One Year In Now Media Vol IV

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A curation of my blog posts from 2014, along with interviews with Ingrid Kopp, Montecarlo, Nick DeMartino, Ian Ginn, Rob Pratten, Christian Fonnesbech, Doro Martin, Marco Sparmberg, Christy Dena, Mayus Chavez, Siobhan O'Flynn, Angela Natividad, plus an exclusive feature interview with Jeff Gomez.

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One Year In Now Media Vol IV

  1. 1. 1 CONTENTS Introduction Chapter One - The blog posts For those about to embark on something transmedia - we salute you! Funding cross platform content in 2014 DIY Days How to make your content work Digital4C – a reflection Five transmedia projects - spring 2014 MIPTV, MIPFormats and MIP Digital - a reflection Seven hands-on transmedia tips Thinking beyond screens Oldie but goodie Be the calm in the storm Transmedia - different fields, different uses The art of limiting Story propagation - what creators can learn from marketing To belong and to be unique - how transmedia can help Transmedia 2.0 - a review
  2. 2. 2 Bringing convergence to the people Project Alibi - your scary Hallowe’en rabbit hole! Possibly impossible - looking past what is possible to what is probable Five golden principles of audience engagement Cross-media the Adriatic way MIPJunior, MIPCOM and Transmedia Living Lab - a travel log Three advice on pitching Taking the first steps in transmedia Transmedia and the corporate world Chapter Two - The MIPBlog posts MIPBlog 1 - Three keys for entertainment’s future MIPBlog 2 - Four post-MIPTV trends to mark TV’s near future MIPBlog 3 - Why CANAL+ Spain took Game of Thrones transmedia MIPBlog 4 - Don’t be TOO social! MIPBlog 5 - The art of creating memorable experiences MIPBlog 6 - TV has never been more sexy, relevant or… challenged Chapter Three - The interviews Ingrid Kopp Montecarlo Nick DeMartino
  3. 3. 3 Ian Ginn Rob Pratten Christian Fonnesbech Doro Martin Marco Sparmberg Christy Dena Mayus Chavez Siobhan O'Flynn Angela Natividad Jeff Gomez Epilogue
  4. 4. 4 Introduction Welcome, dear reader, to this fourth annual wrap-up publication of the year that’s been. With the help of some very talented people, it’s also combined with a look at what perhaps could be in 2015. ”Now Media” is the term I’ve chosen to use for these publications. It’s the term that refers to the media available to each and everyone of us, as producers and consumers, at the time of writing this publication. It includes all technical media platforms, as well as all methods of developing and producing and distributing, from transmedia to cross media to multiplatform and beyond. A handy term, if you want to avoid too many definitions… :) We’re living in exciting times. Concerning times as well, but for the fields discussed in this publication, very exciting times. Generations are growing up for whom producing content is a way of life. Media platforms are emerging that give voices to people from every corner of the world. At the same time as there is more content to go around than ever before, we find a global audience – and an engaged, active audience at that – that is no more than a couple of clicks away. Talking about all of this from a number of angles, this publication is a compilation of my blog posts from the 2014, on my own blog over at simonstaffans.com as well as my guest blog posts for other organisations. The publication wouldn’t be half of what it is without the generous contributions from a number of brilliant minds in this broad media field. A massive thank you to Mayus, Angela, Ian, Christy, Jeff, Christian, Robert, Doro, Marc, Nick, Montecarlo, Siobhan and Ingrid. The knowledge and experience these people have garnered from all over the world during the past year is something I believe we all are fortunate to be able to take part of. The tree parts of this publication - differing slightly from past issues - are, first, my own blog posts, in chronological order, followed by the posts for ReedMIDEM’s MIPBlog, geared towards the media industry and the TV industry in particular. The publication finishes with interviews with the people mentioned above. I hope this’ll offer enjoyment and perhaps a bit of enlightenment as well. If you have comments, suggestions or other input you’d like to share, find me and my contacts at simonstaffans.com. Have a great 2015 everyone! I look forward to it immensely! And a final special thanks to Mike Dicks of Descience, who provided me with my likeness for the illustration on the front page :) Finland, 29th of December 2014, Simon
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  6. 6. 6 CHAPTER ONE The blog posts
  7. 7. 7 8 January 2014 For  those  about  to  embark  on  something   transmedia  -­‐  we  salute  you! The year has started briskly with a number of articles talking about 2014 as the year of the tipping point. Finally the audience is in place (granted, it has probably been in place for quite some time already) but even more crucially, the entertainment industry is poised to take advantage of this, by moving into the creation of story worlds and franchises in an even bigger way than before. The success of this method – which, as long as it is founded on solid stories, is an almost guaranteed success – will be mirrored by a growing number of more experimental stuff in the transmedia / multiplatform vein; from physical storytelling to fragmented storytelling and everything in between. While this is all well and good, I think we will see an even greater change in other areas than the media and entertainment industries. Brands have increasingly focused on the ways of telling their stories that would give the largest impact. What I’m beginning to notice is a subtle shift towards the acknowledgement of well-crafted long-term campaigns and projects, ones that very well could be categorized as ”transmedia”, even if they are at the same time more documentary and more advertisement at heart. On one hand, I know from experience that companies that have had next to no contact with storytelling – we’re talking heavy industry companies, global ones – have a hard time grasping what it’s all about and why they should even care. Granted, if what you’re doing is selling heavy machinery or power engines or unique software solutions to niche companies all over the world, telling stories is probably one of the last things on your mind. It’s probably somewhere far behind producing on schedule, delivering on schedule and remembering not to pick your nose at the board meeting. Why would you need stories, when you’re raking in hundreds of millions on your regular business already? What I’ve seen, especially while involved as creative, writer and strategist for the ”Energy Ambassador” project, is another facet of the issue, one that some of the companies as starting to realize exists. In order for big companies to remain big and competitive, they crave new people in – skilled people, creative people, people who can solve problems and create new possibilities. To get new people in, the companies need to be great places to work at, as those skilled people could get hired at any other company instead in an instant. This is where the crafting of storyworlds comes in. Not as a way to sell a couple of additional trucks or som more electrical boxes or some other kind of gear, but as a way to create and uphold the image and vision of a bustling, active and attractive
  8. 8. 8 place to work at. As I see it, even the heaviest of industry companies can benefit from storytelling and transmedia methods in at least three different ways: Make the buzz around the company buzz the right way. Negative attention can happen to anyone and anything. Even if it looks like scandals and negative issues blow over more quickly than before, the impression of them linger and the facts, the articles and the posts on social media can be accessed again at any time in the future. One of the best ways to prevent these things from rising to the surface is to make sure the positive stories outweigh the negative ones. By utilizing transmedia storytelling methods, it is possible to ensure that these stories are coherent and logically connected to the company itself and fit into the larger narrative, supporting all other stories. Attract the right kind of people and collaborators As mentioned above, the competition for the best people is fierce. The companies with the best engineers, the best programmers and the best project managers will be the ones that get the biggest contracts and show the biggest growth. Now, there are a great many things that come into play when trying to attract new people (and new collaborators from other companies, come to that). Things like wages, surroundings, future plans all play a part. But storytelling does too! If you get the chance to work at a place that tickles your imagination, where you feel you will be part of a great narrative… that will have greater lure than a workplace where nothing such exists. Get the internal pride going This is a big part of the previous point as well, yet slightly different. Everyone who’s been a part of a startup of some kind know the feeling. You know you’re a part of a great team. You know you’ll accomplish great things. You know people are watching you with envy, and you are more than happy to sit late evenings with your colleagues (who are almost your friends as well) just to make what you do a little bit better. For an established company, this is harder to achieve. But with storytelling it is possible; build the chapters of your narrative and write everyone in as important parts of that narrative. Press play and watch it all unfold. Just make sure you give plenty of room for people to express themselves as well; no one likes to be a puppet on strings. Some examples: Some years back is No Mimes Media did ”The Hunt” for Cisco, geared towards the sales people at Cisco. It was well crafted with a good story, and looking at it from the outside it looks like it did what it set out to do in the right way. Sam Ford at Fast Company did a good piece a year back on why transmedia makes sense for B2B relationships. A hands-on look at how a transmedia campaign can be shaped for an organisation was provided by James Carter last spring, a good read indeed.
  9. 9. 9 1 February 2014 Funding  cross  platform  content  in  2014 One of the things I’ve been most curious about as I’ve seen the rise of cross platform content, transmedia practices and the need to cater for an increasingly active audience over the past few years, is the urgent need for projects to achieve financial sustainability. Coming from the world of television, I believe the chances of you getting to do what you want to do are far greater if you can point to financially succesful projects as examples of your skill. Now, there are a lot of different ways to go about this. We tested some during the production of the music show ”The Mill Sessions” a couple of years back, where we created different cuts for different buyers. A longer HD version for the telecom operator with the IPTV service that was looking to move into music. A shorter SD version for the free-to-air TV channel that could sell ads around the content. Music videos cut from the material sold to the artists’ record companies. The DVD/Bluray rights sold to yet another buyer. And everything was backed up by the transmedia script that resulted in shareable material on social media, in meaningful interaction with the audience and in a frame for the whole show, where artists as well as the production crew and the audience could all fit in and see the same content in the same light. Unfortunately, the financing chain was only as strong as its weakest link, which lead to difficulties in the long run when policy changes and restructuring had their impact on the different distribution partners. Another interesting example is ”Nightvision”, a mystery horror thing created by Play This Next. I spoke to Kevin Moss and asked him how he had approached the project: Q: What was your initial approach to Nightvision, with regards to financing and financial sustainability? What approaches did you consider? A: We saw Nightvision as an experiment from the get go. We’ve been working on several longer term projects and just wanted to get something ‘out there’. I wanted to create something manageable, in a way comparable to a short-film, as a way to test and play with a couple of structural ideas I had. We’re very aware that we want to have as much control over our projects as possible so we also wanted to test a ticketed event as a possible way to get a return. I saw this as a win-win because by creating a time-boxed experience that was replayed it made a massive difference to how I approached the structure of the piece. Artistically this was very liberating. We were going to self-fund the project but we made the decision quite early that we wanted a known cast to be involved. I think this really made a difference, allowing the audience to give the project their sense of disbelief a little easier. A small but interesting point. Plus also the added confidence when it came to handing over cash! So we turned to crowd funding. We approached this as though we were just selling
  10. 10. 10 advanced tickets. It turned out to be much harder than we imagined, much. We should have planned much more than we did. We chose the wrong platform too (this was pre-kickstarter in the UK) Getting a little bit of twitter support from Kevin Smith and Neil Gaiman certainly helped us turn a corner. We also managed to secure a little bit of commercial R&D money which also helped. Q: How has the uptake been, and what do you feel are the key findings you bring with you to other projects from Nightvision? A: The intention of the project was to prove that we could sell tickets and we did that! We’ve done pretty much no marketing and we’re happy with the amount of tickets we sold. I think limiting this amount of tickets help build a little bit of exclusivity (with the added bonus of making it easier to manage, though we think we could handle a much bigger crowd) We are now looking at different ways to market the project and the most cost effective way to do it. For example: how would it work within the festival circuit and how would we run it globally rather than just on GMT. Key findings: people loved the challenging nature of the project, the fact they had to be involved, actively find content and make decisions about where to follow the story. For me this was really pleasing. “Why isn’t TV more like this?” was one of my favourite comments. Backstory is vital (not events but character motivation). The 24hrs before the project are really important. The audience that enjoys it the most are the people who follow the characters on Twitter beforehand and dig into some of the supporting websites. We saw that people were doing this on their commute home, getting ready for the event in the evening. That said, we were keen to make sure that the backstory didn’t sprawl, that it felt contained and manageable, that was important. People are always late. We told people to turn up for 9, they turned up at 9.10. We built into the story a 15min window and told people to arrive at 8.45pm. This worked better. We built the experience for desktop/laptops, clearly people wanted and expected to play using their tablets. This think this is exciting and certainly going to be using this in future productions. Nightvision is actually quite linear. The audience can find the story through various feeds and in a slightly different order, but it is actually designed to be linear. Even so we were surprised by how people approach the experience. Some people used multiple devices. Some one told me they played across three devices (and thought that was amazing!) Some people used Twitter as an anchor and some people used the footage. This is brilliant and as we expected/hoped. In future projects we will build more data analysis into them so we can adapt and optimize the story. We created a space with in the story that allowed the audience to go back and look again at the footage. The project is intentionally fast and furious (getting this pace right took a lot of tweaking.) To begin we had a very final ending, with all the content
  11. 11. 11 being deleted. We thought this was a very clever piece of storytelling, but it turned out people were just really annoyed by us doing that. When we left the content up for 1/2hr and built this into the story it made a massive difference. People pieced it back together. There is always a 20min lull (which is very scary) where after the event there is a virtual silence, then people start to chat about the event. Choose the right medium for the story. We started with the story playing out on Facebook. We did two beta performances on Facebook and it just felt wrong; the UX experience was not quite right. Swapping to Twitter took some time and effort but it was really really worth it. Q: If someone else were to set out to do what you did and produce and distribute in a similar fashion, what would be your advice? • Don’t make it too big. • BUT make it big enough, people are going to be paying for it, remember! • Control your audience’s expectations and don’t design a million things. It’s very easy to want to make EVERYTHING. Question every piece of content and what it does for the story and the characters. Be minimal. • Be bold and trust your audience. Don’t dumb it down for the sake of it. Simple is important, but that doesn’t mean dumb. • Don’t be held back by code, we built the whole project with no code on existing platforms. • Fast prototype. Try not to write a script but write a prototype. Then get people to click around as quickly as you can. • Selling tickets is always going to be tough. Make sure people feel it is an event. • ALWAYS be truthful to the story. Don’t make false hacks to get people to interact. Don’t be scared of the audience lurking. Lurkers are really important; design to put lurkers on the edge of becoming active. Finding that balance is the sweet spot. • Distribution is exactly that. Try and find time-saving ways to do it. We’ve got some great ideas on how to distribute Nightvision but the reality of doing it is very time consuming. This is a real trade off and worth thinking through. • Listen to your audience, but try to make informed artistic decisions. Stand behind your artistic vision. Finally, a creator who’s tried the crowdfunding route is Andrea Phillips, who has been very open with the results of her project “Lucy Smokeheart”, initiated last year. On her blog she tells the story of the project, what the results have been and what conclusions she’s drawn. But why crowdfunding? A: I love crowdfunding. A lot. It’s best for projects looking for modest amounts of seed capital, by creators with some existing track record and an audience, and for
  12. 12. 12 daring indie projects that wouldn’t be an easy sell to an investor, a TV network, a publisher, etc. If you’re looking for a lot of money and/or you don’t have an audience to begin with, crowdfunding probably isn’t going to work for you. It’s a bit ugly to say it, but in a sense crowdfunding is monetizing your social capital. You’re turning relationships and goodwill into money. That’s why an otherwise interesting project asking for a huge sum of money or a person making their very first project ever are going to have trouble hitting a goal; the success of a crowdfunding campaign is usually determined long before the campaign launches. I also think crowdfunding is an incredible way to check the pulse of public opinion to see if a project is worth doing or not. If there’s not a minimum interest to even fund the project, it’s better to know before you’ve spent time and money building something nobody even wants. Q: With “Lucy” you’ve been very open with all the data so far, and it’s a very interesting read – what have been as you expected it, and what has not? A: I came into all of this not really knowing what to expect, to be honest. What I’m finding is a sort of middling success; it’s not money to retire on, but it’s a respectable amount of money to have earned for a work of this nature. But I’m wired to expect extremes, so I half-anticipated total failure to begin with — I genuinely wasn’t sure Lucy Smokeheart would fund at all — and on the other hand I half-expected wild success, so the ongoing small sales numbers of the ebooks are a little bit depressing. You start trying to find patterns to what’s working and what isn’t, when there simply isn’t enough data. The pleasant reality is that there is plenty of space for working creators to craft modest successes for themselves. I’ve reached the goal I set for myself: earning about as much money as a similar work would earn selling to a genre publisher. The project has done what I set out to do. And I’m finding, to my surprise, that it’s starting to open doors for me as well. I can’t talk a lot about it just now, but there’s been interest in expanding Lucy’s story and world onto other platforms as well. Q: It would seem to me that the solo route is as challenging as ever, however many self-publishing tools and social media channels there are. What’s your opinion? A: In some ways it’s easier, in some ways it’s just as hard as it ever was. The main disadvantage to self-publishing has traditionally been lack of distribution, followed by lack of credibility. In the olden days, when you published through a vanity press, it was because you weren’t good enough to get a real publishing deal. But now we’re seeing the financial incentives flip, and traditional publishing is increasingly looking like a devil’s bargain — the author gets such a tiny share of the profits. And so we’re seeing incredible works published through Amazon KDP, through Smashwords and the like, where millions and millions of readers can find your work, and it’s increasingly obvious that it is not, in fact, the sole path for those who aren’t good enough to make it through the gatekeepers. On the other hand, while distribution is much simpler now, we still have the problem of obscurity. Promoting your work and getting a reader to take a chance is really
  13. 13. 13 hard. This isn’t unique to self-publishers; it’s the same problem facing midlist authors forever, too. But as the crowd of potential books expands away from the physical, we simultaneously have access to an exponentially growing amount of new books by self-published and traditional authors alike, and a growing backlist of all the other written works now being converted to digital formats. Readers have so much choice now. It’s a great to be a reader; there’s never been a better time. The jury is still out on whether this is a good time to be a writer, though. Ask me again in five years! To conclude, I (Simon) think we’ll be seeing a lot of interesting examples of how to fund different projects and make them financially sustainable. Some will flop – hell, most will probably flop – but even so, we’ll have some very interesting examples to look at. The crowd, the audience, will become increasingly involved, for good and for bad. Traditional ad revenue will shrink, while interactive, experimental brand integration will be a new playground for creators to get creative on. If you have some good examples, do share them in the comments!
  14. 14. 14 18 February 2014 DIY  Days I’ve always been awed by the phenomenon that is the DIY Days. I’ve never attendend myself – one of the drawbacks of living fairly remote – but from what I’ve seen of the action on Twitter, Storify and other social media, and the videos posted from these events, it’s one that is on my bucket list of events to experience. The next chance for people to immerse themselves in the DIY Days is in Paris in some weeks’ time. I spoke to the event’s organisers, Alexis Niki and Fabienne Olivier, about what makes the Paris version a special event. Q: What is DIY Days to you? What I find exciting about diy days is how open and accessible the event is. diy days is about bringing the creative community together, inviting them into an almost magical space to share experiences, find inspiration, exchange ideas, learn new skills, and meet each other on an even playing field. As Lance puts it, diy days plants a lightning rod in the ground and hopes for lighting to strike. Fabienne and I consider that our job as producers is to build the best lightning rod we can. The energy that creates the lightning, that’s what the participants bring to the party. Another aspect of diy days that I find very exciting is its global growth. Each diy days takes on a local flavor but then also plugs into the larger international community. Quite naturally, then, we see different perspectives emerging, which is wonderful. Finally, diy days is always evolving. No two are exactly the same. Q: Why do you bring it to Paris? First and foremost, we’re bringing diy days to Paris because this is where we live and work. There’s a lot of innovation happening in various pockets of France–in transmedia, in technology and startups, in social entrepreneurship, in design and so on, and of course we’d like to bring all these innovators together. But we also hope to spark collaboration between people, to foster cross-pollination, and possibly see some teams form and new ideas emerge. One of the values at the center of diy days is the concept of designing with instead of designing for. It’s great to bring the community together physically, but we’re also hoping to create a dynamic that continues beyond diy days. Q: Who should attend, and what can they expect there? Innovators of every stripe are welcome to attend. We’re hoping to unite creatives, entrepreneurs, students, professionals, and researchers from the audiovisual, music, video game, design, and technology sectors for three days of examining and imagining the future of cultural creation and exploring story as a tool for innovation and change. Our key question at this first diy days Paris: How do we design, produce and distribute our work in a sustainable manner in an environment that is in constant disruption?
  15. 15. 15 What can people expect? Three days of exploration, inspiration, action, and networking. The full program is available at http://www.paris.diydays.com/program but here’s a brief breakdown: The day of Saturday March 22 unfolds at ESCP Europe and follows a Learn – Do – Share structure designed to take us from inspiration to action. On the schedule are conferences in the morning, hands-on workshops in the afternoon, and a final sharing session at the end of the day to exchange insights. Conferences and workshops will be in a combination of English and French. These are clearly marked on the website. We have also launched a Creative Sparks Project Showcase. Purposeful storytellers, social entrepreneurs, or collaborative creatives with a start-up, product, game, idea, prototype, business model, documentary, or fiction project that addresses a social or cultural issue or challenge can apply for a chance to pitch to our jury and win prizes. The Creative Sparks Project Showcase and the pitching sessions will be in French. http://www.paris.diydays.com/creative-sparks There will also be an exhibition hall where participants can explore interactive works by students from Gobelins, a leading school of applied arts, print, and digital media, as well as see demos of some of the existing tools they could integrate into their work, and more. The day will close with a social event. On Sunday March 23, we move to the Gaîte Lyrique, an amazing space for digital culture situated in Central Paris for a screening of THE COSMONAUT. This science fiction film was directed by Spanish filmmaker Nicolás Alcalá of Riot Cinema Collective and is part of a larger transmedia experience. The screening will be followed by a discussion with Nicolas Alcala, Lance Weiler, and Michel Reilhac. The screening will be in English with French subtitles. The talk afterwards will be in English. http://www.paris.diydays.com/the-cosmonaut Monday March 24 sees us back at ESCP Europe for the Reboot Stories Lab, a mix between a hackathon and a Think & Do Lab. This will be led by Lance Weiler and Jorgen van der Sloot of Freedomlab. 40 creative thinkers & doers from different disciplines will pool their talents, solve problems, and contribute their know-how to one of the central themes of diy days Paris 2014: How do we work together across disciplines to fund, create, distribute and sustain new forms of storytelling that result in projects with social impact? The lab will be in English. http:// www.paris.diydays.com/reboot-stories-lab One last thing that bears mentioning is that diy days Paris will run some sessions in French and some in English. Our audience is largely local, but we’re also a European event, and our speakers are active internationally. If an English-speaker wants to submit to Creative Sparks but doesn’t feel their French is strong enough, they should apply anyway and make a note in the application or get in touch through our contact form http://www.paris.diydays.com/contact We’ll do our best to find a solution. And of course if there are any sponsors out there who would like to help us provide professional translation services, we’re all for it! Q: What do YOU do to be and stay creative?
  16. 16. 16 Alexis: I take on projects that are bigger than me, like producing diy days Paris! Fabienne: I’m constantly in motion, with one foot in the future. I’m also constantly learning, I push myself beyond my comfort zone, and I let myself be inspired by innovators that I admire. So, Paris it is, for those lucky enough to attend. To leave you with some more enticing words on why to attend, here’s one of the founders of DIY Days, Lance Weiler, on what the phenomenon is all about.
  17. 17. 17 24 February 2014 How  to  make  your  content  work Let me take a moment and share some simple truths I’ve distilled from a number of years creating content for just about anything – print, radio, television, online, live events… you name it. The most elusive part is to consistently get it just so, and just right, and to know that that “just right” will translate into success – monetary, traction-tary or some other form of –tary success. So, in brief, here are three roads to creating just so, and just right. 1) Know what your client wants. Every one of us is creating for a client of one kind or another. It might be a straight- up paying client – a broadcaster, perhaps, or a publisher – or a far harsher client, namely ourselves. No matter, we create for a client, and the better we know what the client wants, the better we can give them what they want… or rather what they need but don’t yet know that they need. The pro:s are obvious – since the client is paying in one way or another, it makes sense to pander to their opinions and wishes, to give them influence and a chance to make their mark. The con:s are as obvious – there is no guarantee that the client will go for the solution they would need, instead focusing on what they want, leading to disappointments all around in the end. Still, this is for many a viable, and perhaps even only, option. Or you could go for…. 2) Audience research. You want for someone to take part of what you create, right? The more the better, and the more feedback loops and integration you can get from the audience, the better. Well, one crucial way is to actually know how your audience behaves and what they respond to. So you do your research, you talk to people from the target audience, you have online questionnaires, you look at the demographics and their consumption habits, you work with focus groups, you’re an active part of the discussion on forums… Pro:s are that you get a pretty good grip on what your audience really thinks and how they behave… and hopefully even their reasoning behind what they do. Con:s are that there is always more context; there’s always stuff you don’t know about that will affect people. And however much more info you get on what your audience would want, the more you act on that info, the more flattened out and uninteresting will your end product risk to be.
  18. 18. 18 Which leads us to the one method that’s fool-proof (almost, at least :). 3) Follow your gut feeling. When you’ve been doing what you’ve been doing for a while, you have amassed a vast array of experiences and knowledge and lodged it between your ears. You might have knowledge about what does and doesn’t work when it comes to reaching an audience, engaging them, or about how to handle live camels on a TV shoot, or anything in between. All in all, that which goes by the name “gut feeling” is almost always close to 100% brain and not very much actual gut. Pro:s include having a good chance of knowing you’re right, but at the same time be able to include a flexibility unparalleled. Since it’s a gut feeling we’re running on, it’s relatively easy to change approach or to rethink and re-imagine parts of the production as needed; just take the creative hat on and mirror against earlier experiences. Con:s include difficulties to pitch something that looks like a hunch and to get potential buyers to sign up based on that hunch. It’s also a method that points directly to you as the idea’s creator, which can either be beneficial or less so. So, as a final thought – which of these is the best method? None. The absolutely and overwhelmingly best thing to do is to use all three methods and let them influence each other. That which the audience research cannot deliver perhaps the gut feeling can. That which the gut feeling is ambiguous about can be helped by looking at the client’s brief, and so on. All in all, it’s about creating the fullest and best experience possible – drawing on experience to know what works and what doesn’t, drawing on the needs of a client to get the necessary funding (as well as creative input in higher or lesser degree) and drawing on UX and audience research to know the ins and outs of the audience you want to reach. And as the age when the Creator withdrew to his/her cave or study, to come forth after weeks or months in the dark, blinking against the sunshine and proudly releasing his/her work to the world… as that age is fading, new ways must be implemented. Here’s to those new ways!
  19. 19. 19 Digital  4C  -­‐  a  reClection I was invited earlier this week to hold a keynote presentation at the Digital4C conference in Barcelona, Spain. The conference brought together a diverse crowd of content creators, scholars, government officials, students, music industry people, game designers… you name it. I held my talk on the subject “Talking Transmedia: Content Development and Monetization” (which I think you will agree is a title that can fit quite a lot under it :) ). I’m happy to say that the talk was well received and sparked a number of interesting conversations. Here are a couple of observations that I made from talking to people over the two-day event: It doesn’t matter where we are – we’re all facing the exact same challenges. It’s about daring to think outside boxes. It’s about having the ability, knowledge and/or experience to decide which course of action and which development direction is the right one. It’s about finding the right people and the right companies to collaborate with to maximize output quality and minimize risk of failing. And it’s about finding new ways to monetize what you’re doing – something that in some cases can be about creating new currencies (audience engagement figures, “loyalty” etc) to determine the value of what you’re creating. While some are forging ahead, some are stuck in the past. While almost everyone I talked to acknowledged a change in audience behavior and engagement, not everyone saw this as a need to change their modus operandi. Most often it’s a case of “why fix it if it isn’t broken?” as some areas are still making relatively healthy profits. In my opinion, this misses the point. The companies and producers who properly research and connect with their audience on genuine and engaging levels – often with the help of advanced storytelling methods – will have a much better chance of staying connected and making the right choices in the long run. Yes, glitches and hickups can definitely occur, but it’s all about maintaining an upward trajectory for the long term. Long term is the new short term. If we’re creating content, we need to move away from the quarterly way of doing affairs that the stock market, for instance, is used to. We now know that no matter what kind of initial OOMPH! we can create, maintaining interest and engagement in the long run is what counts. It could be argued that the bigger the initial impact is, the more well-thought out the plans for long term engagement need to be. YouTube super-sensations Spy or Ylvis make good cases in point – the key would be to have a narrative stronger than the successes of their respective videos, a narrative where the videos – even though extremely successful – become cogs in the storytelling machinery. It’s a big ask, but the rewards are potentially vast. All in all Barcelona and Digital4C was a very enjoyable experience. There were many interesting discussions, on everything from how to make the real world as appealing as the non-stop action it is possible to experience online to the need to start thinking beyond screens, already in the development process. And having
  20. 20. 20 Montecarlo and Eva as discussion partners and Barcelona-mentors made it all even better :). I hope to be back sooner rather than later!
  21. 21. 21 21 March 2014 Five  transmedia  projects  -­‐  spring  2014 Spring is fast approaching, unless we see some more disheartening cases of ”takatalvi” (Finnish for ”winter-that-creeps-up-from-behind”, a lovely word but a pretty irritating phenomena). With this in mind, and as the evolution of media and multiplatform storytelling apparently never slows down, here’s a continuation of my mini-series of looking at interesting projects in the transmedia / multiplatform / cross media vein. Below are five projects taht IMHO are worth looking into for the spring of 2014. As always, whatever I’ve missed (and it’s bound to be plenty!), please let me know in the comments! 1. Choose Your Own Documentary This is a project that originated last year and is one of five projects picked up by Tribeca for their Storyscapes program. I include it because I think it’s a novel take on the ”choose your own adventure” and ”let the audience decide how the story evolves”-genres. The creation of a five-man-team with Nathan Penlington as the talent, it tells the story of the discovery of a diary and the quest to solve its riddles. 2. The Southern Reach This again is a project that builds on the first novel of a series, or rather looks to be created to lead into that storyworld through videos, assignments and ”training missions”. This is always a tricky thing to do – how much is enough, and how much is too little, when it comes to development, production and end product? There has been some critizism regarding the non-stand-aloneness of the online part of the project, but I feel it’s a project well worth taking a look at, to see how one can build on and enhance a storyworld within a reasonable budget. 3. 19 Reinos This is a transmedia campaign for the upcoming fourth season of Game of Thrones. Now, GoT is famed for its innovative campaigns to promote the sprawling fantasy TV series. This is a bit different though, as it is Canal+ in Spain that has teamed up with the Transmedia Storyteller team to use the latest installation of their tool Conducttr to ”transform Spain into a huge storytelling canvas with one the world’s most ambitious transmedia entertainment experiences.”. As someone who is very interested in all tools available to tell stories over multiple media in engaging ways – and there are a lot of new tools cropping up left and right – this is a no-brainer to keep tabs on. 4. The Secret Identity Show This a project that is just now crowdfunding on Kickstarter. It promises to be ”an original 22 episode first season of a scripted comedic transmedia web series that
  22. 22. 22 caters to what we love: Vegas + geek culture”. The premise is interesting – ” What if Batman, Superman, and Spider-man shared an apartment in Las Vegas, NV? But what if they weren’t ACTUALLY the superheroes? What if they were simply street performers who had the characteristics of these iconic characters and they were, in a way, a parody?” The creators say they are inspired by Lizzie Bennett Diaries (who isn’t!) and follow- up ”Emma Approved”, and will ”tell our story across platforms and create an interactive web series experience around what we enjoy.” As with everything, the proof is in the pudding, and this’ll only be as good as the quality of what they turn out. Still, I feel it is a project well worth looking at – they tick a lot of the right boxes and they seem to be a pretty determined bunch. Let’s hope the Kickstarter comes through. 5. The Yelp Love Story Is this ”transmedia”? Well, no, not yet at least. Is this ”multiplatform”? Hmm, not really. Is this the first of its kind? I think so. It’s the story of a relationship, from beginning to end, spanning over the course of less than a year, but being told by the person in question – a restaurant manager by the name of Chase Compton – as a novel spread out as restaurant and club reviews on Yelp. It’s a good read as well – the guy knows how write, and the story does not become boring. If anything, the almost fiction-like quality of the story combined with the very real connection to actual venues in New York is a very enticing thing, blurring lines and time frames. Interesting stuff.
  23. 23. 23 12 April 2014 MIPTV,  MIPFormats  and  MIP  Digital  -­‐  a   reClection Things seemed a bit quieter in Cannes this time around. Where there’s usually a throng of busy TV industry people, elbows being of better use than feet for propelling oneself forward, this time there was ample space almost everywhere. On the other hand the new incentives from the MIP-organizers – the MIP Cube and the MIP Digital content – did their part to make sure that the ones who actually was there were, for once, on the cutting edge of what’s happening content-wise in the world of entertainment and audience engagement today. That was probably the buzzword number one this spring – ”audience engagement” – and as with most buzzwords it has a desperately important message at its core. The audience – and especially the young audience – has found its own path long ago, quite separate from the wishes and carefully laid plans of the traditional TV industry, and the ones benefitting the most at the moment are the ones who, like traveling medieval salesmen, have managed to put up shop – release content – at the water holes of these new tribes. These oases don’t go by the names of Ubari or Chebika, they go by the names of YouTube, Vimeo, Instagram, Snapchat, Vine… you name it. While today’s broadcasters are still holed up in their supermarkets of content, the audience have found new roads to travel, new routes to explore, funnier company at other places and better prices as well. There’s nothing saying that the broadcasters can’t jump in on the trend – or that they don’t try to already – but it’s a tough ask to have them close their supermarkets as the elderly and traditional still come to shop there and still bring them a considerable profit. On the other hand, as this demographic slowly dwindles, there’s precious little coaxing the younger ones to return to supermarket shopping, not when they’ve gotten used to something else, somewhere else. I sometimes despair, thinking that the TV industry will not ”get it” before it’s too late. As I see a hybrid of the TV an the online industries as the optimal solution – as there’s money and skill in abundance in the TV industry and entrepreneurship and talent in abundance online – I’m seeing encouraging signs that everything is moving
  24. 24. 24 together, albeit slowly. If it’ll be quick enough, I have no idea. What were the highlights for me? MIPFormats was interesting, but mostly because it wasn’t really that interesting – most of the formats felt slightly dated, and the very best ones were based on stories that made them possible to have been made 30-40 years ago. Huge congratulations to the people from The Fed for their win at the MIPFormats Pitch Competitionwith Zombie Boot Camp – will be interesting to see what shape that format will take in the end. I attended – by invitation – the Digital Minds Summit on Monday. The session was all about Big Data, which was extremely interesting. For instance, we’re seeing a shift back to appointment television – i.e. the practice of everyone getting together at a certain time to watch a certain episode of a certain series – and away from time shifted TV viewing. This is a trend wholly driven by social media, as the viewers want to feel part of a community with similar interests, a community communicating and commenting there and then via, for instance, Twitter. What I lacked from the DMS though was more comment on how I as a producer and creator can influence Big Data. I get that we, to be able to understand Big Data, need to break it down into Little Data, actionable pieces of information, but I would have liked a more thorough discussion on how one can influence there pieces of Little Data, through marketing or audience interaction for instance, to in the end change the message of the Big Data. For the rest of the week it was MIPTV, MIPCube and MIPDigital; I’ll say that the innovations on display at the MIPCube were often very interesting – and there are a lot of good talks up onReedMIDEM’s MIP channel on YouTube – and the content people talking at MIPDigital sure knew their stuff. It is easy to be in awe of the massive numbers of views on, for instance, Maker Studios’ channels and videos. Still, the monetization models are lagging behind those of the TV industry. There’s so very much these two could learn from each other. I left Cannes and MIP on Thursday morning with a slight sense of forebodance. There is a whole industry teetering on the edge of the abyss at the moment. It will need to shift focus and become less traditional and more organic, in order to survive and thrive. Will it be able to do so? I believe it will, but I also believe it will take time – time we perhaps do not really have. One thing’s for sure – the coming months and years will be some interesting ones!
  25. 25. 25 25 april 2014 Seven  hands-­‐on  transmedia  tips I’ve been approached to hold workshops a a couple of universities in the past week, and I’ve had to quite radically change my approach to suit the needs of students who are right now working on their very first cross media (or perhaps even transmedia) projects. One slide I felt I had to put in the initial presentation was a very much hands-on guide to seven things worth checking off the development list, no matter what kind of project you’re working on. And, as I believe fully in the power of sharing, I thought some of my readers might have use for these points as well – as a checklist if nothing more. Here are the seven points: 1. Create your story world, your characters, your rules This doesn’t necessarily have to be a fictional world although it, of course, can be. Even if you’re working on a documentary or an app, or just about anything else, the creation of the story world around that content will help you immensely when it comes to laying a steady foundation for whatever it is that you’re trying to create. Even if the characters are real people in a real life situation, describing them in your project, describing their traits and wants and needs and motivations will help you keep their voice and their output constant across all media and across all stories. 2. Explore the stories that rise from this world As you build the world, or if it’s the case of a project rooted in the real world it will happen as you describe the world, you will see strands of stories beginning to appear. If the main character turns out to have motivation stemming from an event in his or her earlier life, how can that event be unfolded into a story, and how can people engage with it? Explore and evaluate, try to find how these stories tap into the communities or issues or places your target audience are active in and around. 3. Research your audience – goals, habits, needs Knowing your audience has never been more important, especially if you’re just starting out with your project and not drawing on anything that has gone before you or basing your work on an existing, researched fan base. Right now we as content creators and storytellers are in the luxurious position of being able to do exactly this kind of research, even on a global scale, to tell us things we need to know about our audience. Where are they, physically and virtually? What are their habits,
  26. 26. 26 what do they like, what don’t they like? What kind of content do they consume, what kind of content do they share? All of this points back to Big Data, broken down into pieces of Little Data. If you have the option, do have someone on your team who is good at analyzing data, and is also able to translate the findings into actionable objects for you to evaluate (and I know these people are a rare breed and probably lifting six-figure salaries at Google or somewhere, but there are those that are great at this and not tied up yet). 4. Evaluate the suitability of different media platforms It’s more true now than ever before – you don’t have to use different media platforms and possibilities just because they exist. Your web series might not actually need an associated app. Your characters in your online graphic novel do not necessary have to have their own Twitter accounts. Your documentary perhaps doesn’t become all that much better just because you decide to tell four side characters’ stories as clips on YouTube. On the other hand, perhaps that’s exactly what your project is lacking? The only way to make the right decision here is to a) know what you want to achieve with your project and b) know enough about your target audience to know whether implementing these extra things will bring added value or not. 5. Develop ”sand boxes” for the audience You want your audience to be an engaged one, an audience that interacts with your content on a level and in a direction you’ve planned for them. You (probably) don’t want an audience that goes wild and does outlandish stuff with the content you’ve provided for them. Use the sand box model (or, according to Jeff Gomez, the Swiss cheese model) to – from the very start of the project – carve out spaces for your audience to interact, engage and create content(of different kinds) themselves. This way you can keep them in the same vein as the rest of the project and harness the engagement to a much higher degree, making it more sustainable in the long run. 6. Develop social media strategies Give the people a reason to share your content on social media and the (very easily accessible) tools to do so! You want your content to reach as many people as possible – so let your audience do some of the leg work for you. It can be something as simple as a Facebook competition or a congregation around a funny Twitter hashtag, that both tie into your content in a logical and natural way. Or it can be something much more complex than that – it all depends on your project and its
  27. 27. 27 needs. 7. Have clear goals, but be prepared to move them There’s absolutely nothing wrong with failing. Fail fast forward is the motto you should go by. Simply make sure that you don’t make the same mistakes again, and that you always make corrections that help you advance with your project. One saying I often agree with is that when you know you’re 90% finished with your project, that’s when you have 90% left to do. It doesn’t matter how excellent your original idea is – it’s the execution of that idea that will ultimately make or break your project. By having clear goals – development-wise, audience engagement-wise and distribution-wise – you can make sure you’re on the right track to realize your project the way you’ve envisioned it.
  28. 28. 28 26 April 2014 Thinking  beyond  screens When Latitude released their ”Future of Storytelling II” research report last year, some things stood out as pretty exceptional to me. One of them was that of all the people they’d talked to – mostly tech-savvy persons in Brazil, the US and the UK – a total of 94% said they wanted storytellers to actively move their narratives into the real world as well. I.e., the screen is no longer enough; stories should touch you physically as well, be a part of the world around you. This, for me, is exciting stuff. Here’s an example from last summer that many of you have probably seen, but I still think the concept is awesome. Using Twilio as backbone, inanimate objects around the city of Bristol in the UK were suddenly given a voice. Not only a voice, but an intelligent voice that could learn from what people ”said” to them while ”talking” to them. Here’s the trailer: Remember those really difficult adventure games when you were a kid (70’s kids will remember!:) ) where you needed to ask the exact right question to move ahead in the adventure? Or answer the exact right thing? You could, conceivably, use the same logic in the real world and integrate geocaching with storytelling (another example is by Sara Murrey who writes fiction books set in real parks over at Geocachebooks). Yet another example which attempted to Kickstart late last year comes from Holland – Textales takes the tradition to reading nighttime stories to your kids to a new level, using the textures and patterns of blankets and quilts to enhance stories through screens (this is the first video, before the Kickstarter campaign): Even though the crowdfunding campaign didn’t reach its goal, the concept is an intriguing one, fusing AR and the (at times much maligned) QR codes to another level, storytelling-wise. Now, I will admit it might be a daunting task to think beyond screens. If it’s already difficult to choose which on-screen services, tools and apps you should integrate into your concept, how difficult doesn’t it become if you take the whole world and make it your playing field? At the same time, the same principles apply as before. Evaluate your project thoroughly, research your audience, see which solutions fit your project and which
  29. 29. 29 don’t, and act accordingly. Test it out as quickly as possible, be prepared to fail spectacularly. Learn from the mistakes, and go at it again. The world is your oyster (or soon-to-be-filled script, if you will)!
  30. 30. 30 Oldie  but  goodie I’m a habitual blogger. When I feel I have something to share that might be of use to someone else, I write a blog post about it. Most often it is something rooted in something I’ve attended or some project I’ve been working on and challenges and solutions I’ve encountered while working on it. Sometimes my predictions come true, sometimes not. I’m relieved, though, to find an interview with me done a couple of years ago resurfacing now, and me not disagreeing with almost anything I said back then. The interview was about brands and transmedia, and my main points still hold true – I firmly believe that brands and transmedia storytelling methods is a very good match. The needs of a brand is to create a strong identity that people can connect to, engage with and feel loyalty towards. What transmedia storytelling methods offer is precisely that – the possibility to create the story world of the brand, the key characters, values, history and innovations, and put them all in context to support each other. Perfect match, as it were. The one point where I feel I missed out in the interview was in the very last answer, regarding the future. It was a case of of the classic Bill Gates quote again – “We always overestimate the change that will occur in the next two years and underestimate the change that will occur in the next ten.” The question was about where I felt transmedia would be in the year 2015. I confidently answered: I believe the term ”transmedia” in itself has become largely redundant. This, I believe, will be due to the fact that almost all media content are built according to transmedia storytelling methods and principles, which serves to make it the new ”media”, without any need for the distinction of ”trans-”. So, in 2015 I believe we’ve come so far as storytellers, producers, creators and audience members, that most if not all projects take all platforms into consideration from the very beginning of a development process, utilising the ones that make the most sense within the scope of the project, planning for audience engagement and for the long run, and executing it all in a very orderly fashion. The term will apparently still be bandied about in 2015, by an ever increasing amount of professionals from a number of different fields. It’s meaning will continue to evolve, carrying with it different connotations depending on context and people
  31. 31. 31 involved. The trends – in marketing, in the TV business etc – are going in the right direction though, with regards to the second paragraph above. Most campaigns or productions are created with a multiplatform angle in mind nowadays. ”Audience engagement” is a buzz word to rival ”transmedia”. Still often lacking though, is the coherence that arrives when utilizing the methods provided by transmedia storytelling, to have all the different narrative strands and engagement points ground themselves thoroughly in a common story world and support each other fully. We’re not there yet, but I very much believe we soon will be.
  32. 32. 32 1 May 2014 Be  the  calm  in  the  storm When I’ve done talks and workshops for different groups of students in different countries lately, there’s one thing in particular that has struck me. I’ve shown quite a few innovative and successful examples of projects that are in the transmedia vein and are focusing on audience engagement. However, these case studies are always followed by me saying: ”So this is what you could do with an already existing fan- base and a good-sized slice of the marketing budget for a major Hollywood release” (or ”… good-sized slice of the campaign budget for this well-known and loved brand” or something like that). This is inevitably followed by a short discussion where we collectively accept that we probably will not have many opportunities to get our hands on funds and fan bases of that kind of magnitude for our future projects. What then remains as the key questions are – how to differentiate from the myriad of other content and stories out there? How to grow a sustainable fan base more or less from scratch? How to engage the audience and have them, in turn, engage others? This is where I believe we as creators need to accept one of the limitations when it comes to transmedia storytelling – the fact that these methods are less effective when it comes to short format and brief campaigns, instead being a lot more effective as soon as a project is more long-run and long tail. So how do we stand out? How do we cut through the chatter? The usual ”throw money at it” is most often not available to us. What we instead need to do is make sure our stories and our content are tailormade for the audience we want to reach. The stories need to be inherently shareable (with good reasons embedded for anyone to share them). They have their sandboxes built in, for audience engagement that also can create a buzz and raise awareness (read my recent post on Seven Tips for transmedia over here). Most of all, the content is prepared to work the long tail to strengthen the message and the project itself, giving future instalments a better bet at succeeding. This coherence is what will forge a path through the chatter. From the first
  33. 33. 33 installment to the next, and the next, and the next, the transmedia storytelling mehtods employed will ensure a logical progression between – and towards and back from – the different parts of the project.Wherever and whenever the viewer/ user encounters one of the story nodes or story connections between nodes, these are all steeped in the same tone and feel. Following one of the strands would lead to the next node, which while telling a different story or a different part of the same story still should emit the feeling of being a logical and natural part of the whole story world. A couple of years back we tried to create a social media following from scratch, in connection with a music show we were producing. Although we had the ears and the hands, the mouths and the followings of different top artists in Finland, the uptake was a lot more slow going than anticipated. We had carefully wrought strategies but a non-existent marketing budget.We also had beautiful content coming out at a steady pace plus conversations and competitions that encouraged word of mouth and engagement. Adding up all of this, we sawthe uptake we had been expecting appearing, but a couple of months later than anticipated. If we would’ve panicked and switched to another solution we would never have experienced that! So, make sure whatever audience engagement actions you employ are of a kind that is not tied in to a certain time in the flow of the production/distribution, but can instead be engaged with at any point in the life cycle of the project. Be the calm in the noise that is the content world out there. Be the oasis that leads the audience to sustenance and revives them. And be the guide for travellers who wander the paths of stories, and lead them safely to the next one.
  34. 34. 34 2 May 2014 Transmedia  -­‐  different  Cields,  different  uses When I pitch projects to possible buyers, possible customers or possible collaborators, I frequently refrain from using the term ”transmedia”. I’ve found that it often interferes with discussions, moving it into a debate around definitions or general practices, rather than letting the talking focus on the project at hand. That, or it is (still) met with slightly blank stares and a need to start from the very beginning, again taking time away from the current project and the momentum of the pitch. Instead, while the project might decidedly be in the transmedia vein, I tend to focus on what the client and their audience will get out of it, using the strategies and the storytelling methods derived from using transmedia methods. In this, different fields have different uses for the same methods – different needs, simply put. The media industry where I spend quite a lot of my time (some in radio, some in publishing, a lot in television) need this kind of approach to development, production and distribution to: • Reach the audience in new ways and engage them in new ways. The rapid and inevitable changes in audience behaviour has led to an urgent need to go where the audience is, not wait for them to come to you. And creating engaging content and focusing on namely audience engagement is the next logical step – since everyone has the potential to be a producer of content in their own right, engaging them in a meaningful way with what you’re creating just makes sense. • Add new revenue possibilities is another crucial matter for everyone involved in the media business; finding new ways to let people pay for content, or finding new ways to get someone else to pay for the content that draws in the audience. A lot of this has to do with: • The new value system, where the old ratings system no longer holds sway the way it used to. Now the talk is of measuring engagement and loyalty, not simply the act of passively receiving a message. Documentary producers are another breed, that also fit into the media industry above but expressing some special needs that often get overlooked by the main parts of media. These include:
  35. 35. 35 * * * • The possibility to show more approaches to a subject, more sides of a story. There’s no need to limit oneself to a 58 minute documentary on TV, when the different strands of a complex story can be evolved on through other means – as in for instance this winter’s fabulous Fort McMoney. • Tell more engaging stories and show ways to immediately influence and interact. A documentary filmmaker with an agenda now has the possibility to directly harness that initial surge of emotions that a well-wrought documentary gives rise to in people. Clear call-to-actions, clear routes to take and easy-to- understand tools to accomplish certain tasks – voting, signing, condemning, cheering – all can affect the real world in major ways. The world of advertising on the other hand does care less about changing the world for the better. Utilizing transmedia storytelling methods can still yield advantages that a more traditional approach would not, such as: • Offering more thorough experiences to the audience. This might be seen as a gimmick, and it often can be. Still, a great ad campaign is often founded on a great story, or a great idea that could give rise to a great story, and this has the potential to draw the audience in. And while they are ”in”, you really need to harness that attention. Because… • You want to be the ones people are talking about, and not the ones people are NOT talking about. Offering immersive experiences in a thrilling story setting – that’s a pretty sure-fire way to be the ones on everyone else’s radar. Finally, the brands are slowly realizing the special worth a transmedia approach can bring to the table. Perhaps not all brands, and perhaps not with the exact terminology, but the result of utilizing transmedia storytelling in a brand context is that brands: • Build the brands, the history and the values in a more coherent way, while building a foundation that can give rise to new stories within the value world and tone and feel of the brand • Get the opportunity to focus on longer story archs, longer campaigns and the long tail of consumer interaction, all within the same brand infused story world. As with everything, these are general points and the different fields often influence each other, especially when more than one field is active within a project. On the
  36. 36. 36 other hand, I’ve found these points useful to keep in mind when talking to different possible collaborators and customers – perhaps they’ll be of use to you as well.
  37. 37. 37 6 May 2014 The  art  of  limiting File this brief post under ”basic things that are really good to keep in mind at all times”. When it comes to cross media creation and transmedia storytelling development, the sky is the limit. You could make a good case for almost any media platform to be included. You could develop strategies for all existing social media platforms to be integrated as vital parts of the audience engagements structure. You could target the broadest of audiences and aim for the fence. This doesn’t mean that you should. I come up against this frequently. As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, all possibilities should be evaluated and the ones that offer the most to the overall project, the overall narrative, should be included (possible budget constraints aside, of course). The challenge lies in actually knowing which platform it is that is certain to outperform another, also over time. This is where you must have limited yourself in another way already, by defining your target audience and your reason for having them as your target audience, way before you reach this point. The data from and knowledge about your target audience can give you the information necessary to tip the scales in one solution’s favor or anothers. Your strategies for social media can also give you pointers – are you in need of stunning visual content to be shared by loyal members of the audience? A well- funded TV series might be your best best. Would you rather have two-way communication between your audience and your characters, influencing the story as it plays out, fluent within the ramifications set out at the beginning of the development process? Short blog posts paired with and influenced by Twitter interaction with the characters might be a good way to go. To sum it up – know your audience. That way you will more assuredly manage to do what always has to be done; slash the unnecessary parts from the story, along with the unnecessary media platforms.
  38. 38. 38 12 May 2014 Story  propagation  -­‐  what  creators  can  learn   from  marketing I’m a great believer in learning from trades other than your own. Never has this been more important than now, when a content creator would need to be a great storyteller to have a story to gather an audience around, a good programmer to be able to augment the story with tech that enhances the experience, a brilliant marketer to get the initial and lasting attention and engagement and a skilled analyst to be able to make sense out of all the data that can be gleaned about audience behavior today. Not to mention being a good writer, director, producer, editor, psychologist, economist… you name it. Since it’s pretty darn hard to fit all of this into one person, we tend to gather teams around our projects. But even here it pays off to know what the others are on about, and have more than a passing knowledge of the skill sets and traits required to achieve the goals that have been set up for the different fields in the context of the project. One example I read these last couple of days come from the lands of Twitter, where a study on Twitter, brands and television shows that brands that get how to use Twitter can have some serious windfalls coming their way from an active audience that eagerly responds to Calls to Action. To translate Twitter’s three key findings from the study (consisting of 12.000 users across all demographics) from market land to story land (where I tend to reside most of the time), this is what they found: 1. Brands are already an integral part of Twitter conversations. I.e. don’t be afraid to be officially, loudly and proudly doing what you intend to do on Twitter, namely get more people to be aware of and interact with your project, your story. 80% of the polled users had mentioned a brand in their tweets over the past six months. Now – what you need is for that brand that they mention to be your brand, your project! Research brands close to your field, watch how they are mentioned on Twitter and try to create something with even clearer calls to action and obvious benefits for the audience. Also try to build on the attention you do manage to raise; have a longer term plan in your back pocket! 2. Consumers take action both online and offline after seeing brand
  39. 39. 39 mentions in Tweets. For us it means that we can count on attention on Twitter spilling over to our websites, our blogs, our videos or even our real life. Now, the key is to not let people down, but to have awesomness waiting around the corner, for anyone choosing to engage that much with what we’re trying to do. What kind of awesomness? Whatever kind fits your project and your target group, of course! That’s where audience research comes in… 3. The source of the Tweet containing a brand mention affects consumer actions. 45% took action if the tweet was from a brand, 63% if the tweet was from a non-brand source. People rely a bit more on people than on brands; make sure that you’re offering up something that your target audience want to share or talk about. Draw your conclusions from your target group studies – what do they talk about on social media. How can you tap into that conversation in a natural and logical way? All of this is easier said than done, naturally. But in the end it’s simple. Create great stories, set them in great settings, carve out a role for the audience in the overall narrative and give them clear calls to action with a guaranteed celebration of recognition for anyone choosing to interact! Then just be prepared to harness the flood of interaction in a meaningful way and have the long tail strategies up to scratch! :)
  40. 40. 40 16 May 2014 To  belong  and  to  be  unique  -­‐  how   transmedia  can  help One discussion I had at Input 2014 arose from a Twitter conversation I’d had with people attending the Mobile West Africa conference in Lagos, Nigeria. There, the mobile penetration is quite amazing, and mobile reportedly counts for 9.5% of Nigeria’s total GDP. The truth I realized while talking about how youth in Nigeria use mobile to connect and reaffirm, might seem like a basic one, but I can feel that it will have an impact on how I approach development work on future projects. People today, and especially young people, want to belong. That’s why the youth of today flock to Instagram – since everyone else is there – and abandon Facebook, since no one else they want to belong to is there. This feeling of inclusion, of being a part of a greater whole, part of a movement, part of an elusive entity that some might call a ”generation”… there is strength in numbers, and a certain euphoria to be attained when feeling like more than just one person, even if it is in a virtual, online sense. At the same time, most of us have the urge to be uniqe. We want to express ourselves, stand apart from the crowd in the crowd’s eyes, in a positive way. We want to reaffirm ourselves as thinking, feeling beings and we want to realize our full potential. Both of these urges can, in my opinion, be addressed through the use of multiplatform and transmedia storytelling. When creating content for a target audience, you can involve them all on a greater level and achieve the inclusion of everyone within the same framework, while at the same time carving out places – sandboxes – where the individual members of the audience who are so inclined can express themselves and expose their achievements to their peers and others. Having used transmedia storytelling methods when developing, we can also guarantee that what they create still fits into the story world the rest of the story – and the rest of the audience – exists in. * * *
  41. 41. 41 Not only do they get to be a part of a greater whole, they also get to be apart from that greater whole, in a positive way. And their creativity will reinforce and support the story or stories we’re trying to convey to people. A win-win situation, I believe you’d call it!
  42. 42. 42 19 June 2014 Transmedia  2.0  -­‐  a  review Nuno Bernardo has just released his second book on how to produce transmedia. Titled ”Transmedia 2.0 – How to Create an Entertainment Brand using a Transmedial Approach to Storytelling”, it’s an in-depth look at why transmedia storytelling methods can give creators and producers a decisive edge when it comes to standing out among the crowd and the chatter of today’s media world. I’ve always been a fan of Nuno’s way of approaching transmedia and production. I believe strongly in financial sustainability – that your content should be able to generate enough ROI for you to be able to make more content based on that. Nuno’s approach is even more forward – he’s proven time and time again that his company, BeActive, is great at creating an audience for projects and leveraging that audience to coax funding and sponsorships for the projects in question. In this book, he looks at a number of the projects BeActive have produced over the past couple of years. Looking at the different sections, it’s easy to see that this is a very hands-on book, aiming at encouraging and helping producers create more and better and more financially viable projects. The first chapter is about branding, the second about financing. The third talks about creating storyworlds, while the following ones are about planning a release, marketing and monetization. All in all, there are a lot of very practical and handy tips in this book. And, just as Nuno writes – ”We may not be able to rival major studios on their own terms, butwe can reach millions of people in mainstream and niche communities using a transmedial approach. The key is to focus on your audience. Design an experience that will connect them with your content in a meaningful way. Engage their need to interact with one another, to react collectively with joy or sorrow or fear. Take control of marketing and distribution, in the same way as you control your creative process.” This book will help you do exactly that. If you’re looking into transmedia storytelling as a way to enhance your content and increase the audience’s engagement in your stories, you could do far worse than taking a look at this book. Disclaimer: I wrote the foreword to this book. Unfortunately the last paragraph was accidentally omitted, making the foreword look slightly strange, to say the least. Here’s the full foreword, as submitted late last year: The past year has been a marvellous year for multiplatform storytelling. The reason is simple; there are a lot of platforms to create for and an ever-increasing amount of people using these platforms. Back in the days when, for instance, interactive television was the hot topic of the day, the great challenge was turning a sit-back audience into a lean-forward
  43. 43. 43 audience. This is no longer the case. The audience is already leaning very much forward. Not only that, they are leaning forward with a smartphone in one hand, a tablet on the table in front of them and the television turned on – but often largely ignored – in the corner. The challenge now is not to active the audience, but to offer them engaging and immersive content, a reason to interact and a meaningful direction in which to go. A great way of approaching the development of immersive and engaging properties is by using transmedia storytelling methods. But still, twenty odd years after professor Marsha Kinder coined the term, and close to a decade since the release of Henry Jenkin’s ”Convergence Culture”, transmedia remains an elusive concept. In a way ”transmedia” a bit like the Holy Grail; many a knight of the storytelling table have gone out into the world chasing it. Yet, precious few have touched it and lived to tell the tale – which in storytelling terms means having had their projects both declared successful and accepted widely as true transmedia. The debate around the term has been ongoing for years. As more fields and more industries acknowledge the strenghts of using storytelling to get messages through to target audiences, and as the fragmentation of the audience on the technological side becomes increasingly apparent, transmedia has become a term du jour in marketing, advertising, publishing and a number of other industries. Needless to say, not everyone looks at transmedia in the same way. Which way it is that ultimately will be decided on as the correct one remains to be seen. Meanwhile though, we can feast our eyes – and other senses – on marvellous projects that can fit under the transmedia umbrella. Only the past year has treated us to a multitude of awe-inspiring campaigns and projects. Ranging from the daring venture of Defiance to the innovative Lizzie Bennet Diaries, from the intriguing Fort McMoney to the downright sublimeBody/Mind/Change, the examples have been legion. For the coming years, it’s hard to see any lessening of the pace. For me, an impressive creator and producer of projects in the transmedia vein is the author of this book. Nuno’s approaches to and executions of his projects – ranging from Sophia’s Diary and Final Punishment to Beat Girl and Collider – are a breath of fresh air, as well as cases to be thoroughly studied for future reference. I am going to read this book with great pleasure, as I did with Nuno’s last book. If you’re holding this in your hand right now, I believe you are about to do the same.
  44. 44. 44 11 August 2014 Bringing  convergence  to  the  people I’ve pitched enough ideas and projects and tenders to enough possible buyers and collaborators and clients to know that one of the most important things to do is to NOT confuse them. As one of the hardest working sellers I know use to say – selling IP to someone as reluctant as your average media buyer (especially in the world of television) is all about removing the reasons to say ”no”, so that all that is left after your pitch and your discussion is for them to instead say ”yes”. The convergence of media today, the blurring of the lines between media platforms and between fiction and reality, and the constant shifts in the practice of storytelling, makes this even more important today. When I talk to our possible clients, the ”transmedia” term is used with extreme caution. It is precisely the kind of term that has the chance of either making the conversation veer off in an undesireable direction (”what’s your definition of…?” etc) or making the client/buyer back off, since they don’t fully understand it and therefore cannot sign off on it in good conscience. The key, I’ve found, is to bring it back to ground level. Everyone is convergent today. We watch series on our iPads, we tweet on our Lumias, we collaboratively build Westeros in Minecraft on our laptops… we use all media for all purposes already. The only things transmedia storytelling methods actually bring to the table are a bit of structure, some guidelines and some assistance when it comes to creating for this convergence. That’s where we meet our clients and our partners; in the knowledge that there is no magic transmedia wand to wave about and create immersive stories that fly over the boundaries between media platforms, dragging the squeeling audience with them in their wake. What there are are great stories that want to reach an audience and use whatever media platforms are the most suitable for these stories and their audience. What there is is a knowledge about which platforms are best for what kind of content or interaction. What there are are sound strategies for how to engage that audience
  45. 45. 45 and celebrate their engagement There’s no trick to it, there are no gurus that create the infallible concepts, there is no general fix for all and sunder. But there is and audience, thirsty for great stories. There is a wealth of talent and creativeness, that will take some form at some point, and why not in connection to your story? And there is a world – including buyers and possible clients – that floats organically over all media platforms, serving the greater good – the final experience.
  46. 46. 46 28 August 2014 Project  Alibi  -­‐  your  scary  Hallowe’en  rabbit   hole! One of the more interesting projects this autumn comes from Alison Norrington and Steve Peters, veterans of the-perhaps-previously-called-transmedia- or-perhaps-currently-called-transmedia-I-don’t-think-I-can-keep-up-any-longer- scene. It’s called Project: Alibi, and its aim is to scare people in an immersive and engaging way. They’ve successfully crowdfunded the project (although there are a couple of stretch goals still achievable (and, full disclosure, I’m backing them as well)). I caught up with the pair to ask a couple of questions about the project: Q: What is Project: Alibi? Steve: Project: Alibi is a comedy/sci-fi/horror story that will be told primarily via social media. Just as you follow your friends, keeping up with their day-to-day lives, so you’ll follow the hero of the story…and as things turn weird for him, they’ll turn weird for you to. It’ll play out in real-time over 7 days. Alison: What Steve said! Think World’s End meets Rocky Horror meets X-Files with a sprinkling of Inside Llewyn Davis and a creepy peppering of ‘something more’… It’s FREE and you can dive as deep into the rabbit hole as you choose. Q: Why did you choose to go down the horror-path? How creepy will it be? Alison: There’s a lot of fun to be had around a recognised annual celebration date that’s so widely recognised. Hallowe’en is a fun time and an event that playfulness lends itself to so well. So, that, coupled with the tension, pace and mischief that we knew we could cause with the horror genre. Horror works partly because we fear the inhuman and great horror stories reduce people – which is where fear and ‘the unknown’ steps in. In all great horror stories, at some point, the ‘monster/inhuman’ becomes the hero and there’s a constant pressure and tension to be upheld. It’s incredibly exciting to write and we’re working on ways to make our hero (Talbot Griffin) become enslaved by his own weaknesses….. It’s very exciting! Steve: It’ll be creepy, but in a fun way. Think Twilight zone or X-Files….or World’s End as far as tone goes. It will definitely not be slasher porn or anything like that. We chose Halloween because firstly, everyone likes a ghost story! And secondly, from a design standpoint, it usually enables you to do pretty much any crazy thing you want with little constraints. Because, ya know, something’s haunted! Or a ghost! Or
  47. 47. 47 UFO’s, or chupacabra or whatever. You can hand-wave anything! Make everybody’s phone ring! Why? It’s a dead person! Make the car in their driveway start! Why? Because it’s possessed! It’s storytelling without constraints. :) Q: You’ve already succeeded in crowdfunding the project but are reaching for stretch goals. How important is it to crowdfund? What are the biggest benefits of going the crowdfunding way? Steve: Well, originally we were just going to do it entirely out of pocket. But then as we dug into the story and experience we wanted to design, we realized we could do some really fun stuff if we could raise a little bit to offset some hard costs. So we went the crowd funding route. Plus, and just as importantly, I think crowd funding is a great way to take the temperature of an audience, see if they’d even be interested in a digital Halloween story in the first place. Lucky for us, folks seem to be very enthusiastic! Alison: The biggest benefit of crowd funding are to gauge audience interest at early development/concept phase. It’s been very reassuring to see such support for Project: Alibi, but crowd funding also makes you ‘own’ your work more. You know that people are waiting for you to deliver (and we will over deliver) on our promises and whilst we’d initially intended to fund this ourselves on a very limited budget we realised that a little influx from crowd funding would allow us to punch it up a little and create some more creepy awesomeness. Q: You’re mentioning an unnamed social network as being key to the experience – what are the major challenges when it comes to using social media for creating experiences? Alison: There are challenges to writing and designing for social media, some of which include immediacy, discoverability and interaction! Social media content is hugely time-dependent – a post/tweet can be lost in a feed within a few minutes and then you have to be ready for interactivity. That broadcast method of storytelling where our fingers are in our ears is long-gone and we’re creating responses and scenarios based on audiences reaction. We’re wondering whether our secret surprises will be discovered on Day 1 – which is likely to happen.. We have to be ready for that… Steve: The major challenge I’m trying to design against this time around is that usually social media (or cross-media) projects are honestly tough to follow. If the content is all over the place, that means you have to look all over the place to find it. This is a pretty big barrier to entry. So our idea is that, to be able to take part in the story, you just have to follow ONE
  48. 48. 48 guy. It all takes place from his POV (and through his own mobile device) anyway, so this seems a natural way to do things. Now, we’ll have this content radiate out to other platforms to give you a choice, but it will all originate from basically one place. And you can just sit and receive, like we’re programmed to, or you can optionally dig a little and find even more content if you’d like. It’s there if you want to find it, but you don’t need it to have a good time. Q: Why should I join Project: Alibi? Steve: Our goal is to surround you with story, and what better time to do that than Halloween? It’s just a week long, so it’s not a huge commitment, and you can be as passive or as active as you’d like. We wanted to create a ghost story for the digital age, using all the cool technology around us to tell a story in a unique way. The story comes to you, you don’t go to it. And sometimes it’ll reach out and pull you back in unexpected ways, when you least expect it. Our goal is to make it feel like our story is actually taking place in the same world we live in, as opposed to on a screen somewhere. And with that, comes the potential for a lot of creepy fun. :) Alison: Hallowe’en is a social time – I mean, who sits at home alone dressed up as Dracula or a ghoul, right? Project: Alibi is being created so that you choose how far you want to go, even if you are sitting at home alone. It’s easy to follow, free and a pacy and fun way to learn more about our complex hero Talbot Griffin and the events that lead up to, and ultimately decide, his Hallowe’en fate. The question is, how impactful will your choices be as to that fate…….
  49. 49. 49 2 September 2014 Possibly  impossible  -­‐  the  art  of  looking  past   what  is  possible  to  what  is  probable Cross media, transmedia, multiplatform storytelling, deep media… the terms are legion and intertwining, as I’m sure most readers of this blog know already. At the heart of all of them liesan urge to tell compelling stories over more than one media, in ways that engages and immerses the audience and utilize the strengths of each media platform, making them support each other and offer the audience a more fulfilling experience. While that’s the core of the practices, that’s also where most people coming into the field as creators and producers get lost. For creative, nimble minds, the promises of transmedia storytelling are enticing. In our mind’s eye, we can see just how the different parts will line up, how the different media will build on each other and how the audience will experience something earth-shattering and fulfilling, that encourages them to participate, to share onwards and to agree to loyally follow the story to its conclusion. The problem is that this seldom plays out the way we’ve envisioned it. If we make a short film, we can most often make it just the way we want to make it – budget and other circumstances allowing, of course. If we create a transmedia experience meant for audience interaction, however, the variables multiply
  50. 50. 50 exponentially. We can’t be sure that the audience travels the route you want them to travel, we can’t be sure they experience what we want them to experience in the way we want them to experience it and we certainly can’t be sure that they interact the way we intend for them to interact. What to do? Well: 1. Prepare for fluidity. Rigid is a thing of the past; that which doesn’t bend will be quite likely to break instead. For traditional producers of, for instance, television, fluidity is the nemesis that guarantees that your final product is like nothing you’ve planned for. For the YouTube stars of today, fluidity is key. If something craps up with my video, shoot a new, or use the fail to move forward in a new direction. Everything can be turned into momentum. When quality of content is no longer measured in composition or traditional skill but in engagement and immediacy, that’s when fluidity comes into play. Of course – the ones that manage to combine the two, the craft and skill of a great photographer or artist with the urgency and – yes – fluidity of content production online… that’s a golden ticket, right there. 2. Put down our waypoints, our goal posts, but have a crew ready to move them the second we see our project going down a new route. Again the goal should be stated and clear to everyone involved. But the audience is no longer passive – far from it – and unforseen circumstances can hijack our project into new directions. If we find ourselves on an unfamiliar path, evaluate our goals and mould them to fit the new direction. 3. Allow our metrics to reflect the complexity of our project. Ratings are far from the only metric that counts. Neither are views on YouTube. How do our sentiments spread? How engaged are the viewers of our content? How lively is the hashtag? For how long does our message resonate? What kind of spin-offs are initiated? How will it carry over to the next thing? It’s a complex world to analyze, but doable. Metrics should also incorporate some of the fluidity talked about above; if the project changes direction, so must the metrics. What counts is the impression we make – no matter what kind of impression it is.
  51. 51. 51 11 September 2014 Five  golden  principles  of  audience   engagement So, what I would like is to continuously create content that resonates deeply with the intended target audience. The would be an audience that takes what I’ve created or helped create to heart, that engages in the way they’re intended to engage and that teaches the creators a thing or ten about their own creation during the course of the interaction. This would also be an audience that goes beoynd being merely an audience, morphing into a collaborative-producer state, freely creating within the boundaries of the original creation. I have an inkling that this is something quite a few other people – producers and creators – would be happy with as well. Thing is, though… it’s a very, very, difficult thing to get right. That, on the other hand, needn’t be too bad, as the FFF-principle (Fail Fast Forward) is quickly becoming one of the most important skills to master when producing content today. Here, then, are five points I believe are crucial when it comes to engaging an audience in a meaningful way, turning a traditional producer-audience situation into a mutually beneficial co-creative entity: • Know your audience. This is such a no-brainer that I’m actually a bit reluctant to include it. But at the same time, it’s one of the things many still get wrong, and it’s such a crucial part of the process that everyone need to take it to heart. Don’t go for a huge audience – find the niche that you’ll cater to, what they do and how they react. Try stuff out and draw the right conclusions! • Celebrate others and promote others. You might think you and your content is at the heart of the project you’re working on. Think again. Without an audience, we’re all pretty meaningless. Make sure you celebrate all the people choosing the engage in your content. Promote others, so that they in turn will be positively promoting you. • If you give a promise, keep it. Deliver the quality your audience has been promised, and continue deliver at the same standard that they have been accustomed to. Don’t let standards slide.
  52. 52. 52 • Work on your timing. There are so many tools out there right now that can help you figure out when to publish stuff, when you will resonate the best with the audience you’re trying to reach… plan your strategies well, but be prepared to change them if your analysis of how your project is playing out indicates that a change would be necessary. • Be yourself. Chances are – especially if this is a small project – that you’re leading wih yourself first. Don’t try to be something you’re not – that’ll only get in the way of meaningful communication . And that’s what you’re aiming for – communication of different kinds, that is meaningful for you as well as for your counterpart.
  53. 53. 53 30 September 2014 Cross-­‐media  the  Adriatic  way I just spent the best part of eleven days in Croatia, four of which were dedicated to theKorcula Cross Media Lab, an initiative created to connect audiovisual people and people in the tourism industry with each other and with experts on everything from transmedia storytelling to SEO to TV production to augmented reality. It’s a great initiative, with a very worthy focus. The territory goes by the slogan ”The Mediterranean as it used to be”, and it’s not difficult to understand why. Coming from Finland, a sparsely populated land with a helluva lot of forest and lakes, I felt at home in the not-very-exploited mountains and hills of the Croatian Adriatic coast. It’s an area that would be well worth an influx of tourists of that rare quality-conscious kind – and stories, told in the right manner on the right platforms with the right strategies connected, could assist in making that happen. That there is talent is evident, in everything from impossibly beautiful time lapses courtesy of Mario Romulic to the bright red felt caps of the Macmalic´ from the island of Cres. There is an abundance of stories to be told from the region, from the first settlements in the area well B.C. to today’s swan dive into the interconnected media world. The challenge is to reach traction with an audience of sufficient magnitude to give cause for sustainable content creation and innovation in the long run. There were a host of interesting speakers and presenters present over the course of the four days. People and companies were pitching innovations in the field of tourism and cross media, with notable winners of the lab’s competition being Zagreb-based design company Babushke.Mladen Vukmir talked about more than just the promised field of copyright protection, voicing concern over the sustainability of the world as a whole, with the antiquated notions of the current state of ”copyright” being one symptom of a mindset in need of changing. Gamification on location, visual storytelling, getting TV PR involved… the subjects were varied and covered a lot of ground. My own talks were on storytelling, audience engagement and cross-, trans- and social media – all set to the backdrop of the stunning island of Korcula and the surrounding regions. I’d really like to see a continuation of the lab. Not least because I feel the area and
  54. 54. 54 the creatives there have a lot of potential and a lot of stories that would deserve a greater audience. I would like to see a deeper collaboration with other, similar regions around Europe, in a Learning and Doing setup that would seek to maximize the use of gleaned knowledge and best practices from all participants. Finally, the masterminds behind the conference deserve a thank you, on this post also – Helena Bulaja, Pati Keilwerth and Milan Miletic. Great effort!

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