Nov 272013
 

I was invited to present a keynote, of sorts, at the Merging Media 2013 conference – a short and sweet two day conference featuring many great topics and good international speakers with a focus on the business/production side of multi platform but also the more usual esoteric aspects of transmedia and inherent community thinking. My talk was originally going to be a show and tell of all the new opportunities afforded to us by mobile, social & always-on networks, eye-candy with a chunk of futurist ‘my how the world is changing’ – but I decided to turn it more into a ‘what makes a compelling experience’ combined with ‘state of the industry (covered in my previous post)’ combined with a ‘process approach to creating service’,  talk instead – with a little of the navigating the new landscape for good measure. So waaay too much in the time allotted, but at least this article has room to breathe :)

I hope I give a flavour of the talk below. I believe Merging Media will be making videos available too – which I won’t be able to watch as I rushed the latter part :(. The first part was actually partly scripted so that made it easier to copy some of that below the slides but there is much much more afterwards with lots of embedded media, I think there is a flow in the post. Obviously the slides only tell a quarter of the story so read on or skip the slides…

Hello and thanks for inviting me to keynote here in wonderful Vancouver. Being one quarter French Canadian I do feel a little affinity with some of you, and have enjoyed a little time exploring & capturing the environment in the two days prior to this conference. But moving on let me apologise. I have struggled hard to find an innovative new theme, any new jewels of wisdom for you to ponder and apply to your own projects. So much in the transmedia arena has been talked about, theorised and postulated as the journey has only just begun. Perhaps the journey through the presentation itself may throw up some nuggets?. The media and storytelling environment in still in major transition and I and nobody else really knows where we are going, all I can do is prepare myself and others for this change. But first:

An Organic Multiplatform Transmedia Experience?

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This is where I live at the moment and where, I believe, I had a compelling multiplatform experience. It was about two weeks ago. It involved personal life and death decisions, it involved loved ones, friends who lost everything, physical exertion, quests and games, feeling part of and working with a community, rich information, lots of information, the authorities, the law, anxiety, stress, stories of loss and heroism and making profound choices.
Nov 152013
 
Gary scratches his head - photo by Rosemary Keevil

Gary scratches his head – photo by Rosemary Keevil

I was invited to keynote at the 2013 Merging Media conference in Vancouver last week and it was great to meet up with the wandering band of transmedia/multiplatform ‘global gliterati’ that frequent these events. All in all a top notch affair, well attended, mostly on the ball  in terms of topics and refreshing to take in the effervescent youthful passion that abounded from the attendees.

My next post will be detailed coverage some of the themes of my presentation but what follows below is something I sneaked into my talk last minute – partly as a response to some of the previous speakers on day 1 and the ‘challenges’ that still pervade this fledgling industry, still, after all these years.

The ‘digital’ brochure-ware website/mobile-app industry is doing fine and dandy – quaint silos inside traditional broadcasters, studios and ad agencies make ‘broadcast interactive’ stuff that is proven standard fare for large sections of the mostly passive audience –  but where are the truly original and/or mature multi platform transmedia services and how will we get there? I then thought of a series of scales on which to gauge and see if we can really get a sense of the State of Play in ‘whatever’ we will finally agree to call this thing.

I presented this section partly interactively (well the sort of magician like interactivity we all sometimes despise) – I asked the audience to shout out where we think we are on the scale and then I pressed the magic button and the needle floated across ala an interactive worm (in fact of course these were all my already set valuations – but anyway most of the time it was within 1 or 2 points!). I did tell the audience by the way, although they probably sussed it after the 2nd or 3rd one :)

So the State of Play of the Multiplatform / Transmedia Industry across 10 scales of measurement

 

001_Transmedia Multiplatform State of the Industry

 

Language and Grammar – Tower of Babel or Industry Shared – 3/10 - It is critical everyone is singing off the same song sheet for it to be a mature industry, how else can we create a business on something if it is not a shared terminology? Imagine if for example in film we called the editing stage either the compile, the chop, the edit, the merge, etc: depending on who was producing or which country we were in. Chaos.  But as we know in multi platform circles, we don’t have to look far to see the cracks – not only are the transmedia folk stretched from arty fluffiness at one of the spectrum to hard core marketing at the other but there is still across the industry (& academia) no real agreement on what the ‘T’ word actually means. Then on the ‘serious digital production’ side of the fence, whole swathes of the industry who  do bare bones digital ‘cloning’, nothing new, just pure turning the app/site production handle. Every sector from academia to agency to studio to broadcaster all use different terms. 3 out of 10 suggests we have at least another 10-15 years before we settle down into a shared taxonomy – lets hope it is sooner.

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Aug 232013
 

Why are TV companies often the worst offenders when it comes to producing original and creative multiplatform offerings? Why are most just serving up brochure websites, the occassional ‘send in your video via YouTube’ or ‘tweet in what you think, we really want to know’? Where are all the great integrated-with-show online, game and mobile offerings, all the innovative 2nd/3rd screen stuff and really resonant social audience contribution? TV Broadcasters are fighting dwindling audiences overall (apart from great golden age US drama & singing talent shows of course) and struggling to come up with great multiplatform strategies to help reach and re-connect audiences to TV shows? Why is this?

Note: this refers generically to the TV industry not any one particular broadcaster…

Credit: Scott Adams

Credit: Scott Adams

1. Succeeding Backwards

Did that once, didn’t work, won’t do it again. Rather than failing forward or more importantly trying something and organically improving it over time, many broadcasters fall into the trap of nervously dipping their toes into new formats, only carry on doing it if it succeeds immediately, if not, do nothing to improve it and then wonder why nothing bites. There is a spiral of diminishing returns if iterative success is what you live and die on. Risk averse – Jobs on the line. Make a mistake and the kids are mortgage are in jeopardy. Best to just keep things stable, solid, not rock the boat, deliver the barest minimum. Surround everything we do in layers of ‘process’ so it looks like we are busy. Sadly many broadcasters are busy making nothing, of real value for their audience.

2. The Silo Wars

TV broadcasters and TV studio organisations are highly political and have set up division and departments that make joined up, original multiplatform projects particularly, nigh on impossible. This is often a symptom of the people structures combined with being judged on your last project not future potential. Also it is important to have a strong group of allies (or reports) who justify and keep you in your position/role, but these roles are part of a tight pre-defined structure. They are like bricks in the wall of the internal divisions set up by senior management to make it easy to, er manage the company. But this sets up many nasty habits. Competition and protection of the mini empires, fighting for budgets, duplication (we can do that too and better) and most importantly from a creative multiplatform perspective – really hard to do projects that cross these ‘locked down’ silos. If it looks good everyone fights for it, if it looks bad no one wants to touch it. Companies who have vertical products (radio,tv,film,books etc) need to build lots of internal bridges or watch all of their products fail.

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Jun 202013
 

Alongside my day job for the past couple of years and various labs and seminars I have been involved in, one thing that keeps coming up is ‘why is the process for making multiplatform so complicated / varied / mysterious / technical’. For many from traditional production processes such as film or TV it can seem like a black art. Not only are there the technical and story hurdles for each platform, whether smartphone, tablet, web or games devices but there are the complexities of delivering to all of them at the same time or in a staggered release schedule. Then comes the further black art area of the back-end server and content management issues.

So in the presentation embedded below the main image, I tried to at least raise some of the key issues about process and considerations. This was part of a public talk in a 3 day lab I ran last week with SAFC for its Digital 360 lab initiative, where I had 15 minutes to set the stage for other speakers talking about various production issues. I didn’t go into some of the key problems that I come across daily in a media organisation, where legacy commissioning structures, budget release and content silo’s cause even more process problems – the ever so present issue of ‘multiplatform’ as an after-thought or very worse case ‘a marketing campaign’ to draw users back to the tent pole tv or film property. That I will leave for another day/post.

One thing I and other enlightened multiplatform producers oft talk about is the parallel production process. By that I mean that for truly integrated cross-channel or merged media story driven products, the best process is where they all run in parallel. They still keep to their own rigid production sequence but wherever possible, they run together. So concepts and stories across Film, Multiplatform and Games are mapped out at the same time. The overall planning and pre-production are hand-in-hand and so on. I tried to find a map/chart of how this could work on the web but drew a blank, so I tried to fill that blank in for my talk. But even this only went so far. So the 1st diagram below is an initial stab at what an ideal production process might look like. Each of the components within the 6 stages across the 3 key media types, synchronised.

Parallel Production

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