philip lelyveld The world of entertainment technology


Zefr helps content creators reach their hidden audience

By Philip Lelyveld

I spent an hour with Richard Radden, cofounder of Zefr (, formerly MovieClips), a Venice, CA company that is “connecting fans and franchises for the good of all.”

MovieClips was cofounded by Rich Radden and Zack James about 3 years ago.  MovieClips developed proprietary technology that allowed them to identify content on YouTube even if the video was distorted before uploading.  They were able to license clips from studios and networks by making the case that, rather than taking down illegal content, they could flag it, help YouTube place appropriate ads against it, and send revenue back to the studios and networks.

Over time they added metadata to the clips and developed a UI so that the clips could be easily searched.  As they were doing this, Rich, Zack, and their 30-person team discovered that there was a population of ‘superfans – people who created and uploaded content about the Studio and Network content – that was up to 10 times the size of the population that viewed the content on the authorized site.

In August, 2012, MovieClips changed its name to Zefr and pivoted to focus on helping movie studios, sports, TV, and music videos collect and monetize fan and professional postings on YouTube. Their clients include Warner Bros, Universal, UMG, Paramount, Columbia, Lionsgate, MGM, Sony Music, NASCAR, Miramax, The Weinstein Company, Dick Clark Productions, and SNL.

As they expanded into monitoring other types of content, they found that the same ‘superfan’ relationship applied to branded content; fans of a brand would make and upload content about the brand at a much higher rate than the number of people who interacted directly with the brand’s official online presence.  Zefr started marketing their customer relationship management services to brands.  Brand clients now include Audi, Canon, Mars, and T-Mobile.

Zefr is developing a new suite of SAS (Software As a Service) tools that will move them closer towards being able to help any type of content or brand to reach their creator-fan community.  Rich showed me a prototype of a system that will allow any company to identify and communicate – on a massive one-to-one basis - with this larger population of fans.  The software can also use YouTube data and proprietary Zefr applications to development extensive metric tools.  It can compare the activities of the fans of their clients to the activities of their clients’ competitors, so that the client can interact more effectively with the entire population of potential customers.  For example, they can determine which brand ‘owns’ a keyword in the unofficial culture within a superfan community.

With a staff that now tops 230 people, Zefr has taken over the warehouse off Abbott Kinney Blvd. in Venice that was previously the art studio of Ed Ruscha.  The staff is composed on software developers, data scientists, and metadata entry personnel.  Zefr is able to hire the low-pay metadata entry people from a large pool of local talent, rather than outsourcing overseas, by offering them a wide range of workplace perks.  Aside from the usual basketball court, dog-friendly environment, and free food, they offer a hip location, a full health plan, monthly movies, and all-staff field/party trips.  If a metadata entry person stays for a full year, Zefr management works to move him/her into a higher skilled, higher pay position.

I’ve asked Rich to let me know when they launch their SAS product so we can see its full range of capabilities.  If the final product can produce all of the metrics that Rich demonstrated, and maintainthe well designed graphic interface that I saw, then this tool could be very useful to the ETC member’s efforts to market more effectively to Millennials.


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