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Talent 2.0

By Dominic Smales 26-11-2015

Five years ago talent management required an amazing network of contacts, contract law experience, a huge amount of tenacity, resourcefulness and a thick skin. Today it seems you need all of those things as well as a completely new set of skills necessitated by dealing with exposure and audiences in the landscape of social media.

BBC Worldwide road trip film Joe & Caspar Hit the Road

BBC Worldwide road trip film Joe & Caspar Hit the Road

After starting Gleam Futures as a social media agency five years ago, it quickly became apparent to me that the talent on these new platforms – people creating their own audiences and content – were about to trigger an important and seismic shift in the way audiences consumed celebrity and content in the future.

This new social talent requires a completely different ecosystem and way of working. One that demands a very different skillset from the management teams looking after them. While platforms like television and publishing remain hugely important, there are now MCNs, CPMs, SVoD, SEO, metadata, apps, algorithms and affiliates to worry about (to name but a few).

Talent management has become a much more precise job. The talent in this space has actual hard numbers next to their names, which makes them hugely accountable. As commissioners, editors and brands become more attracted to these new numbers, the challenge that we face is to ensure the talent do not become commoditised.

Numbers aside, it is important for the traditional media landscape to keep in mind the fact that talent will always be talent. Truly exceptional talent is something very rare and, however open the platforms for distribution are, it will only be the very best who will rise to the top. The opportunity for the traditional media and entertainment world now is that the very best talent has an incremental, and very hard to reach, audience attached. For this reason I firmly believe we are in the midst of a fundamental shift in the way entertainment talent emerges and is ranked.

The audiences they engage with on a daily basis are completely platform-agnostic. They don’t care about the means by which the content and characters are delivered. They love and relate to the talent and want the content delivered to them in a way that is easy, accessible and fairly ubiquitous. The fact they can engage with them in a two-way dialogue on social media platforms is simply expected.

We are approached on a weekly basis by production companies and media owners enquiring about some sort of partnered approach to create content on their platforms or with their production teams. As every week goes by, we are reminded more explicitly of how little highly engaged social talent are reliant on the traditional route market. We recently completed a project with the BBC Worldwide team and Oyster Productions, Joe & Caspar Hit the Road, which involved a week-long shoot on location to produce a 75-minute special destined for DVD and DTO release. The crew and talent returned on a Monday evening, the pre-order links were posted on the Tuesday evening and by midnight the same night we had a number-one iTunes and Amazon listing that broke the DVD record for pre-order in 2015.

Instances like this go part way to answering a much pondered question from the media establishment: can this new type of talent translate to more traditional broadcast platforms? But this raises another two questions: does the audience want this talent to be translated on to traditional broadcast platforms; and should this type of talent be translated on to traditional broadcast platforms? There is no catch-all answer. For some social talent, longform content on any platform is not something they aspire to create. For those talent that do wish to explore the creative opportunities afforded by working on longer-form content, and who have a significant enough budget to collaborate with a professional production team, it will always come down to the right idea, the right team, and the right platform.

With the rise of SVoD and on-demand platforms that allow the viewer to choose when, where and on which device they watch content, we are also forced to question precisely what we define as a traditional broadcast platform. For the talent we manage at Gleam, a core consideration must always be that their audiences are global. They may have as many or more subscribers to their YouTube channel from the US as from the UK. They will most certainly be garnering hundreds of thousands, if not millions of views from a vast number of international territories. When and if talent does want to create longer-form content, the world is their oyster, and this is what sets the new social talent apart from their traditional TV counterparts.

Dominic Smales is among the speakers at C21’s FutureMedia conference at the BFI in London on December 3. To find out more and to book your ticket click here.

today's correspondent

Dominic Smales Managing director

After spending 15 years in media, production and advertising, Dominic Smales set up Gleam Futures, initially to help online communities connect for mutual benefit. This has evolved now into purely managing 'social talent,' a term coined by Gleam to describe a group of individuals who have achieved the kind of reach and influence on social media platforms usually associated with traditional celebrity or media ownership.

Gleam looks after the very top tier of online super influence in the UK, primarily in the entertainment and lifestyle area. The joint reach of the top 10 talent on Gleam Futures' roster delivers more than 21 million subscribers on YouTube and has clocked up over 1.1 billion views so far.