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.
Chapter One - The blog posts
For those about to embark on something transmedia - we salute you!
Funding cross platform content in 2014
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
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
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
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 :)
of December 2014,
8 January 2014
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
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
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.
1 February 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
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
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
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
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
• 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
• 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
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
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
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!
18 February 2014
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
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
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://
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?
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.
24 February 2014
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.
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
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?
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!
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
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
Montecarlo and Eva as discussion partners and Barcelona-mentors made it all even
better :). I hope to be back sooner rather than later!
21 March 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
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
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
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
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.
12 April 2014
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,
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
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 april 2014
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
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,
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
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
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.
26 April 2014
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
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
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
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)!
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
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
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
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.
1 May 2014
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,
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
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
2 May 2014
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
• 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:
* * *
• 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
• 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
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.
6 May 2014
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,
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.
12 May 2014
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
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
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! :)
16 May 2014
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
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
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.
* * *
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!
19 June 2014
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
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.
11 August 2014
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
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
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
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.
28 August 2014
One of the more interesting projects this autumn comes from Alison
Norrington and Steve Peters, veterans of the-perhaps-previously-called-transmedia-
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
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
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
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…….
2 September 2014
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
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.
11 September 2014
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.
• 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
30 September 2014
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
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
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!