Changes At Avid

15 11 2007

There’s been some discussion on Steven Cohen’s blog about Avid’s decision to drop out of showing at NAB. I made a comment that spoke to my worry about what this meant for Avid’s interaction with new users. In their press release about it, Avid says the following:

“We are always evaluating the most effective ways to build closer relationships with our customers and keep pace with the ever-changing media market. Over the past few months, we’ve been collecting data from all of our constituents, and the findings have been clear – we need to connect with users in new ways,” said Graham Sharp, vice president and general manager of Avid’s Video division. “As a result, we’ll unveil a series of initiatives in 2008, which we believe will shake things up for our industry – in every region of the world and across all facets of our business. In the past, we’ve seen how investing marketing resources in alternative, customer-focused activities, can be more effective with our users – and to our bottom line. It’s time for Avid to start giving something back to the industry and these activities will create a more vibrant community where customers and newcomers can learn, share, and understand where the
industry is headed – and how they can help shape it.”

Good words, but I felt that (despite many Avid users’ support of this position on the Avid-L2 group) that sure, they aren’t going to be doing any big announcement splash in Vega. Good things will come, but they can’t tell what they are for four more months. So — “just trust us.”

But most of the industry isn’t really based on trust of vendors and I’m left wondering how they reach new users without the splash of announcements that NAB is a platform for. As I said in a comment:

It’s hard to believe that they would show up in Vegas minus their million dollar booth and announce anything that would compete with FCP. In short, this seems to be an admission that they’re not going to compete with Apple next year in new products.

I’ve since discussed this with someone from Avid who made the sensible point that a multimillion dollar investment in an NAB booth means millions less for other ventures. He said that their research showed that fully one-third of all attendees at NAB were other vendors. Good points all, and I admit being hasty in my comments.

However, the other point that I made still rings true for me:

As a feature-editor centered user who might attend NAB or might not, I like the concept of them saying that they’ll speak more directly to me. As someone who thinks that they should be speaking to many more types of people than me (including my students, who aren’t about to head to NAB without some impetus), I’m not happy.

How will they reach new users? The reality is that Apple has become much better at controlling the press than Avid. When Apple announced that Al Jazeera English had purchased a slew of FCP systems for their field producers, that got tons of press. Similar initiatives that featured the Avid platform could be found only in Avid press releases that were either buried deep on Avid’s own web site and/or ignored by the media. Apple is presenting FCP as a cheap, software only solution. Avid has long had Xpress Pro (and, before that, Xpress DV) — a low cost alternative to their own hardware platform. They now have MCSoft. Yet the perception still exists that Avid is expensive, old fashioned, and for the Big Boys. Apple’s FCP, the prevailing wisdom goes, is easier to use, really cheap, and for the underdog indies.

I’m going to skip the issue of how an editing tool can be indie or not. (I think Super 8mm film might be considered indie, by some definitions.) My point is that Apple is much more accomplished at controlling their message. It isn’t just a matter of monetary pull — that Apple has way deeper pockets than Avid (though that’s true). It’s the thought process that I’m talking about. Look at Avid’s ads — they show clean-cut people, sitting in brick lofts, working on a laptop. Their slogans can be described as puzzling, at best. Their best in recent years was “Make. Manage. Move Media” which was at least one word too long, and four words too confusing. Apple’s slogan a few years ago was “Edit everything. Wait for nothing.” How cool is that? You can rest when you’re dead, right?

This new press release from Avid about not being at NAB is another example of a lost opportunity. Avid claims that they will be involving their users much more, but there is not one shred of firm description on how that will happen. We’re told that we’ll know in February ’08.

Clearly, Avid couldn’t pull out of NAB without the word getting out, and it was definitely better to announce it as an initiative, rather than fend off negative press coverage. But without providing any solid evidence of the other points in their press release, it is all too easy to focus on the negative in the announcement than the positive (of which there can, possibly, be a lot). Had they had one or two bones to throw to the press in this, they could have controlled the message.

What Avid needs now, besides those bug fixes that people always complain about (as they complain about every software application) but a PR strategy that reaches established and new users with a clear, concise, positive message. Someone’s not working hard enough at that.

By the way, I should point out that I am a dedicated Avid user. I love the program and find it is all of the things that people say it isn’t — flexible, powerful, and “indie.” Like Steve Cohen, we come to this party with the hope that there can continue to be two viable editing platforms. In the old days, Lightworks and Avid looked over each other’s shoulders and the users benefitted. I really want that to continue to happen. FCP’s challenge can make Avid better, just as FCP has gotten better because they need to meet Avid’s tool set.

It’s for all of our benefits.

[Here’s another aside, that’s not really an aside]. Over the last year, Avid has gotten much savvier about what they put on their website. Matt Feury’s podcasts are outstanding. They’ve been putting up free video tutorials that are really strong. They are doing interviews with editors, producer and others that are not solely about pushing Avid products. In fact, they are fantastic resources for all filmmakers — new and old, rich or poor. And no one knows about them!!! That, to me, is sad for both Avid and for filmmakers.]

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7 02 2008
Apple Follows Avid’s Lead « H o l l y n - w o o d (Norman, that is)

[…] year, I gave Avid a ton of crap about not exhibiting at NAB.  (NAB is the National Association of Broadcasters ) I thought that it was sending the wrong […]

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