Why Google is worth $387bn – searching for a film studio in the 21st century

By Richard Lewisohn

When I was a young production assistant, production manager and then producer there was only one sensible way to find a spark, grip, camera, post house or film studio. The Knowledge directory sat open on my desk and was used every day. It was simple and efficient. Every crew member and equipment and facilities company worth their salt was in it, clearly organised by headings in alphabetical order. Every studio listing had stage dimensions, cove type and whether it was soundproofed or wet or dry hire.

The book was a bit heavy to carry on shoots, but later on The Knowledge responded and produced a cut down version to take on location. There were other directories, Kay’s and Kemp’s among them, but working in commercials, The Knowledge was my bible.

Slowly and insidiously everything has changed. Kemp’s is now online only,  Kay’s still prints a directory and has a website and app, The Knowledge publishes a thinner directory as well as being online, and there are a host of newer websites mainly to help find international production facilities and services and to serve as portals for production news, principal among them The Location Guide and Little Black Book .

Every year Mount Pleasant Studio spends an eye-watering amount to advertise in some of these directories and appear near the top of results when searching for a studio in London on their websites. But I started to wonder whether production staff are still using directories, online or otherwise, to find crew and facilities. I’d heard murmurings that the younger generation are only searching for facilities in exactly the same way they search for everything else, on Google.

So I thought I’d ask our Facebook production friends how they search for film industry related stuff by creating a simple 4 question survey. It’s been online since Friday and although only 30 people have responded so far, the answers are revealing and confirmed what I expected. It’s a small sample but to date 75% use Google Search, 35% theknowledgeonline and 11% The Knowledge printed directory.

It would be great if you could spare 30 seconds to add your data to get a more accurate result. Here’s the link: https://www.surveymonkey.com/s/79FJ66G  I’ll let you know what I find in a subsequent blog post.

This is why we built our new website, to be – we hope – optimised for search engines  (although surely there’s only one search engine that counts), connected to Social Media and featuring things like… this blog. Our old website was languishing on page seven of Google searches for some search terms. Now it’s clinging to the bottom of page one.

And how does Google monetise this? Not by charging you to search, but by using your search data to create ever better search results as well as a huge resource of market knowledge and a keyword database. They harness this information so that relevant targeted ‘sponsored ads’ can appear at the top of your web searches. And Google charges a large amount for this ‘pay per click’ advertising. But please don’t click ours (you know us already, right?), because it would cost us between £1 and £3 per click, and as our ads are appearing third or fourth on the page, I assume our competitors are prepared to pay a lot more than that. So we’ve entered a brave new world where directories in which you can easily find everything you need are becoming a thing of the past and a search engine that’s just as likely to suggest estate agents if you search ‘studio in London’ as a soundproofed, prelit film and TV studio, owns the world of search and is worth $387bn.