Sunday, April 29, 2012

Trust in Transmedia

See what I did here? :)
I’ve read a couple of articles over the past few days that has got me thinking (in part because it looks like we’re getting the go-ahead on a couple of projects that I’ve been itching to dig into for some time now, and this subject will be very much amongst the ones on top of the ”solve-this”-list).

I think we all agree that simply aiming for Likes and followers and views gets us nowhere as far as telling stories go. It’s what we do with these Likers and followers and viewers that matter. And in that context, trust is a major factor  (there’s a good post up from February touching on the subject here).

So, how can I as a creator achieve the level of trust that will not only make people want to watch and take part of my new content, but also advocate the content onwards to their friends and acquaintances? And as, for instance, participation and co-creation – User Contributed Content – implies that people have a great deal of trust in me as a creator and provider to a) offer them the experience they assume that they will get and b) take care of whatever it is that they have created, in the best way possible, that trust needs to be earned.

If we look at the word itself, it does give some hints of how to achieve this. Trust is defined as the firm belief in the reliability, truth, ability, or strength of someone or something. Looking at those words, there are some routes we can look at.

First off “Reliability”. The audience should look at our project, then look at us and go “yeah, I can rely on those to provide me with what they promise”. This is either down to us as creators and the reputation we’ve built for ourselves, or the quality of the brand we’re working with, be it the IP or the backing production company or something else that people feel they can rely on.

Secondly, “Truth”. This is so very important, to not be seen lying or withholding the truth from the audience. This is not to say that ALL of the truths need to be spoken about or revealed, but we need to be able to explain WHY we’re not revealing those truths and have a good reason to back the decision up. And not, never, hoax. Not if we want the audience’s trust.

Thirdly, “Ability”. This has a lot to do with how we present our content, our project. A well executed trailer or pre-ARG or support from respected people in the industry or in the target group the project aims to reach can help. It’s the belief that what’s promised will be delivered, and that, if anything, it won’t stumble on the people involved not having the required skill sets to complete what they’ve set out to do. A good reputation doesn’t hurt either.

Fourthly, “Strength”. The audience of today could care less about which studio is producing which movie. But the audience is also increasingly savvy when it comes to media consumption, savvy enough to realize that when something sounds too good to be true, it probably is. If you’re a small company without any backers, content- or funding-wise, don’t promise the world to the audience. Be honest; refer to “Truth” above. On the other hand, if you are backed by HBO, use that to your advantage! People want to invest in winners, and the stronger the partners of a project, the more likely it’ll end up on the winner’s side in the end.

So, trust. Hard to get, easy to lose. Build on your reliability, your truth, your ability and your strength. And when you've gained someone's trust, be sure to take every precaution to not betray that trust in any way. Best of luck to everyone J

Monday, April 23, 2012

Transmedia – does anyone care?

I’ve had a blog post sitting on my computer, half-written, for quite some time. The essence of the post was that there are only about 200 people around the world that actually care if your project is a ”true transmedia project” or not, the 6.999.999.800 others either don’t care or will never hear of your stuff.

Brian Clark beat me to it though, and in a much more profound and challenging way, in his follow up to last years debate-post over on Facebook; this time, the title is ”Transmedia is a lie”, and it, and the comments, are well worth a read.

I feel the need to write something here on the subject as well; I, contrary to Brian (I think?) still believe there is a use for the term ”transmedia”.  Granted, there has not been a definite definition over the past 12 months, and granted, there has been a severe dilution of the term (if I could get 10 cents for every new ”transmedia producer” I met at MIPTV this year, that was a ”cross media producer” only 6 months earlier, I’d have…. about 50 cents). As a term for working together with other professionals in the field, it has therefore probably outlived it’s purpose – much better to take a longer route and explain the concept thoroughly, including platforms, interaction, plot (if applicable) and so on. Other professionals will see where they can slot in quite easily, while not being confused by differing definitions of the ”transmedia” term.

Also for pitching purposes the term has become next to redundant; what you’re selling is the story. Everything else only serves to confuse. This goes for upwards of 75% of the commissioners, producers and buyers I pitch to. This in turn is quite healthy for you, even though it means harder work: you need to a) make the story good enough to stand on it’s own legs and be sellable, while b) you need to have the transmediated parts lined up so you can answer any questions about them should they arise and preferrably c) have a next-to fool-proof financing plan for these ”extra” parts.

Now, the discussion over at Brian’s note is quite existential at times. It’s a ”what is this and why do we do it and really there is no such thing as transmedia and NO YOU SHUT UP and….”. I.e., it’s all great fun, and something of a necessity. I believe people will float in and out of the term ”transmedia”, while still continuing to create and tell stories interconnected over multiple platforms, under different headings. Nothing wrong with that.

I will, however, continue to use the term transmedia. For this I have two reasons:

It keeps my mind straight when developing and producing content. I have my own definition of what transmedia should be and what I aspire to, and keeping this in mind really helps me brainstorm, create and refine content. 

For anyone entering into this which perhaps is transmedia and perhaps isn’t transmedia, it can be a confusing world. I’d like people to come into it the way I did – with a solid background in storytelling and media, then getting your mind blown away by extremely inspiring people and projects, then gradually starting to pick up on nuances and relevant discussions, implementing the methods into my own work, experiencing what works and what doesn’t, stretch my mind and my imagination and get better at coming up with engaging and doable stuff. This is something I would not have done without a term – ”transmedia” – to hang everything on, to keep my mind focused. Only by embracing a term can we truly understand the critizism of it (wow, that sounded profound :P)

Rant over. Now off to evaluate some transmedia projects….

Friday, April 20, 2012

MIPTV Wrap Up Session

So I was on the wrap up panel at MIPTV 2012 - thanks ReedMIDEM and James for having me. It was a thoroughly enjoyable experience with some quite brilliant people in the sofa and chairs beside me.

The video is up here:

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Transmedia and audience segments

I was discussing a transmedia project I’d been advising a bit on with my wife today, when she – in the quite brilliant way she has of hitting the nail on the head – pointed out that transmedia, should the mythology and story world allow for it, could be a brilliant tool for reaching not just one target audience, but a number of target audiences in a way that engages them on their own while still keeping them loosely knit together through the common narrative superstructure.

A simplistic example:

Targeting the 65+ segment, television, magazines, books or radio or less complex web based offerings might be the best way to get through, with a storyline that engages them the most. Will try not to be prejudiced, but probably something along the not-too-fast-paced but drama based might do the trick?

Targeting the 35+ segment, i.e. the children of the aforementioned segment, a more quick-paced drama, played out on mobile/tablets, television or VOD and online, based in the same world as the drama for the 65+ is based in, perhaps even overlapping, so that the generations have something to talk about and compare when they meet?

And targeting 15+, the grandchildren of the 65+ segment, a youth drama, perhaps mostly on YouTube, perhaps character-driven to a large extent; could end up a television series as well. But yes, this also based in the same story world as the two above; also overlapping and crashing into the other storylines from time to time. Much like real life!

This would take a bit more planning and a bit more funding than just the one tv-series would do, of course. We are essentially looking at producing three productions, connected to each other. But the end result could be pretty neat indeed. I'd love to try to give such a thing a go.

                                    *                                  *                                  *

The Avatar

I got an idea yesterday and I’d be mighty glad if someone told me if this exists already.

See, I’d like to be able to place myself as an Avatar on different places on the web. On my own home page or blog, on blog articles where I’ve been interviewed or where I have contributed etc.

I’d want this Avatar to be a bit sentient. The Avatar is displayed on the page I put it on and people can talk to it and ask questions  about how I look at things and what my opinion is.

The key thing here would be to have the Avatar constantly crawl the net to find if the real me has written, commented, blogged or been interview about anything on any given subject since the last time. These comments or opinions or facts are then added by the Avatar to its repertoar of answers, complementing or erasing already existing opinions.

So, anyone want to build this with me? Hit me up J

Not this kind of Avatar

Monday, April 16, 2012

Getting funding for transmedia – a comment

A brief post on funding and transmedia; I read the Storify of the latest StoryCode event with great interest, as I – along with most other practicioners in this field – am constantly on the lookout for new ways to get the funding in to create and produce and distribute what I want to create and produce and distribute.

Great graph from Futurelab, "Trough of Sorrow".
Applies to transmedia projects as well as startups, I'd say.

The event had some good advice and some good links to follow up. A couple of things were missing though, if I look at it from my angle. The following couple of things need, in my book, to be taken into consideration if you want to raise funding for a transmedia project:

Split it up. Take a good look at your content and what platforms you intend to distribute it on. Is part of it good enough to make a television fiction series or a television documentary, the revenues from this alone might pay for the rest of the transmedia venture (depending on scope, naturally), and also open up for roll-out of the full transmedia experience in global territories. If you can hook into a current trend with the part of your project you’ve designed to work as a graphic novel, you might get either a publishing deal or rack up some revenue through e-books. Bottom line; look at the parts of your transmedia project from a revenue perspective; add them all together, and you might just achieve your goal.
What new knowledge can be gained from your project? Yes, you have a great story and a well crafted mythology and narrative superstructure. Yes, you have tapped into an existing community relating to your content and you are quite confident of actually having an audience. But you still lack a bit of $$ to actually create what you plan to create. Now, look at what new knowledge there is to be learned from what you are about to do. Will you know more about a certain segment of the population? Will you understand more about how call-to-actions work? Will you develop the way social media is integrated into a campaign or a story? This knowledge can be turned into funds, if packaged the right way and sold to the right buyer – a brand, a service, a research institution (who might even offer to put a researcher on your team to do the dirty work) a governmental institution…

There are probably as many ways to get the full funding as there are transmedia projects. My advice would be to be creative, not only when it comes to your content, but also with regards to your funding. 

Transmedia and fiction in television

I read an interesting article on the success story of Game of Thrones a couple of days ago, over at Lost Remote. GoT has been one of the transmedia marketing success stories I’ve pointed to in talks and articles over the past year, what with their ”Smells of Westeros” and ”Food of Westeros” campaigns. I was very happy to see that HBO were rewarded with an audience for the first episode of the second season that was 73% up on the first episode of the first season.

Now, the social media buzz around GoT is indeed remarkable. HBO are evidently doing all they can to maintain and grow this buzz, and it would seem it is paying off handsomely.

In the article I read, no one was speaking about ”transmedia” per say. Still, the principles of transmedia storytelling are what made all the social buzz possible. George R.R. Martin has created an enormously rich story world, he already has a great number of story archs up in the air and the mythology and the narrative superstructure are both firmly in place.

This is what I would recommend anyone thinking of transmedia and television, in a drama/fiction setting, to take note of and even replicate. Making a mythology as rich as that of GoT might seem excessive, but look at the possibilities it generates for entry points, character interaction, fan art and fan fiction and so on!

If you’re working on a fantasy story, build it all as eloquently as GoT, or at least strive to. If your fiction is more of the contemporary kind, make your own jigsaw puzzle out of facts from the world around you, glueing the pieces together with just the right amount of fiction from yourself and your creative brain.

Above all, plan for the audience to join in. The HBO example in the article above is getting there. I do believe there are new routes to explore and new ways to implement, to tie the audience even tighter to your content.

Saturday, April 07, 2012

MIPTV 2012 – thoughts and comments

So, MIPTV 2012 is done and dusted, along with MIPFormats and the inaugural MIPCube. The days – and the nights – flew by at a breathtaking pace, so now I find myself in Antibes with my family for what I definitely feel is a well-earned vacation.

With the events of the past few days still somewhat fresh in my head, I thought it prompt to write up a short recap of some things I saw as important. Mind you, I was in the MIPFormats Pitch final and had, as a consequence, quite a number of meetings, so I missed out on a lot of interesting stuff. On the other hand, business is business, and I’d rather have it than not, so… Still, here are some things I thought worth taking note of:

 The TV industry is moving in the right direction.

With this I mean that amongst the clutter of animated cuddly bears and 14-hour long drama series with serious bearded men from the Middle East, there is a growing number of people in the TV industry who get that there is a real need for everyone to take note of where the audience is heading and make plans for how to be there to welcome them when the major part of them arrive. Granted, the ways of doing so vary wildly, from Lisa Hsia and her Master Chef-transmedia-extension to companies geared solely towards connected TV-sets, and everything in between. Still, I was positively surprised to see TV people talking to tech people and actually discussing issues and challenges, not just mmm-ing and aahh-ing along.

The brands are in the mix

Alongside the tv industry are the brands. These have in several cases shown a readiness to go beyond their previous limits when it comes to offering true and engaging stories, and to some extent even build it all into something touching on transmedia storytelling principles. Still, many simply do not have a clue.

As transmedia can help in so many ways, it just feels a bit silly not to utilize it to get deeper audience engagement, more serious interactive possibilities and a firmer story world, or mythology, to build further story archs on and offer logical and immersive entry points into.

Milking the ”transmedia” buzzword for all it’s worth

There were a lot of transmedia creators and producers in Cannes last week. Some actually are, while others are more of the kind that like to jump on any buzzword that might buy them a free lunch or three. All in all, I can’t help but observe that the term itself is becoming pretty diluted. Add to this the fact that everyone who actually knows something about transmedia seem to find it impossible to talk about transmedia without starting with ”aaaand, so, my view of transmedis is…” followed by a description that differs less than 2% from the description of the previous speaker. For the first time in my life, I’ve actually felt a yearning for a definite definition of ”transmedia”, if only to be able to get rid of all these definitions hopping about.

TV going social… controlling the uncontrollable

Many people, many companies and many apps on exhibit (especially at MIPCube) were about taking the TV experience into a social direction. For the most time though, this was about pointing people to the Facebook page and to the correct hashtag to use if tweeting about the program. Still, less than one third of new shows commissioned actually launch an FB page as well, which is just appalling statistics. I.e., what people in the biz are trying to do is control the uncontrollable, harness that which can’t be harnessed, basically using tactics in a social space that never should be used in a social pace. Here, I have a brilliant idea; hopefully you’ll see something more of it sooner than later.

 You never know who you’ll run into on La Croisette

This year; Jean Reno, Miss World, some people from Jersey Shore, and at the Nokia cocktail party at C Beach, to my total delight, Sam from Zero 7. Excellent!

All in all a very giving six days. I’ll end here, but I reserve the right to add on to this post as soon as I’m not on a sketchy wifi on the Cote d’Azur.