Feb 162016
 
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Long time no post. I know, bad blogger but prompted to write a little post on today’s announcement from the BBC that it is abolishing it’s ‘Divisions – TV and Radio’. Division is the operative word here as I have written about in some of my last posts (eg Mediocre Broadcaster MultiPlatform) the silo walls that traditional broadcasters have built up are the main reason ‘they’ have become more and more irrelevant to evolved multi-platform, personalized audiences.

“In what is being billed as the most far-reaching organisational overhaul in the BBC’s 93-year history, Lord Hall will give a speech before Easter in which he will unveil proposals to axe the corporation’s existing channel-based structures, fundamentally reshaping the organisation into content and audience-led divisions.” Telegraph article

I worked at the BBC for over 8 years when it was going through another major transformation, the introduction of digital, interactive tv and the internet. I recall many meetings as senior development producer with senior management looking at new ways to create cross-platform content, and perhaps do away with these silly political divisions based on distribution vs audience centricity. So here we are almost 20 years later and finally the game is afoot.

The major transformation that has happened with the ubiquitous new medium called broadband has meant audiences can now get what they want on their own terms, not slaves to schedules or broadcasters second guessing what audiences want. The advent of Netflix (and similar) recently means we are finally living into the age of Personalization (which has been the foundation of this blog since 2006 – spend some time in the archives and you will see many prescient articles) – so organisations that split their content based on receiving boxes (TV screen and Radio receiver) are way behind the curve.

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Audiences, or users, do not differentiate now between these antiquated, dated devices, they press a button and get, video stream to any device, audio (video without the moving stuff) to any device AND lots of pictures, interactive games/education, personally relevant content and great textual stories.

“New divisions may include BBC Entertain, which will absorb Radio 2 and televised entertainment program, and BBC Inform, in which news services and other radio stations like Five Live will be found. Each new division will have smaller ones underneath it such as BBC Youth (a subdivision of BBC Entertain), which will include the online channel BBC Three and popular music station Radio 1.”  Digital Trends

What Next?

It is the non-passive content where ‘traditional’ broadcasters still need to up their game. Forget the endless tomes written about ‘new gaseous distribution’, that is patently obvious, we need to move beyond billions of people passively watching streams, binging on five of the same show back to back in an evening, a public service broadcasters role is to inform through interaction, not just slick, expensive natural history passive programmes. But I digress. I loved the BBC when I was there. It was trying to pioneer new forms of content, new ways to engage an audience. I am sure that breaking the organisation into Entertain, Inform and Youth (which were silos bandied around back in the late 1990s too!) is a step in the right direction. The next challenge is to really encourage innovative proposals which go beyond video stream, audio stream and a web page and connect with their future mobile, personalized users. I have a mental library of ways they and other broadcasters, who are likely to follow suit, can do that.

Next post – The Emperors Clothes in Virtual Reality….

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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May 132012
 

 

 

Presenting Media140 - Photo: The Cut Creative, Perth

I keynoted at the Media140 conference three weeks ago (26 Apr 2012) wearing my ABC Exec Producer TV Multi Platform hat. Now responsible for non-kids ABC TV online & mobile offerings & TV mobile and social strategy my 20 minute talk was rather focused on the high level challenges for broadcasters trying to truly integrate fiction, factual and entertainment with social, mobile and 2nd screen (or synch services). The transcript, slideshare and more ore detail follow but first…

Absent note

…apologies to regular readers for my long absence from post on this blog. I started an ABC role back in October which overlapped with me running the Screen Australia StoryLabs weeks and as well as tidying up and finishing a range of commercial projects meant actually talking/blogging about all the stuff I have been doing in long form, has been tricky – plus there are confidentialities to take into account. The adage certainly holds true those who can, do, those who can’t, write long blog posts or podcasts on the topic 🙂 Might get flamed on that one, but I think having an hour or two to sit and post is a luxury. In other full time roles I still manage to provide a commentary into the cloud but the ABC is particularly under resourced in multi platform areas with many folk working beyond the call of duty. I am also taking advantage of my partner Laurel Papworthaway, spending a few weeks on a pilgrimage across the Camino in Spain, and doing very well with it.

Talk intro – the challenge, the hybrid and the prototyping

Also like most big media organisations the ABC is a mirror of the external larger world itself. There are silo’s, politics, technical differences across the divisions, resource scarcity, diluted budgets and linear controllers / commissioners who all need to be sold on the importance of Multi Platform and the potential of different types of services. But that means a good part of my role inside the ABC is very similar to my BBC Senior Dev Producer role, to evangelise but also implement new services. That means I am exposed to the key challenges in terms of merging or hybridising broadcast and on-demand TV with some of the key driving forces outside a broadcasters world. Without drilling down into the detail (or breaking any confidentiality!) the top level challenges for all traditionally one-way media organisations is:

  • Sorry too busy to talk – We don’t have enough people resources, social media staff, to engage in widespread, authentic, editorial conversation with our audience/users
  • Bolt on effect – Our massive internal technical infrastructure/s can’t be glued to always new, transient, multiple external services/APIs
  • That’s they way it is done – We have decades old editorial & commissioning processes in place and until any big multi-platform ‘story-telling’ breakthroughs we will need convincing of a reason for changing that
  • Multi platform and social media is really about marketing isn’t it and therefore warrants those types of relatively small budgets
  • Sure everyone is shifting attention to mobile & social but until there is zero people watching our main channels we have a job to do!
  • Rights are not set up for multi platform, period. Expensively produced linear video leads, the rest follows, still.
  • and the list goes on and on

Ok I am being a little provocative and at the ABC, I and many others are very aware of the challenges and getting on with the changes required. Alongside managing producers and resources I am able to run group workshops internally with the key show creatives and together (vs telling what we should be doing!) to slowly move forward. I also have a great role in developing working prototypes (and final services) of synchronous 2nd screen and social mobile services. Being several months into these,  I also refer to at the end of my talk of the key differences between vanilla social TV, content owner social TV, content owner driven 2nd screen storytelling and the hybrid of all of them. When someone is engaged with a great synch story experience of say tablet against TV it makes absolute sense to include social elements, for them to invite and share that experience.

I also mentioned in the talk and interviews around it about the need for content owners and broadcasters to be driving the 2nd screen experience – these have to be truly integrated story experience and although there is value in trying to layer or bolt on these synchronous services. Although voting, polling, surveying type services can work, ideally with presenter driven call to actions, many well written pieces of video do not have much ‘space’ for the interaction (or parallel narratives to ideally slot in). There are two arguments to that. Firstly formulaic storytelling combined with the distractions our already existing 2nd screen habit means we are constantly snacking on our 2nd screen anyway and ‘missing’ the important bits of the show. Secondly, in a world where on-demand, when you want it, watching is so ubiquitous, I am devising several formats where the linear video is simple paused and the interactive component has its own space to breathe in this time frozen moments. I am suggesting in all my meetings with show creatives that if possible, the best approach is to design from the ground up. But that then moves into eons old ‘commissioning’ processes and for now I won’t go there, perhaps later…OK onto the talk

Hello, Good Morning and Welcome

It was great to be in Perth again with a very enthusiastic crowd, which speaking to the folks there, encompassed most of the digital fraternity it seemed. There were many folk live blogging the event and my talk (e.g.: Sarah Tierney and Matthew Allen), I did a few small interviews (e.g.: Western Australian / Yahoo)  and at least 60% of the audience tweeting. Media140 is the brainchild of Andrew Gregson and the event was very well organised, technically and management wise. The slides below were presented on my new iPad (3) so hopefully the formatting came across OK. Transcription follows the slides

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Jan 022012
 

Originally published (& cross translated?) Oct 2011 in Wired Magazine ‘Change Accelerators‘ by Gary Hayes 5 of 5

Image by Gary Hayes

“Anyone up to battle aliens at the local museum tonight?”

It might sound like a farfetched idea at the moment, but this question may soon be another option rather than the old invitation to go see the latest 3D blockbuster at the Cineplex. The previous four posts talked about major experiential paradigm shifts, where more and more people desire to be ‘inside their entertainment’ —literally. The need to watch a show or read a good book in isolation will never go away, but right now, a new form of immersive entertainment is taking hold that sees users hyper active online and more and more participatory outside of their homes in unique, social story locative experiences. These shifts leads us to confront some basic questions, like, “What is an experience?” and “Are some experiences more engaging than others?” as well as some not-so-basic ones, the all-important, “Who will create all these new experiences?”

Designing any new media format is challenging, especially when the goal is to create highly engaging pervasive entertainment, that is more compelling than what already exists. Since the grammar has not yet been invented, for many, it presents a quantum creative leap. Right now, there is still conflicting opinion about what to call these new types of distributed stories—and let’s not mention the transmedia wars!

One of the greatest challenges for professional storytellers, who are accustomed to traditional linear plots, is to transition into a new platform. Rather than writing straight lines to be delivered from a stationary stage or studio, they are now being pushed to create content for a shifting stage or multiple shifting stages at once— often in different cities or time zones. Given the growing appetite for this type of connected, collaborative, dynamic content, the well-established line between audience and producer is becoming increasingly blurred. Right now it remains to be seen if conventional storytellers will adapt to these new demands, or if they will be outpaced by users themselves. User who are as voracious (and in some cases as adept) in creating content as they are in their insatiable consumption of it.

I was trawling the web the other week looking for a good description of levels of experience and how to design for them. What I discovered, however, is that, much like the missing lexicon, there isn’t a lot of science to this yet either. To fill the gap for now, I created a diagram to explore increasing levels of experience or engagement: It begins at the first level of physicality as the least complex and builds its way up through mental engagement, then social inclusion, and finally the emotional and spiritual levels. These last two being the hardest ones to deliver. Narrative games, like L.A. Noire and the earlier Heavy Rain and Indigo Prophesy, are brave examples of games trying to develop emotional, interactive responses (albeit skipping most of the real social & physical elements).

For audiences in the developed world, 3D and 4/5D cinema is gradually moving into the home and has the potential to make box office visits unnecessary – not worth the added effort. Audiences are starting to expect more value and more payoff for their play time (and trouble): For many, a trip out of the house to be entertained is a transmedia experience in itself. This forces new entertainment providers to seriously take these “audience journeys” into consideration. Likewise, since marketers have begun to tell more interesting stories across places and platforms, traditional writers need to get up to speed on these changes as well. Take for example, a recent holographic product display for Lego. These types of interactive promotional events work to increase the expectations across the board for what is possible in terms of entertainment.

However, film is also slowly catching up. The internationally renowned artists’ group, Blast Theory created a locative cinema project called A Machine to See With, which is a good early evolutionary example. Less about sensory immersion and more about a healthy combination of imagination and locative storytelling, the project allowed viewers to “live” inside a cinematic story unfolding on the streets of Brighton, England. According to the San Jose Biennale last year, the experience mixed documentary material, stolen thriller clichés, and the films of Jean-Luc Godard to let participants walk through the city and receive phone calls, stepping into bit parts or leading roles.

These steps are evidence that now would be a good time for these types of indie projects to start receiving the big-budget attention that clunkers like Phone Booth did. Entertainment is truly moving toward a variation of the infamous Star Trek Holodeck, a complete surround experience that fools our brains into thinking “this is really happening” or “we are really there.” Experiences can either be delivered through layered digital storyworlds, or peppered your everyday life through fragments and bits so that your real world starts to become the storyworld.

Parallel to this transmedia trend, there are complete virtual screen environments of game driven and socially focused spaces known as MMOGs (massively multiplayer online games). These alternate “worlds” are host millions of peoples ‘minds’, melded into the characters they are playing. Many approach a game with the same gravity as a method actor taking on a new role, wholly losing themselves in an alternate reality. The way people interact with these virtual selves is also rapidly changing – making new interface technologies like the Xbox Kinect and iPad/tablets some of the fastest-selling items in history.

These new forms of entertainment will require creators to become writers of place and time, creating relevant and game-like personal experiences. Let’s imagine a simple future? You are at home watching a story experience teaser on your surround 3D head mounted display. You decide to rent it with some friends and project it on your wall-size, AR home cinema screen. It sets up the challenges; you all become the heroes. You all don in-earphones and sporty AR glasses, which have tiny cameras connected to a 6G network that point out and down, tracking the external world, as well as body movements and speech.

You undergo a physical and mental training exercise in your home to prepare for the outdoor challenges. You walk outside and start to explore your city. The open park becomes a fully rendered fantasy environment; urban streets and buildings are layered with story and critical game information. You have X-ray vision; you can see inside coffee shops and stores. Past and future scenes play out before your eyes. You talk to digitally rendered, artificially intelligent characters who respond to specific questions. You work as a team and add your own story challenges. An iBrain scan afterwards let you record your experience for others in 3D.

Welcome to your personal experiential entertainment Holodeck. Of course, you can turn it off at any time and read a good book or watch a film. But that’s so 2011.

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