Archive for June, 2009 full interview (part 5/5)

Posted in interviews on June 22nd, 2009 by Xiaochang Li – Be the first to comment

In the 5th, final installment of my interview, the founders of discuss their monetization plans for the site, and the unique offering to the kdrama fan community.

Previous parts: Part 1, part 2, part 3, and part 4.

The introduction to the site is here and a summary of the key points of the interview can be found here.

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Xiaochang: How did you come to decide on an add-supported monetization model rather than a subscription model?

Suk Park: Given our research on the existing illegal platforms, the issue was about capturing market share. It seems unrealistic to come out with a pay-per-view model, which was the other alternative, when all this content was being offered for free. So the best approach to capture market-share fast, and away from the free sites seemed to be to offer an equally free site, but with much higher quality and a better user experience to get our brand out. Now does that mean that going forward we might or might not include a premium site without ads? That’s still to be discussed. But given what we’re seeing in the market, we’ve adapted our business model according to that.

Seung Bak: Let me just add to that — I think over time we will offer a variety of ways for people to consume this content because there’s a bunch of people who want to watch for free and will watch ads, and there’s a lot of people who want to will pay for it without ads, and it’s just a function of us trying to figure out how we can provide packages and offerings with people in a variety of spectrums. The real costs associated with different sorts of models — it doesn’t have to be an either/or kind of thing. The right answer is probably something in between and something we have to figure out in the coming months.

Suk Park: One thing’s for sure: we will not get rid of our free offering.

Seung Bak: Yes, there will always be a substantial free offering. This is not a bait-and-switch game. We’re trying to build a real destination site, and there’s always going to be a free component. But there might be an opportunity for us to create some premium offerings that complement what we have.

Xiaochang: So coming out of beta, what sort of tactics will you be taking to get the word out about Dramafever?

Seung Bak: Let me just recap what we’ve been doing. As I’m sure you’ve noticed, our first priority was engaging the early adopters. The early adopters are people who are going to dramabeans and they other sorts of blogs and going to d-addicts and consuming on mysoju and so forth. Our main priority in the beta phase was to make sure that the site works perfectly. So right now, we still have some kinks to work out, there’s lot of little things we have to fix and we’re also developing new features so that the site will be more robust than what we have now. We’re also trying to line up some anchoring sponsors to go with the initial launch. So there’s a lot of moving pieces that we have right now. But I think that the goal is to have a very PR-driven campaign. So in the early phase, in the beta phase, there was a lot of working with the niche fan-oriented blogs. When we officially launch, we’re going to engage a lot of the mainstream blogs and the mainstream blogs and the mainstream media to really kick it off with a big bang. I think the thing that we’re getting right is that we got to make sure that we have a very good user experience and we reply to every single feedback that we get from people, which I think is unheard of. I think if you try to write mysoju and email, they probably never get back. WE’re offering people a very high level of service even though it’s a very free site. We’re actively engaging the users and actively engaging the community and I think we’re just going to build on that as we move toward our formal launch.

Xiaochang: Out of curiosity, how many people are you right now?

Seung Bak: There’s a core team of 5 people: Suk and myself, and we have a CTO, and a developer and a graphic designer. And then we have an additional group of 10 people who are helping us in different freelance and consulting capacities who bring in different skill-sets. Some could be finance, some could be on licensing and sales or more strategic stuff. So, a fully staffed team and we’ll just get bigger and bigger as we go along.

Xiaochang: Okay, one last question, which about the community you’re planning on building. How do you see this community on your site as any way different than the communities that are on the sites like d-addicts that are already built elsewhere that are already talking about this content? What’s going to make them want to do the same thing on your site?

Seung Bak: I mean, if you just look at the web in general, it’s not a zero-sum game. Just because you have a community about a particular subject doesn’t mean that no one else could have it. The approach that we’re taking is that we’re not trying to become d-addicts nor are we trying to become mysoju or soompie or any of these other existing places where people are hanging out. What we’re doing is that we’re hoping to ultimately compliment the sort of ecosystem of Asian entertainment in this country, so the features that we’re building are very dramafever centric — they’ll be around the dramas that we carry, they’ll be around the way people are experiencing content. It’ll be around stuff that we’re creating for people. So, we’re not going to go out and create a wiki because that’s already being very well addressed by d-addicts, and the people who are going to d-addicts are also our audience members and the people who are running it are potentially our friends and our partners. So when we talk community, we’re talking offering features unique to our site. full interview (part 4/5)

Posted in C3 blog, interviews on June 15th, 2009 by Xiaochang Li – Be the first to comment

The 4th installment of my interview with the founders of delves into their relationship with fans and efforts to fulfill what they viewed as a clear market need. Of particular interest is the discussion on how they select content based on observing audience-enagement on fan-driven sites and the site’s success in collaborating with the fansubbing community.

Part 1, part 2, and part 3 of the interview are available.

The introduction to the site is here and a summary of the key points of the interview can be found here.

Image and video hosting by TinyPic[images screencapped from]

Xiaochang: It’s interesting that you mentioned earlier that people who are already on these illegal sites are coming and rewatching content on your site. It almost seems like you guys aren’t so much direct competitors since you offer a different sort of audience experience.

Seung Bak: To be totally candid with you, we don’t really look at Mysoju or some of these illegal sites as real competitive threats because they’re filling a market need at this moment and the market need is that there’s a demand for this content. If a legal provider isn’t going to put it together in a way that’s accessible, someone is going to put a simple HTML site together where you can watch it illegally. And the experience is the same as with American mainstream media. Before Hulu and Apple and a lot of these other places started distributing digital content in a legitimate way, there was stuff all over Youtube and other illegal sites. And as soon as legal platforms started taking off, that stuff started disappearing. Mostly organically, some of it due to DMCA notices, but it’s not a sustainable model in the long run, when you’re operating a media site in a completely illegal way. Quality wins in the long run, that’s what we believe.

Xiaochang: How engaged or involved are you guys in the drama-watching experience? Are you guys drama fans as well?

Seung Bak: It’s funny that you say that because before we launched the beta, we used to watch dramas. But now that we’re running a site for dramas, there’s just so much stuff to do. We try to watch when we can and at least click through some of the episodes of the ones we carry, but because we’re doing this, it’s taking away our time to watch dramas.

Xiaochang: But prior to that, you were fans . . . ?

Seung Bak: Well, we watched enough to know that this content was really high quality and we could see why people would be really engaged in this content. Suk and I both watched a bunch of dramas, obviously not everything that came out, but the ones that were really popular. And we were like wow, this is great, why isn’t it available in the US? That was the most basic question that we asked. Why do I have to do to the supermarket to watch this? Which is the experience that a lot of people have here.

Xiaochang: Going back to the features you haven’t rolled out yet, are you guys planning on having anything to enhance community engagement? Forums, or anything of that nature?

Seung Bak: Yes, yes. We’re definitely going to have those. The forums will come when we get a little bit more traffic. It will come in due time.

Suk Park: There’s nothing more sad than an empty forum.

Xiaochang: So going back to your personal relationship with drama for a moment, how did you guys personally get into drama? What was that history like?

Seung Bak: As Suk mentioned, we’ve noticed that Korean dramas are pretty popular. Something we’ve been keeping an eye on and it’s pretty easy to see. Everytime I see my parents they’re watching a Korean drama. Your friends are watching this stuff. You go to some hotel room in China and you have nothing to watch and I think CCTV 9 has Korean dramas running 24/7. You go to Mexico, there’s some international channel showing Korean dramas in Spanish. It’s everywhere, except in the US in a very accessible way. So clearly we saw a business need for this, so the next step was trying to figure out if there was a real demand for this. That was the research process where we took just basically took a look at every drama-related site out there and we were pleasantly surprised at the amount of traffic going to mysoju and a lot of places. And so we decided to do something about it and built a site where people could really consume this stuff in a much higher quality way.

Xiaochang: So what sort of criteria do you look at when you’re deciding which dramas to host on your site? Is it just based on popularity in Asia or are there other considerations?

Seung Bak: It’s interesting you bring that up, because we are addressing the market that’s in the US right now, so it’s driven by popularity in the US channels right now. So we’re looking at what seems to be working on places like d-addicts, where people are talking about this. We’re getting very good feedback from bloggers about what’s popular. And it’s pretty easy to figure out what’s going to stick. There are some shows that were not that popular in Korea per se, but a lot of people were engaged by it here.

Xiaochang: Can you give me an example?

Seung Bak: La Dolce Vita was an interesting example. It didn’t do all that well in Korea when it was airing. But here, there’s a certain about of people watching that.

Suk Park: Relative to how many people are watching the other things on out site. For instance, we know that one of the dramas we want to get right now is Boys Before Flowers as we’ve gotten a ton of request for that Drama.

Seung Bak: Every day, every hour . . .

Xiaochang: Related to that, actually, how soon after they air in Korea and in Asia are you looking to get things onto your site?

Suk Park: In the beginning, for a lot of the content owners — you can understand the site hadn’t launched yet when we wanted to sign contracts with them — they wanted to give us some of the older stuff first. And from the older stuff, we focused on the blockbusters. Going forward, once this model has been proven to the content owners, we expect to launch their content as soon after broadcast as possible.

Xiaochang: So going on that, I’ve read rumors in the drama blogosphere that you guys are talking about working with fansubbers in order to subtitle content.

Seung Bak: Well, I mean, the basic mindset is that the fansubbers exist because there’s a void in the market that isn’t addressed. So these are true fans. These are people who are very passionate about being able to enjoy this content and being able to share with others. And once you look at them in that light, they’re your best allies. So a lot of the content that’s coming out of Asia, [major producers] are only creating English subtitles for the ones that are selling through DVDs and it’s only a small subset of the content that’s being produced. So over time, as we start ramping up our site with a pretty broad selection of content, it only makes sense to work with these fansubbers because they’re also the audience. So the key point that I want to emphasize is that we want this to be a very community-driven site. We’re making our content selection, we’re making our functionality development choices really based on what we’re observing out there. We’re simply reacting to a market need and what the market is telling us.

Suk Park: We can talk a little bit about how fansubbers would sub not always dramas, but anime and so forth and they never got credit and they’re looking for a platform.

Seung Bak: Yeah, if you look at the fan community sort of as the Open Software development community, these are very talented, passionate individuals. And for the most part, they’re looking for some recognition for the work that they’re doing. And we think we could be a platform that could provide them with that, while addressing a very real need, which is creating a place where people can consume Asian content with English subtitles so that they can understand it.

Xiaochang: So traditionally fansubs were originally created with the idea that it could be widely shared throughout the community so long as no one is making off of it. How are you going to renegotiate that relationship now that money does enter into it.

Seung Bak: First of all, one of our key principles is that we do everything right. So we always ask permission before we do anything. And anyone (? This part was a little unclear on the recording) that we start working with in terms of putting our product out there is after we have conversations with them about the best way to work together. So when we say that we work with fansubbers, it’s not that we go to d-addicts and download fansubs and putting it up on the site. It’s going to be done in a way where we talk to them and set down some business terms that are acceptable and that both parties can be happy about.

Suk Park: So, one of the problems was that the minute the fansubbed material is included in sites like mysoju or crunchyroll and we start to make money off the fansubs, the fansubbers can be persecuted for infringement. Now, in our completely legal platform, the fact that we make money off the site, that doesn’t become an issue as long as we ask permission and, depending on what the fansubbers want, come to an agreement. In our experience, it seems that what the fansubbers want is recognition for what they’ve done.

Collaborative (transational) Audienceships:

Posted in C3 blog on June 4th, 2009 by Xiaochang Li – Be the first to comment

[This was originally written for the Convergence Culture Consortium blog]

I’ve been thinking a lot recently on audiences and audienceship, and what it means for media audiences and the communities they form when being part of an audience can increasingly involve collaborating on the (re)production, distribution, and curation of content.

One of the sites that for me really begins to touch upon the participatory potential of new media audienceship is, a collaborative translation and subtitling platform for streaming video that distributes that tasks of translating television shows and other media from around the world across an entire community of users.

The site has been around since early 2008, but I stumbled across it last December, when I realized that fans were joining in a distributed labor network to subtitle a popular Korean drama that was airing at the time within hours of it being broadcast in Asia. The astonishing speed, as well as the decentralized collaboration system caught my eye and I’ve been talking excitedly about the site to people ever since.

The way work is that people can register for the site and contribute to subtitling uploaded video files in over 200 languages, line by line. Users can also edit and revise each other’s translations, refine the timing of the subtitles, or upload new files and put in requests for translations. The subtitles are added then and there, so that viewers on the site can see files even when they’re partially translated, so that you may come across a Korea drama that has had 80% translated into English, 30% complete in Spanish, and so forth. The video files are sectioned, so that people can contribute as much or as little as they want, much like a wiki for adding subtitles rather than general information.

The idea behind the site, according to the articles on the viikii blog was to help generate cultural understanding and language education through the use of popular media, since popular media was a means through which people could come to understand “not only language, but also the social texture that harbors it, the people who use it.” While this idea isn’t particularly novel, what makes compelling is its radically collaborative and decentralized structure. Collaboration and decentralization of power and participation is one of the fundamental principles behind the found of the site as well:

“We people are who make, use, and live in all these languages; we built language, and so its barriers, which means that we’re the ones to tear these walls down. No super-power can do this alone, we must come together to do this, hail the potential of joined force! We already see wonders created by collaboration, made possible by WWW” (about viikii)

A significant portion of transnational media audience are no strangers to the phenomenon of fansubbing — amateur, fan-made subtitles for foreign media content. But even though fansubbing is undertaken by people who consider themselves part of the fan audience, it nevertheless creates certain social hierarchies within the community. More importantly, the flow of content is shaped by what content fansubbers decide to translate. Despite the significantly increased ease of fansubbing with digital technology, the time, technical skill, and resource commitment needed to fansub full episodes or entire television series in a timely manner still limited who could contribute. takes the notion of “by us for us” behind fansubbing to the next level, opening up participation and lowering the barriers of entry significantly for anyone who wants to try their hand at helping translate, and shape the meaning of, the media content that they are consuming. By breaking down the units of contribution into single lines of dialogue, as well as creating a platform through which people could collaborate without having to even know one another, it has opened up the practice to a far wider range of participants, broadening even more — and for more people — what it means to be part of an audience.