Sunday, March 20, 2011

Transmedia – it’s kind of everything

This weekend has been about recouperating from SXSWi, physically as well as mentally. Time zones are still playing havoc with my sleeping patterns, but slowly but surely things are settling into place again. Which is good, as there is much to be done.

In hindsight, SXSWi took the field of transmedia at least a couple of steps forward. I read this well written article in The Guardian, by Oliver Burkeman, on takings from this year’s SXSW festival, and one thing in particular resonates strongly with transmedia today, as I see it. Burkeman writes:

” It was the end of day two of South by Southwest Interactive, the world's highest-profile gathering of geeks and the venture capitalists who love them, and I'd been pursuing a policy of asking those I met, perhaps a little too aggressively, what it was exactly that they did. What is "user experience", really? What the hell is "the gamification of healthcare"? Or "geofencing"? Or "design thinking"? Or "open source government"? What is "content strategy"? No, I mean, like, specifically?

The content strategist across the table took a sip of his orange-coloured cocktail. He looked slightly exasperated. "Well, from one perspective, I guess," he said, "it's kind of everything."
The many requirements

That’s what transmedia is evolving into as well, in my opinion. No longer is it good enough to know one field well, like television, or film, or online portals, or how to write a good story, although all these are still important. It’s just that it’s not enough anymore. When writing a story, you need to have a notion of the possibilities that story can give to an online entry into your world, or as an ARG, or as a graphic novel. It's like a CEO of a trucking company; today he needs to know the basics about SEO as well, to keep himself in business. Or the florist who needs to get savvy in the ways of Facebook, just to pick up on all weddings being planned.

When in pre-production for your tv series, you need to have an understanding for how the interaction with viewers can take place on Twitter, Facebook and so on. Most people – great people at what they do – really do not have that inkling yet. This again leads to examples of bulky, unwieldy transmedia that does not connect logically and seamlessly, as it has been assembled from the same set of pieces but with everyone involved looking at their own blueprint that they themselves have drawn up, without talking to each other overly much.

TAG

Here is where I think the Transmedia Artists Guild has made a timely entrance onto the transmedia arena. Because we have to learn, each and everyone of us. And the best way to learn is by doing, and talking to people who have been there, done that and got a number of t-shirts. Whether it’s about best practises or how to engage an audience, about how to connect an ARG in the best way or how to use characters Twitter accounts for best effect, I see the TAG forums as a great place to interact with other creators and developers and get their invaluable insights. If you haven’t yet, do sign up – it’s a place to talk and a place to find other people to discuss with that you do not first have to spend 30 minutes explaining the concept ”transmedia” to.

See you there!

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

SXSW Round Up Day Five

My own participation in the SXSW line up this last day of SXSWi was cut short by a forced visit to St Davids Hospital in Austin. As a side not, let me just take this opportunity to accolade the medial service provided; all involved were extremely professional, kind and efficient. Wait to get in was 15 minutes tops. Kudos! On the other hand, waiting 2h for a taxi was slightly irritating; in the end a collague got a cab down at the Convention Centre in one minute flat and came up to get me.

So, even though being in Austin, this last day I had the opportunity to follow SXSW in the way most people actually do, those not attending that is; by trying to follow the right persons, read the right blogs and figuring out the essential hashtags.

ARGs tell your story

Adrian Hon from sixtostart held an – apparently – well attendend talk on ”Project 314: Putting the Game back into ARG”, which was about looking at ARGs as stand-alone experiences, can it work or not? As said in the description of the talk – ”we found that there are enormous advantages in creating an ARG that's attached to an online game; for one, you can avoid the irritating friction that always occurs when switching between media; for another, the ARG feels completely natural.”

So, ARGs promise to transform the world of entertainment and storytelling, but often end up not really delivering. They’ve been overhyped and oversold and are now in a state of disillusionment – on the other hand, that means the only way is up! One great way of scaling ARGs is to automate them – example is www.smokescreengame.com - but this comes at the expense of the ‘magic’ of the story. And, which must be remembered, every extra action a participant needs to do in order to advance the story is an opportunity to just say "screw it, I'm giving up".

Adrian advocates, and I’m with him on this, not making ARGs so hard to play. The charm of ARGs isn't in the hoax - it's in the experience. Knowing how long a book is doesn't spoil the experience of the book. If you’re wondering how to make an ARG - steal success strategies from other types of games to improve the ARG experience.

All in all good advice. ARGs are a brilliant way to engage people, but just as Andrea Phillips talked about in her Hoax or Transmedia talk, with some of the examples she showed us, hoaxing might feel tantalizing and fun, but most of the time it’s seriously counterproductive. Trust your story and the way you’ve built your experience, let the people get immersed, and there will be no need to try to fool them. Above quotes were a condensed version of the #project314 hashtag.

The Transmedia backlash

Now, a big trend this year was the transmedia backlash which was very apparent during these days at SXSW. From @feliciaday stating being really tired of transmedia, to @jaybushman jokingly suggesting that he’d submit a panel to SXSW next year about everyone who hates the term transmedia, the term has gotten some severe beating from a number of sources – including @kevmoss, putting up this page on “Should I Feel Embarrased to Use the Phrase Transmedia?” for people to slug it out around the term.

In my opinion this is a very natural backlash. I second @glecharles who tweeted “Interesting to see the #transmedia backlash building. That's good; it's the step that comes before awareness and proper adoption. Go!”

It is also a question of so many people having to come around to the term, from developers and designers to marketing people and producers – it is quite natural that the term gets thrown around a lot and a bit battered in the process. I had a discussion with @geoffreylong over Twitter (before phone batteries and wifi connections let us up) and I totally agree with him – “Abandoning #transmedia because the buzz is wearing off is like abandoning the Internet after the dotcom collapse.” There is no need to abandon anything yet, but I can see where Geoffrey is coming from, as he is anxious not to abandon terminology that can help us build a standard for creating transmedia, a standard similar to “close-up”, “POV” etc in regular film-making. On the other hand I would argue that much of that terminology is moving away from technically-based and into more experience-based terminology.

All in all, we’re getting there – and I still think it’s nice that we do not have a definite definition of Transmedia yet. It’s more interesting like this ☺

Conclusion

I will conclude by saying that SXSWi is a blast. It’s also exactly what you make of it – at any given point, dozens of people are talking about interesting things, just go listen… or chat to the guy next to you; he might be the online traffic analytic from Canada that your project has sorely been missing, or the venture capitalist that is looking for exactly a project like yours. Almost guaranteed though, he or she is a nice and friendly person whom you can have an interesting discussions with. And yeah, find the right parties via Twitter, Yobongo or any other app you’re using, and try not to bust up your foot ☺

I’ll add some links to this post as soon as I am somewhere where the wifi connection is a bit better. Here's a link to Guardian UKs look at the tech presented this year. This is Fast Company's list of the most innovative companies in 2011. More links coming in the near future. Thank you SXSWi, and goodbye! Hope to see you next year!

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

SXSW Round-Up Day Four

This Monday started out on a personally slightly unpleasant note, as I apparently had managed to get some sort of inflammation going in my foot. Basically, it hurt like hell with every step I tried to take. But, well, staying at the hotel didn’t really feel like an option, so after a prolonged an unsuccessful search for a crutch or a walking stick (and a visit to the First Aid centre at ACC – ”what’s your status sir? Do you have an insurance?”) I just decided to hobble along (but discounting sessions at Sheraton or even the Hilton, as I really didn’t feel like walking a lot.

15 minutes of transmedia blast

So, first session was a short and intensive one, as Anthea Foyer held a talk on Transmedia – Formula for Success at the Future15 track of the SXSW (which is basically everyone talking getting 15 minutes to talk on their subject). Now, hats off to Anthea for this session, which from my point of view was the most condensed and to-the-point one so far.

So, as Anthea did put it, there are five aspects to creating a transmedia property:

• provide your audience with new and exciting ways to participate with your content (as an example, their own Time Tremors)
* create multiple points of entry, maximize audience exposure and uptake. And yeah, it really doesn't matter if the audience understands what transmedia is; it is enough if they are comfortable with the platforms used
* drive content and audience through a number of interconnected platforms and channels. An example would be Cisco's The Hunt
* create a momentum of audience participation that is both sustainable and far reaching. There might be audiences you had no idea of, but your audience will find them. And yeah, gone are the days of forcing the consumer to consume what you want them to. Just remember, be agile - let people come in and tell their stories.
* make sure you create meaningful content and a great story. When you're in the story, you don't care about platforms or tools as you're immersed.

A fast and furious take on transmedia, and perhaps the best 15 minutes I spent in Austin this first time I was here. I sincerely do like when people who have done something can come and talk about their experiences and their conclusions from that. Thank you Anthea.

The future of television

I then - mostly because of said hurting foot - remained seated in ballroom E to hear more Future 15 talks. Richard Bullwinkle, Chief Evangelist of Rovi, talked about the Connected TV and about how the television is not a PC, however much you would like to make it into one. In fact, Rovi has pulled data from boxes in a lot of houses, showing that 86% of viewers have no idea what they are going to watch when they start watching television. Bullwinkle's point was then, naturally, that no matter if you didn't know, your box should know what you would want to watch and suggest those things to you (where I'm more inclined to think that it would be nice to open the box and immediately choose between two options - the "I handle this myself" option and the "OK then let's see what you'd suggest for me" option). Bullwinkle's take on it is to have a second screen be your navigator - your smartphone, tablet - and use that for better interface, personalized ads etc. Well, I don't know about ads - I'd much rather have it as one entry into a transmedia project, use it for storytelling... Fine, if a brand can fit into that without messing things up, why not? But story first.

A little while later, Utku Can from Mint Digital delivered an interesting quarter of an hour on TV vs the Web back channel. Now this is one trend being discussed at several sessions here, about The Hills and their backchannel, about the Twitter streams around the Oscars etc. And yes, TV is social, and the social has moved from the sofa to the web, just as @utku pointed out. Fact is that 52% of all people use the Internet while watching TV (and a staggering 77% in the age group 18-24). With chatter being inherently competitive, and much content lending itself beautifully to chatter, this will just grow and grow - so design for that, design for split attention! But recognize that the viewer will choose how to watch.

@feliciaday and @garyvee

The keynote with Felicia Day was a bit interesting; she is an entrepreneur and she's good at what she's doing. Basically what she said was "Do your own thing, find your audience, let them advocate you, have great content, don't sell out". All good advice.

Rounded off the day by hobbling into Gary Vaynerchuck's session on brands. The man is a maniac to be sure, but a lot of the things he says makes sense - brands have got to become humanized; less like that friend who calls you all the time to tell you stuff you don't really want to hear, but more like the friend YOU call when you want to talk to someone or needs to ask advice. Give first, worry later should be a motto. And yeah, like many others I've encountered during these days, @garyvee is a big believer in context. To quote: "if Content is King the Context is God. I'm obsessed with context." This holds true for transmedia stories as well; don't forget the context. And keep it real, true - authentic, not necessarily realistic.

...and an un-cooperative foot

All in all a pretty packed day, not to mention meeting such a lot of awesome people, also at some parties later on... Yesterday evening I ended the post thus:

(at this point I’m going to have to stop for the moment, as foot is killing me. Hospital next I think, which sucks majorly… I’ll be back with the rest later, bummed to (probably) miss the last day)

And to update - yeah, the foot was x-rayed, nothing broken, muscles and soft tissue getting an inflammation going basically. So, on crutches and following the last day over Twitter at the hotel, unfortunately. I'll blog about that tomorrow, I think :). And yeah, thanks everyone who've expressed their concerns and offered help - you're all brilliant. My foot says hi.

Monday, March 14, 2011

SXSW Day Three Round-Up

So, Sunday, and a bunch of geeks – actually a pretty huge bunch of geeks – were grumbling about hangovers and daylight saving time. But, alas, there was nothing more to it but up and into the fray again (and yeah, SXSW gets a bit funnier if you participate in the #SXStarWars game as well – look the hashtag up, some real gems in there. Unless you’re a Trekkie of course…).

Today there were going to be a number of transmedia panels which I was looking forward to as our fully packed shuttle bus was hurtling down the Interstate 35 towards downtown. I’m not sure but I think there were even more people at the ACC today than yesterday; the badges are really taking over town (or at least a couple of blocks).

Creative leadership - pretty handy

No transmedia in the morning though, so Sarah B Nelsons talk on Creative Leadership was the first panel to go to. That ballroom – C, as it happens – was also packed. Guess everyone needs to know either how to be a good leader or how to know if their leader is not a good creative one.

Sarah had some really good points throughout her talk. I really like when people are talking about stuff they know, when they know it from experience from having been there, done that and gotten the t-shirt. Nothing like banging your heads against walls in order to gain some real knowledge about what works and what not, and how to deal with the stuff that doesn’t work. Sarah was also good at explaining this process and her experiences, which made this a good talk. For example, one of the hardest things about being a creative leader is setting the team off in the right direction from the beginning. To do that, one needs to kick off by asking people what they want to do within the project, not just about schedules, workflows and suchlike. Do that by goign through everyone’s goals, everyone’s fears and everyone’s expectations with regards to the project. And what every creative leader apparently should do, is get familiar with facilitation training. There was a lot more, slides are up at http://bit.ly/fRDExS so please go and have a look if creative leadership interests you. You could also look up the #creativeminds hashtag, there are bound to be some tweets still on that feed.

Transmedia in the house

Andrea Phillips held a good talk on Hoax or Transmedia, talking about something that we (and many others I’m sure) are wrestling with when developing transmedia content – to hoax or not to hoax? And if hoaxing, how? What pitfalls are there? There are better ways of doing it – LonelyGirl15 was first a public figure on YouTube and only afterwards a one-to-one phenomenon – and worse ways of doing it – Martin Agget was one-on-one to begin with, which made revealing the hoax to be much more negatively received.

Rabbit holes are also dangerous things. It’s very OK to send a scent box signed by HBO to get key people to talk about the upcoming (yay!) series Game of Thrones. It’s something completely different to send people anonymous, vaguely threatening letters as part of a stirring-up-some-interest campaign. That’s what not-so-nice people do, and you don’t want to be associated with them!

On Twitter we were simultaneously discussing possible Rules of Transmedia Engagement. I think the bottom rule should be “Don’t Be Mean”, or something along that line, or perhaps "Do Unto Others...". Also, as Andrea pointed out, one must always take into account the Risk of Harm with a project – if I design it like THIS, how will it affect the people playing or watching, bystanders, bypassers and so on? Also – do not mistake “realistic” for “authentic”. A world can be authentic, well made and compelling, and making people want to join that world, without it being at all realistic (probably “Pandora” as an example?).

The checklist Andrea came up with was pretty straightforward. 1) is this so realistic that people will be fooled? 2) what about people who see only one piece? 3) what potential ham could it cause and 4) can it get me sued? I will be sure to follow that list in the future.

Examples of storytelling

Moving forward, the Unexpected Non-Fiction Storytelling session featured @zefrank, Tommy Pallotta, Hugues Sweney and Caspar Sonnen. It was actually all about showcasing. Pallottas project Collapsus is quite intricate. He also showcased (premiered, actually) unSpeak, which is basically tackling hard questions through voice over and footage taken from YouTube. UnSpeak is opening up to the public in the near future, aiming at letting them mix stuff up as well and tell the stories of UnSpeak in their own way.

National Film Board of Canada showed their stuff, like the Pine Point documentary which is simply a beautiful piece of art. The prize of the bunch though goes to @zefrank, for several innovative ideas that he presented, like http://youknowI.ly and http://star.me , all craving user interaction. The difference between @zefrank and the others at the panel were, IMHO; that the others made content for the audience, whereas Ze Frank made content with the audience. Great quote to close that session, from Le Frank: If people would just pay attention to the narrative of their possible funding, they’d be a lot more successful.

#tmtm (or, can you make money from transmedia)

Alex Chapman and James Kay, coming from the legal angle, held a talk on Transmedia Transmonetisation. Can you make money out of it, basically. Ideas have value, but not until we have something produced can we lock down elements and key points and minimize the risk of someone else stealing it. There were a number of comments on Twitter on some of the issues. @Fflic ‘s summed up a lot of it: #tmtm session at #SXSW. Lawyers always assume that rights = cash and control. Sorry, Context is king. (to which I added “Content” – great content and great context belong together and feed off each other.)

The TAG Team

Finally, at the Transmedia Artists Guild session, everyone got together in a heap in the middle of the room (or at least moved themselves and/or their chair a bit closer). @vpisteve and @jaybushman did the most of the talking to begin with. The guild will not compete with unions – it wants to talk about transmedia, perhaps do some lobbying for the new forms of media and so on.
To begin with there were obviously many different opinions and suggestions and questions, which is understandable. TAG has put up a website, where you can register and go to the forum’s to discuss transmedia and what it actually is and/or look for a job or post a project of your own. It’s accessible at http://www.transmediaartists.com. There was even, after a while, some love for TAG from a union official in attendance.

Now, much of the talk was almost US only, but the challenges of developing and producing transmedia are universal. I sincerely hope TAG will succeed, because like Steve said: "A success for one of us is a success for all of us, as it helps establish working practices and genre”. Looking forward to linking up the transmedia that is being done in Europe with TAG at some point in time.

That long day was then continued within the framework of transmedia at the Driskill. Now, some parties later and a blog post later, I am seriously ready to hit the sack (and yes, I’ll sort out the links tomorrow for the post; do not have the energy right now).

Some extras

PS. Heard a lot of good stuff about Barbara Vance's talk and Frank Rose's Tron session - unfortunately they were overlapping. A Wired article by Frank on Tron is up here and a VERY comprehensive post about Vance's talk is up here.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

SXSW Day Two Roundup

Second day of SXSW was pretty packed. It wasn’t actually until today, with most attendees present and a full day of talks that it dawned on me just how big this thing is – at any given moment there are 30-40 odd talks going on, and it’s just impossible to go to everything that sounds interesting, especially as the events are spread out over ten different venues all over Austin. The shuttles don’t help much either, as the traffic makes it a quicker option to go on foot.

That said, it is possible to catch interesting sessions. The only issue then being that if you, like I found myself at a couple of occations today, are at a not-so-interesting panel, the option of going to another is not really a viable one, as you probably won’t get there before it’s over. Today also made me take note of Robert Prattens excellent advice – at a place like this, take the opportunity to go to talks that are a bit off from what you regularly do, as the ones that are about what you do can be a bit to basic.

The first session I attended was entitled ”The Last Broadcast: Entertainment is Social – What’s Next?” and featured Brian Johnson, Marcelino Ford-Livene (as moderator), Dr Jeffrey Cole, John Marcom and Gary Wheelhouse. I should perhaps have read the description a bit more thoroughly, it being about how our nowadays connected devices are changing into personalized entertainment platforms. And that was basically what the talk was about. Brian came in with some good points, for instance that the change in television as a media – it becoming more social, more connected, more online - is coming not because it is a marketing trend and not because the industry has decided so, it is happening because people want it to happen. Just at with most other things in society.

Other than that, the panel was pretty dire fare, never venturing far from the field of ”wow, people want to tweet about a show” kind of thing. Summing it up pretty nicely was a question from the audience, a man trying to build a social media strategy for his broadcaster, and asking the panel to help him with some advice as many producers were of the opinion that opening up to the public is a disaster waiting to happen – what should he do? Answer from the panel? ”Yes, it’s a disaster waiting to happen. I would not be opening up.”. In my opinion, in a connected world where authenticity, openness and a feeling of ”real” is the currency you trade in (other than the quality of your content, naturally), such an approach is not only outdated, it’s outright counterproductive. To be fair, Brian was of another opinion - "do open up, explain the context and social norms will prevail".

The AVAdventure showcase panel was a step in a totally other direction. 1693 Productions have launched AVAdventure, which is a tailorable solution to engage different-sized groups of people into what could be likned to an ARG or a flash mob. Is can be an interactive live play, played out over a day, or something shorter. It can be about education, promotion, music, basically whatever. People download an audiofile to their iPods and then, at a given moment, simultaneously press play and follow the instructions that they are given. Accompanied by actors and a script, they can play out almost everything, from the Declaration of Codependence to a music video.

It was an interesting talk, to be sure. In stark contrast to the previous session, these people were extremely used to losing most control over things that happened - for instance, if one of 100 participants had started their iPods 30 seconds early, that person was sure to be doing stuff that got everyone else going "what?", but in a good way. It still turned out very well and people had a great time. They’re only now thinking about sponsors etc. I think their way of doing things would have strong ties to transmedia, should one start to explore them.

At the keynote of the day (with a ridiculously long line to get in, almost the whole length of the Austin Convention Centre) Seth Priebatch of SCVNGR fame talked some interesting things about gaming. If the 2000s was the decade of social – connections, if you will – then the 2010s will be the decade of games, or influence, in that case. In the 2000s, Facebook built the layer of social on top of the world, now it’s time to build the layer of gaming.

As an example – the problem with schools is that the engagement is broken. The solution? Introduce status and levels. If school is a game, then grades is a games mechanic. But it’s a flawed one, as it allows some people lose. Instead, look at D&D and introduce experience points and level up. It works to change the rules; at Princeton, no one is supervising the tests. The Code of Honor that students sign also say that complicity is as much crime as the original offence. The result is that fewer and fewer people cheat. You can also use the power of leveling up in this context.

As Seth said, Location Based Services are not commonplace yet. But to get them more commonplace, go more loosely location based, not tightly; it can be enough that people say they are going to be somewhere, not that they actually are somewhere, for instance. A game that people played out in the audience also showed the powers of decentralized leadership paired with a a joint goal and and a countdown. The Game Layer think is interesting, and I believe future projects must take this into consideration.

Finally, on the panel on transmedia, Daniel Lorenzetti, R. Eric Lieb, Louie Provost and Christian Raymond were talking transmedia.

The players on stage were pretty experienced producers and what-not. That said, I don’t think the talk really lived up to the subject of the talk. The panel mostly talked about transmedia from a movie/film/Hollywood perspective. Not much talk of other forms of transmedia, not much advice in the way of how to create transmedia other than hooking it to some other content. All in all, a not too impressive panel. But some gems were to be found, like the fact that transmedia elements can prop up the project where the film Is not-so-good, but the accompanying game might be the best ever. That will keep people attached to your brand. All in all, you have the same customers.

All in all, a hectic day and a day that showed the wisdom of leaving a panel if you’re not impressed and go find something else. After the day we attended meetups and parties, which was nice. Now, however, totally knackered. Will now sleep, to be fresh and back tomorrow!

Saturday, March 12, 2011

SXSWi Day One wrapup

As the first day of first SXSWi is behind me, I thought I’d take the time to sum up a bit about the experiences.

Overall, SXSWi is a nice conference. Nice in every aspect of the word; the organizers are nice – friendly, welcoming, there when you need them, saying the right things at the right time (like the fact that you can help Japan and their earthquake/tsunami victims here). The venues are nice – granted, it’s hard to make a conference centre nice, but they’re trying. Above all, the people are nice. People I’ve spoken to in queues, people I’ve talked to next to me at seminars, just about everyone is nice and happy to be at SXSWi. Which all summed up makes for an ├╝ber-nice experience, so far.

At the back of the 330 pages thick SXSWi book is a wordcloud derived from the 1000+ strong programming sessions. It’s no surprise that ”social”, ”web”, ”media” and ”meet” are the largest words in the cloud – slightly more surprising is that words like ”cloud”, ”app” and ”APIs” are barely visible. But yes, social web and media, and meeting the people who are doing this, seems to be what SXSWi is about – this year at least.

The two sessions I attended were the fireside interview with Tim O'Reilly conducted by Jason Calacanis. It was a good interview – although Jason had a pretty easy time, as Tim was pretty good at speaking about the things he was passionate about. Some gems that came out of that discussion were for example talks about brands; as Tim sees it (and I agree fully), brands that connect in the right way with their targeted audience can give them the feeling of being in on something unique, something special. ”Being in the club” was the phrase Tim used. He went on explaining how a great idea is great, but it must be able to pull a load of train carriages behind it. Furthermore, it must go where a lot of people want to go, to fill up the carriages. Must be inclusive.

Tim O’Reilly categorized himself as being best at ”recognizing patterns”. This allowed him to think of ads online, of Web 2.0, etc. This is something that can be summed up as pattern recognition = having good notions of what is happening + have a core set of strong beliefs, loosely held + meet a lot of interesting, passionate people + make sure one pays attention to what they have to say.

At the ”The New Frontier of Social Gaming” with Brian Reynolds of Zynga, we started off with a look at social media. Facebook to the notion of being social to a new level – now you could be social efficiently. It doesn’t necessarily mean deep social interactivity, but Facebook is good at light social touches, which is where social games come in.

There was a lot of talk around the subject, but the key elements were that if you want ot make a social game, concentrate on helping people socialize more efficiently. Take something everyone can play, a pretty game, simple and featuring a universal aspiration. Finally, provide tools for people to express themselves. One unique element is that no matter what time of the day you play the game, other people logging in at 3pm are playing the same games as the people playing seven hours later. Now, games should be fun. FUN, according to Brian Reynolds of Zynga, is being provided with a series of interesting choices, where he or she can learn and recognize different pattern and provide surprise and delight to the ones experiencing it. So how do you make a fun app? Prototype it, revise it, show it to friends. Revise it. Review it. If it’s still not fun and ready, try to evolve it further. Put more choices. Make these choices matter more or build a story with surprise, suspense and/or humor. Hide patterns in your content that the audince can find them along the way. Add some kind of social like connection, and / or build a story where I – the audience - is the hero. Basically a lot of stuff that goes for transmedia development as well; if your content doesn’t feel good enough or fun enough, perhaps try one of the methods above? And if you’re not already testing your content on a bunch of people and revising accordingly, start doing so now!

In the evening was an informal transmedia meetup, attendend by a host of peole, such as Scott Walker and Sheri Candler. I enjoyed the conversations, and above all the feeling that transmedia people everywhere are struggling with the same things – sustainability, a measure of understanding from the client’s part, acceptance and a want to immerse from the part of the public…. Still, these are just obstacles to overcome. Looking forward to a lot more discussion at the formal meetup, on Sunday.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Transmedia Rising - comments

The JWT report of transmedia as a trend – Transmedia Rising, downloadable here – is a good read and shows pretty well where we are right now, in the world of transmedia (which evolves at a dizzying pace, but then again, what doesn’t). The report does have branding and revenue as core elements in the report; on the other hand, no transmedia project can expect longevity without a sound business model at its core.

I did have some thoughts on a couple of the topics discussed in the post: creating the flow and digital natives. We say transmedia but in my mind we really need to think sansmedia; there is very little we can create or come up with within the borders of a project (short of true telepathy or something suchlike) that there is not a viable technical solution for, or one that can be invented. This is not to say that we should not look at platforms or tools while developing and writing, as these many times can work as inspirational material and enablers, rather than obstacles. But to start a project with the assumption that ”this will be a television, web portal and iPhone app-project” and let that assumption define the story, story world and transmedia experience, that’s just plain wrong. The digital natives experience their content without thinking about platforms or codes used, they just do it. So must our content, our stories, do. Furthermore, it really is not enough to come up with new ways to tell stories and technical solutions for it, if we do not find new ways to empower the audience and let them have their way with the content - but in a way that we as creators can still be OK with.

Coming, as I am, from the world of television (television formats to be precise), this is a process and a way of developing and producing that absolutely MUST be viewed with positive goggles on. It is far to easy to look at ones’ television documentary or drama and simply give up on getting to grips with the challenges of a many-faceted story world with multiple intertwining stories; it is equally far too easy to look at such a project from a traditional marketers’ point of view and simply long to go back to selling those 30 second ad spots for the sitcom you represent.

The reality is, of course, that this is true if one lets it be. I would suggest quite the opposite; that such a project would give a producer a multitude of ideas, that can get an audience to engage deeper and truer in a story and a story world, it can give the producer and the developer invaluable contacts to their core audience, it can lengthen the life span of the content many times over… it is building an exoskeleton of pure titanium on a hitherto lovely but limited story, enabling it to punch through the traditional storytelling walls and invite an audience to follow.

For the marketer the benefits are even clearer. As the story gain more aspects, more details, more spaces to occupy, so will the marketer gain more possibilities to connect to a brand, to reach customers, to advocate the content and thereby the associated brand(s).

To quote JWT’s report:

For marketers, this is an evolution of the integrated marketing model: Rather than a consistency across multiple touchpoints, the goal is for different channels to communicate different things (within the overarching strategy), with an emphasis on putting the brand community at the center
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Now, substitute “marketers” for “storytellers”, “marketing model” for “storytelling model” and “brand community” for “narrative superstructure” and it is very obvious that these are two sides of the same coin.

The JWT report is a good sign that transmedia thinking and development is getting into more and more people’s minds in a good way. I for one am looking forward to what 2011 brings - a year that has already started magnificently.

Wednesday, March 09, 2011

SXSWi 2011

These are hectic times, with projects upon projects going (almost) too well, leaving me with scant time to delve into things to the extent that I would want. I and a colleague are, however, leaving for SXSWi tomorrow, which will be mighty interesting.

It's great to see that SXSWi features a number of talks on transmedia this year - and a lot of other talks that tie into transmedia, from a storytelling, a technical or a funding angle. To check out my schedule, have a look here (I used Harvest as my tool of choice, just worked best for me) (and yeah, erm... all those parties I have checked, I'm not going to ALL of them. I think.)

If you're there, hope to bump into you, if you're not, I'll write a comprehensive resume afterwards!