems that a good, spontaneous second requires various planning.
A number of days after this summit ended, GoPro filed its S-1 IPO, revealing to potential buyers the corporate’s efficiency in arduous numbers for the very first time. It is truthful to imagine the timing of those two occasions is not totally coincidental. Buyers will need to understand how GoPro plans to continue to grow, and it will possible be pointing people who ask on to the summit in Hawaii.
For people who do not already know, the world of GoPro content material is one in every of stunts, adrenaline-soaked actions and what might be referred to as the “tremendous-selfie” — like common selfies, however with extra sharks, free-falling, mountain views and goggle tans. On the convention, Crandell sums up GoPro with a video from one other skilled mountain biker: Kelly McGarry’s coronary heart-stopping backflip over a seventy two-foot canyon (above). McGarry’s video ends, and Crandell merely exclaims “Over 18 million [views]!” The viewers ripples with whoops and cheers in appreciation. McGarry, casually sits 4 rows again from the stage, visibly humble and clearly simply stoked he acquired the shot.
“That is GoPro’s subsequent product: a life-style, not a digital camera.”
We have all seen movies like these, and whereas it’d simply appear to be a sharable lunchtime web distraction, it is truly a enterprise alternative ripe for exploitation. GoPro sponsors a great variety of particular person athletes from throughout the board of actions sports activities. A few of the huge names, like professional surfer Kelly Slater and snowboarder Shaun White, act as model ambassadors, however there are various extra who could make their dwelling from their sponsorship cope with GoPro. It is these people that the corporate tells us have already created 388 YouTube movies, attaining greater than 50 million views every. Numbers like these can reportedly earn the creators (or, quite its YouTube writer) six-determine sums. It is little marvel GoPro is eager to create extra of them.
Movies like McGarry’s backflip include one thing all of us need a bit of extra of — journey, pleasure and, maybe surprisingly, a satisfying story arc. That is GoPro’s subsequent product: a life-style, not a digital camera. The extra candid moments like Pilgrim’s shut shave, then again, have the “gotta see this” issue. This new pressure of media has develop into inconceivable to disregard within the shit-you-gotta-see world of on-line video.
“The large push has actually been to turn out to be a media firm,” Brad Schmidt, artistic director for the agency, says when he takes over from Crandell on the morning’s presentation. Not totally surprising information. However that is the primary time we have heard the corporate be so open about it. Schmidt explains that for concerning the final yr and a half, GoPro has been actively observing different media corporations. For instance, Pink Bull does not simply make brief movies for sharing on social media; it additionally has an entire arm of its enterprise devoted to wealthy content material manufacturing. Purple Bull does not promote cameras, although, and its packages are costly, pre-deliberate tasks, extra according to the “previous” TV manufacturing mannequin. That is the place GoPro’s easy benefit turns into apparent: It solely must distribute its personal product — a $four hundred digital camera — and the content material involves it.
This distinction in approaches is not any higher illustrated than with Pink Bull’s Felix Baumgartner area dive. Pink Bull might have executed all of the onerous work, nevertheless it used GoPro’s cameras to report Baumgartner’s first-individual view of the descent. The entire undertaking reportedly value the drink maker round $sixty five million. GoPro used its involvement within the stunt for its personal Tremendous Bowl advert — cheekily (however legitimately) piggybacking on Purple Bull’s years of labor by easy affiliation. In truth, in case you Google “Felix Baumgartner,” it truly predicts you are going to sort “GoPro,” not “Pink Bull” subsequent. It is this low-value, nimble affiliation with so many cool issues that permits it to continually feed Fb, YouTube, Instagram and (most significantly) our imaginations. Pink Bull, with all its slick manufacturing, then again, is not even in YouTube’s prime 10 model channels, the place GoPro is primary. As TV follows within the footsteps of different media mainstays (magazines, music, and so forth.) and strikes additional on-line, it is platforms like YouTube that shall be more and more necessary. It is a degree enjoying subject the place media titans and have-a-go heroes can compete aspect by aspect for viewers’ consideration.
After the shows, the actual work of the occasion begins, and it is no much less symbiotic than all the things else GoPro does. A busy two days of motion-packed enjoyable awaits the military of digital camera-clutching athletes. It is a uncommon probability to see White browsing, whereas Ryan Sheckler stand-up paddleboards and Anderson swaps snow for sand and sea. Watching them interact of their actions with verve, it is easy to see how they might grow to be the brand new sporting icons for the tremendous-selfie era. The symbiotic half? After all of the actions, the athletes are ushered into coaching periods and proven methods to convert the content material captured into the most sharable video or photograph potential. The summit may be about giving one thing again to the athletes, however its lengthy-time period yield for GoPro should not be underestimated.
Outdoors the coaching room, a pair of TVs behind a GoPro-branded desk shows a fictional hybrid social community — one thing between Instagram, Pinterest and YouTube. Over the 2 days, it shows photographs and movies shot by the attendees together with their very own private “engagement” issue. The shows not often spend any time with out at the least a small group of individuals gathered in entrance of them, checking and admiring the competitors. It turns on the market are additionally prizes on supply for the perfect photographs. GoPro is not about to launch a social community so far as we all know, however it’s yet one more indication of simply how compelling its content material is — even those that live it and doing it could actually’t take their eyes off of it.
The digital camera maker’s first foray into media manufacturing arguably began in an analogous vein to this selfmade social web page — republishing and content material curation. It has been handpicking consumer-submitted movies and selling them by itself channels for a very long time. It has, in fact, additionally commissioned and made its personal unique productions — and blown out a few of these clips into full-size variations. However, for probably the most half, these consumer-submitted movies, the professional athlete footage and official promo reels have been simply distinguishable from one another — however perhaps not for lengthy.
“A legion of athletes is a strong factor, however in comparison with the content material created by the general public, it is only a tiny speck when it comes to potential.”
Whereas hardly distinctive to GoPro, there is a rising development of movies with spurious origins. In lots of instances, these are nicely-produced, genuine-wanting edits. Simply because the digital camera maker may produce. If these movies discover their method into the agency’s channels, it might spend a few of that onerous-earned model fairness.
A legion of athletes is a strong factor, however in comparison with the content material created by the general public, it is only a tiny speck when it comes to potential. It is no shock that GoPro’s taken discover of this wealthy properly of assets. It began with the corporate creating templates in its “Studio” video-modifying software program. The templates allow you to create a video utilizing one of many agency’s personal creations as a information. Drop clips into the empty sections, and your video will match the music cadence, making for actually easy “professional-wanting” cuts. The subsequent device for people who aren’t fairly on the official GoPro group is a forthcoming tutorial ebook.
When GoPro launched its personal branded channel as a part of Virgin America’s in-flight leisure some months in the past, it might have appeared like a very good, however largely unremarkable partnership. Since then, nevertheless, that channel has spilled over to 2 of the preferred gaming consoles, and you may guess it is already in negotiations with different platforms and providers. This represents the third a part of the complete media empire trifecta. From digital camera to content material to distribution channel, GoPro has laid the foundations for an finish-to-finish way of life video machine. All of this innately promotes the sale of extra cameras, which in flip means extra content material, and extra to point out in your channel.
Is all of it sunshine and surf journeys for the model? Audiences love the genuine movies, and are high quality with the scripted stuff, particularly when it is one thing simply downright cool. However as different manufacturers have discovered (keep in mind these pretend bloggers that proliferated within the mid-2000s?), audiences are joyful to do contrived to some extent, but when they begin to get a whiff of an excessive amount of fakery, they will quickly bail out. For now, although, it appears the motion-packed movies aren’t taking anybody for a journey, aside from the one downhill in Aspen.
Daniel Orren and Edgar Alvarez contributed to this report.