battle vs. malls on kickstarter

About a year and a half ago – when we launched our first kickstarter campaign to help fund Battle for Brooklyn (a doc we have been working on for 7.5 years), I did a great deal of planning. I took the game theory aspect very seriously. We knew that we had networks of people that we could tap into, and we set a schedule so that we wouldn’t use up all our social capital at once. At the same time, in order to keep the energy up, we sets a short time frame and high dollar amount to reach. In the last days we worked hard to activate the power of the groups that had signed on to our project. It was nerve wracking as we watched the last pledges pile in, pushing us past our goal in the final hours.

Last Friday I launched our second serious project and we are approaching it in an entirely different manner. This new project, aimed at raising money to print a photo book, has actually been in the works for 22 years. However, three weeks ago it became something of a viral sensation on the internet, so I knew we had to act fast.

In a little over two weeks, despite the fact that the traffic kept crashing the site, my mall project was shared 11 thousand times on – it was then picked up by dozens of other sites. In the end it was clearly viewed hundreds of thousands of times. It was exciting to see all of the interest, but also upsetting because the work was being seen out of context and I had no way to capture that audience. Most places it showed up with no attribution. In fact it took some people, who were interested in the work, days to track me down.

Ironically, we are in the final days of finishing our documentary Battle for Brooklyn, so I couldn’t even concentrate all my energy on the mall project. I didn’t feel organized enough to really strategize for this campaign. So instead of relying on game theory, I decided to focus on having a long time frame and a reachable goal. As the images clearly touched a nerve I believe that i will be able to pre-sell a few hundred books at 35 dollars a book. If I reach my goal I should have enough money to print a run of 1000 books. I’ve seen too many kickstarter campaigns to print a book aim at such a small number that they have to be individually printed and end up costing more than the pledged amount.

I am now researching printers and working on laying out the book. If I reach my goal early I will start the printing process early. The more books I sell, the more i can invest in an incredible book. There’s a lot of info about the work on our kickstarter page. In addition I wrote this more thorough essay about the work.

With our campaign for Battle for Brooklyn we relied on the networks that already existed in opposition to the horrendous project our film was documenting. With Malls Across America we know that every 35-45 year old in America relates to the work. It should be a much easier sell.

When we first launched the project I reached out to some of the blogs that had lauded the work after finding it on Retronaut. I also reached out to Retronaut. Those focused sources brought a good deal of attention to the project. In the first week we had reached 10% of our goal. Last week, through Retronaut, a great photo editor at MSNBC found the work and championed it on their site. It clearly reached a lot more people through the MSN network- especially when it bumped up to heavy rotation as a slide show. However, that didn’t translate into a lot of pledges. Another friend who works at Yahoo pointed it out to someone there, and they picked it up yesterday. That led to massive traffic. It took Retronaut a few weeks to reach 11k shares (and that traffic was so much it kept crashing their site)- the yahoo posting reached 12K in 24 hours. Today’s action pushed us an extra 10% towards the goal. In addition we ended up with over 800 new fans of Rumur on Facebook.

The fans of retronaut and the fashion blogs probably understand the context of the work a bit better- but 20 million people is a lot of traffic. All of this makes clear though that targeted traffic is much more powerful when one wants to reach a goal. However, if the goal is low enough, massive traffic can be useful. 😉

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