July 9, 2024

The Future of Content Discovery

Loring Weisenberger
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Content discovery is a critical part of any producer’s job. From Irving Thalberg to Kathleen Kennedy, the key to movie magic has always been an ability to sniff out the most compelling stories possible. 

Yet surprisingly, the practice of content discovery itself has evolved very little over the last century of Hollywood filmmaking. Many of today’s content discovery tools and processes are indistinguishable from those established so many decades in the past. 

But that may be changing.

We spoke to industry expert Todd Hoffman for the inside scoop on all things content discovery and IP management. Below, we’ll break down the basics of finding stories, the challenges of doing so in the current industry, and how Hoffman’s content discovery platform StoryScout is revolutionizing the practice altogether. 

Introducing Todd Hoffman

Todd Hoffman is a 30-year veteran of filmmaking and agenting at both the studio and independent levels. After a 13-year career at ICM, where he ran the Media Rights Group, in 2013 he founded Storied Media Group (SMG) where his affinity for IP packaging and sales became the core of an innovative approach to the traditional agency model. 

Today, Hoffman and SMG are further disrupting the norms of agency representation with StoryScout, a content discovery platform that empowers both producers and publishers to source intellectual property with more ease, speed, and precision than ever before.

We’ll take a closer look at StoryScout later on, but first let’s check out the big picture of what it takes to find stories for films and television. 

What is content discovery?

By its most simplistic definition, content discovery is exactly what it sounds like. It is the practice of finding stories upon the basis of which you will produce content.

The Future of Content Discovery - Wrapbook - Headlines
StoryScout streamlines how producers and filmmakers find viable story ideas through its comprehensive sourcing platform.

In practice, though, it can mean many things. For one project, content discovery might mean finding an incredible screenplay or tantalizing pitch. For another, it could mean finding source material in one medium that you want to adapt into another. It could be a bestselling book, a prize-winning news article, a runaway hit comic, or even a viral post from social media

In other words, valuable ideas can come from anywhere. The process of finding a good story is inherently open-ended because the process is only limited by imagination. 

However, the apparent simplicity of content discovery belies its complex reality in the production of film and television. 

Content discovery is existential

Without it, there would literally be no film or television industry. Hoffman breaks it down:

“Put simply, if you can’t find a great story, whether it’s a script, book, or podcast, then you have nothing to produce. So all producers have to have some means by which they’re finding the stories they want to produce.”

The ability to identify and acquire the rights to a strong narrative is at the heart of filmmaking as a business. That’s why so much of the wheeling and dealing behind the scenes of any production boils down to that exact issue. Every producer knows that content discovery is essential and devotes a significant portion of their energy and their budget to its pursuit.

But it’s not always easy.

Why is it so hard to find good content?

It’s no secret that finding a good story isn’t as easy as it sounds. With Hoffman’s insights, we’ve identified four distinct challenges that producers might face in content discovery. 

1. Ironically, it’s a crowded content space

As we mentioned above, stories can come from anywhere. With so many vast sources of IP that can be mined, where do you even start? How do producers prevent themselves from drowning in a flood of potential content?

According to Hoffman, although there are so many sources of IP, producers actually only focus on a few: 

“Having been an agent at ICM so long and having seen it myself, when it comes to content discovery, producers feel overwhelmed and end up reading the same three or four popular sources. That equals competition. And then you’re just a producer competing against many other producers for something that you like.”

The fact is that it’s nearly impossible for producers to sift through the endless flow of content being published on any given day, especially without an adequate content discovery platform or tools. For that reason, it’s often tempting to limit their scope to a few major publications like The Atlantic or The New York Times

This widespread limitation effectively causes a bottleneck for many producers and production companies. 

2. Fewer projects are being made 

The entertainment industry is in flux. After two recent strikes and challenges to the streaming business model, studios and networks are still working to figure out what to program, to which audiences, and for how much money. As a result, fewer projects are being made.

Says Hoffman, “Let’s be generous and say that one in every 10 projects [that are bought] gets made… If there are 250 shows that now aren’t being made, that’s 2,500 projects that now aren’t being bought and developed. That’s super tough for producers. It means what they take to the marketplace has to be bigger, better, stronger, faster, and shinier than ever. So how do you stick out from the crowd?”

The current state of the industry reinforces the need for stories that set themselves apart. It’s now more important than ever to develop content discovery platforms that bring new, compelling stories to the surface. 

3. If you’re not careful, it can be expensive

In such a crowded space, where it’s so important to acquire the brightest and shiniest stories, the easiest way to get ahead is to pay above the price tag. However, Hoffman cautions that this might not be your best bet in the long run: 

“Content discovery is easy if you happen to have a very large checkbook, but most producers don’t have a lot of money. Unless they have a studio that can buy for them, their job is to be as wily and creative as possible to pull in as much content as possible at the lowest price point.”

In other words, producers cannot afford a one-size-fits-all approach to content discovery. Rather, they must develop a strategy that helps them cut through the noise and get far away from the need to overspend. 

4. There’s a lot of industry competition 

The difficulties of intense competition are a quiet thread running through all the previous challenges on this list. 

Hoffman notes, “Let’s say scrolling through your Apple feed in the hopes of finding something to pursue is your strategy. The problem with that strategy is, as soon as you find something, chances are hundreds of other producers have also found that as well. Then you’re in a mad dash to first find out who represents the rights. And that can be a quixotic time-consuming process at best. If you’re lucky enough to find out who does represent the rights, once you connect they may be gone, or you may find yourself in the middle of a bidding war and then have to overpay, or walk away because you can’t afford it.”

Hoffman further says that this is particularly true in the age of streaming platforms like Netflix, Hulu, and Peacock. There’s a greater tendency now for streamers to buy books, graphic novels, and short stories fast and figure out how best to develop them later, a strategy that makes content discovery more difficult for producers who are actually invested in developing projects for production. It further drives the need for producers to think outside the box in developing projects.

What content discovery tools are available to assist the process?

Because content discovery is such an open-ended practice, there are many tools that can help with the process. The industry has established a variety of ways to approach the same basic objective.

The Future of Content Discovery - Wrapbook - Search Options
Finding the stories you want to tell has never been easier than with StoryScout’s customizable search tools.

For example, each of the following tools or resources can aid content discovery in its own way:

Each of these tools has its strengths, weaknesses, and trade-offs. For example, book scouts can be amazing sources of personalized information, but they’re just an information source, i.e. they don’t control anything. By contrast, agency newsletters offer a very direct connection to rights but often lack any form of curation or personalization.

In truth, there’s no one single tool that presents a perfect solution. Any strong strategy will utilize a mix of content discovery tools. 

This is why Hoffman and Storied Media Group developed a new kind of platform that might be changing the game of IP acquisition. Let’s take a look at StoryScout.

How does StoryScout support content discovery?

StoryScout is an online marketplace that connects industry professionals – producers, directors, writers, actors – with Storied Media Group publisher clients and their vast IP resources. In short, StoryScout is a content discovery platform and marketplace built to add a blast of rocket fuel to how you find stories.

“Storied Media Group, the parent company I started 11 years ago, represents more than 50 publishers across journalism, graphic novels, comic books, fiction books, podcasts, and even video game companies. We sell the TV and film rights for our publishers. Those 50 publishers represent close to 1,200 sites of content, which we curate daily to find the best stories to sell.”

Hoffman and SMG have a lot of content on their hands. Just keeping track of it all was a monumental task. To stay organized and help SMG better represent its clients, Hoffman and his team turned to the obvious information management solution: a database.

Except SMG’s IP database works a little differently than you might assume. Entries – whether it be a news article, novel, comic book, or anything else – are tagged in a way that caters directly to Hollywood’s programming standards. Individual pieces of IP are tagged by genre, characters, relationships, and type. 

The database became an effective method for speeding the content discovery process, at least internally to SMG. It helped them minimize the basic time inefficiencies that made the process challenging in the first place. After all, for every hour a producer spends searching for source material, that’s an hour they’re not developing, producing, or selling their projects.

The Future of Content Discovery - Wrapbook - Results
StoryScout’s extensive process of content curation saves invaluable time and energy for producers and filmmakers looking for story ideas.

It was at this point that Hoffman and his team were struck by an innovative idea. What if they put the power of this database directly in the hands of producers? What if they could essentially lift the black curtain between buyers and sellers so that both could easily row in the same direction?

“The challenge for producers is they have to pull the IP, the source material, the scripts from those that control it. We thought there might be a way to flip the script and actually push it to them instead of having them pull.”

The result of SMG’s inspiration was StoryScout. 

Like Wrapbook, StoryScout believes in putting as much power as possible directly in its users’ hands. Producers can search for exactly the type of story they’re looking for by cross-referencing tags that allow them to hone in on the right IP with incredible precision. And now with the help of AI technology, producers can query StoryScout for exactly what they’re looking for. It even links to IMDb so you can search for IP that’s similar to shows or films you like.

Once you find what you’re looking for, StoryScout makes it easy to clear the rights. SMG’s publisher clients own their own copyright, which enables producers to arrange for options or shopping agreements almost literally with the tap of a button.

Ultimately, StoryScout empowers producers to both curate and control their search for the next great story to a degree that simply did not exist before.

Also like Wrapbook, the StoryScout experience does not end with the platform. It’s supported by the StoryScout’s consultancy services, which include curated newsletters, personalized archival deep dives, life rights acquisition, and much more. 

Visit StoryScout today to see how Todd Hoffman and his team are revolutionizing content discovery.

Wrapping up

Massive thanks to Todd Hoffman for taking us inside the world of content discovery for film and television. We look forward to seeing how StoryScout continues to make waves throughout the industry.

If you’re looking for more about disruptive tech in entertainment, Wrapbook has you covered. Check out our deep dive into three tech innovators who are breaking open the production industry or our exploration of the future of film and TV payroll & accounting.

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Last Updated 
July 9, 2024


At Wrapbook, we pride ourselves on providing outstanding free resources to producers and their crews, but this post is for informational purposes only as of the date above. The content on our website is not intended to provide and should not be relied on for legal, accounting, or tax advice.  You should consult with your own legal, accounting, or tax advisors to determine how this general information may apply to your specific circumstances.

About the author
Loring Weisenberger

Loring is a Los Angeles-based writer, director, and creative producer. His work has been commissioned by a diverse range of clients- from Havas Worldwide to Wisecrack, inc.- and has been screened around the world. Through a background that blends project development with physical production across multiple formats, Loring has developed a uniquely eclectic skillset as a visual storyteller.

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