Was invited to be on some panels and do a keynote at an ABC mini conference. It was called Radio Beyond Radio and had a focus on new ways to tell stories, ideally audio/radio driven. But there was a personal tension, wearing three hats simultaneously, particularly delivering the keynote. One hat coming from and representing TV Multi Platform , another wanting to be progressively multi media and strategic, to go beyond the ‘now’ and finally a 3rd hat, personally as an experimental audiophile – and just show a bunch of ‘cool’ multi platform audio projects. But in the end I decided to mostly stay above just pulling out sparkly toys or remain tightly aligned to near term TV services and try to answer the age old question – what is the real value in doing anything beyond the linear. What follows is my slides and below an approximate transcript of my talk.
Hello – thanks for inviting me to speak at this weeks event. My talk this morning explores the hybrid world of multi platform storytelling and I hope justifies why all creators need to be involved.vThere is something magical afoot. Alchemy defined as “any magical power or process of transmuting a common substance, usually of little value, into a substance of great value”. Sublime new ways to deliver stories across media channels. Alongside this we have basic chemistry. A science rather than an art. Using tried and tested formula, rinse and repeat digital.
The Transmedia Value Proposition.
Is it just about numbers or deeper engagement? Is it about support for linear properties or truly about how users influence and resonate with stories? Is it about creating loyalty, building communities, telling stories in cool ways, making money, reach, promotion, transformation, or all of the above? Multi platform falls into two simple camps. One. Last minute digital wrappers to help promote or support a linear property or Two. Something that exists on its own, isolated, limited reach with experimental, fail forward intentions. Yes it is still perceived that way by ‘the industry’ which prefers it’s audience to consume passively and in great numbers A rather unfocused and immature form. A transmedia youngster, nervously skipping across main stream film, tv and radio on the newly surfaced rocks of social media, mobile apps, games, physical events and next gen web sites. It’s a new story delivery mechanism still trying to gain widespread recognition. Something of a big risk if it ventures too far from a parental-like, well know ‘branded’ linear property. From my perspective this youngster is about 17 years old. An age based on widespread adoption of online in the mid to late 90s and a little later when I was presenting much the same 360 issues at the BBC. A time when the internet could just about stream low rez video, when one to one chat services were stumbling along and everything we have today was but a distant dream. 17 years on we still we face the same, adoption, issues.
Barriers to Points of Entry
Even though many trials have taken place such as one of my earliest at the BBC here, where a 40 day live web journey across Central Asia in 1997 was a combination of radio, 2 way web, TV, world service news and so on, large media organisations still often looking for the cheapest ‘easiest multi platform routes’. One of the biggest hurdles in early stage, integration discussions with traditional producers are the obligatory questions – ‘its too complex – a black art’, ‘why bother – I don’t use the stuff personally’, ‘we don’t want to detract from the show’, ‘it’s too expensive’ and the most important one which I want to tackle head on today is the old doozy ‘what will we really get in return’?
But first the bad news…
There are many reasons we need to find ROI with transmedia. Digital distribution in various ways has caused the rapid decline of traditional media industries. Music reduced to a 3rd in less than a decade. Print and it’s lifeblood advertising has struggled through to the late 00s and then just collapsed. We are are still seeing the fall out of that today and certain parts of the TV industry are already being caught out – in 2011 cable in the US, reached a downward tipping point. And radio of course is starting to hear the tribal drums as online radio in the form of Pandora takes the lead in most of the key markets in the US in mid 2012. Do we have to accept that ‘the internet’ is irrevocably eroding these decades old media industries that have been built on scarcity and high quality, or is there an alternative? The world in the 1970s looked very simple. TV, Cinema, Video Games, Radio all with clear, defined markets. But things have transformed dramatically…
Lowest Common Elements
The media landscape has fragmented. Traditional media has been distilled to its lowest common element – basic chemistry has reduced it to video, audio, text. Stories now need to remove their single platform roots and be accessible everywhere – to travel across new media landscapes. To quote Tim Kring – Producers must fish where the fish are. Some producers already realise that reach now has an altered meaning – we as creators have to reach out and connect to audiences, treat them as equal users, spread across a sea of platforms. The big transition I believe started in earnest in 2006 when of course YouTube and a couple of fledgling social networks started to take root. It was a world where within a year or two, everyone could become creator and distributer.
and there was an uneasy feeling – digital and social media was hijacking our traditional media channels and yes since then four key forces have been building up steam. Ubiquitous social media, users sharing content and conversation everywhere. On demand transformed TV, Radio & Press into video, audio and text respectively. Mobile means users are always on, with their personalised, content filters at their side. And transmedia, an expectation of following stories and services across multi platforms.
Responding to Now User Behaviour
Fast forwarding to today. Key user research from Google last week found that 90% of all media interactions are unsurprisingly screen based. Radio and print have all but lost their ‘points of interaction’ for many and the main media screen in the home does not even have our full attention anymore. Three quarters of TV viewers are ‘focusing’ on secondary devices at the same time. But rather than seeing this as a threat can we turn the parallel 2nd screen behaviour into an opportunity? More later
But as well as consuming our content, fans are creating it themselves – more related branded content in fact than the media owners and distributers. But rather than property owners getting lost in the noise lets accept that UGC (whatever you think of it) is an opportunity – we should encourage collaborators?
The L Word half a decade ago got 20 000 avid fans to co-write, steered by the official writers. Ratings for the show went up by 51% and the sites during that period had over 3 million views. Since the early days of file sharing many users, oblivious to rights, now get the content when they want. So lets make it easy for them to get it. iview is ABC’s catch-up service and now spread across web, mobile and connected TV, for some shows its numbers of watched streams are starting to rival broadcast numbers. The increase in mobile viewing is also destined to overtake desktop web viewing early next year and by 2014 be at three quarters use. The demand for on-demand can be used to producers advantage. And the power of mobile can be tamed with a clear value proposition for both users and creators by enabling the need to share. Our Good Game mobile app was launched in April 2012 – in one year there were 500 reviews on the desktop site – in the first week of the app launch there were over 31 000 reviews!
Simultaneous Complementary Users
Other emergent behaviour in the multi platform space is parallel viewing. With over 85% of TV watching in the US with a connected device. This opens up tremendous opportunites that is not lost on … hundreds of 2nd screen and social TV services springing up around the world to take some of the activity from Twitter and general browsing. During the premiere of the Walking Dead there were over 8.5 million social impressions. This conversation is a way to both measure the effectiveness of your show but also become part of the buzz. As newly appointed Product Development Manager in Multi Platform TV I am creating the ABC’s 2nd screen companion app that will have great program info and social features but key to its attraction will be its deeper-than-other-2nd-screen-services, editorial integration with with ABC shows. Heres a little OTT trailer of the prototype…
2nd screen story formats are evolving and are definitely a new form. Of particular interest is simultaneous usage where rather than moving between platforms our attention is shared. We can certainly learn from a decade of single screen interactive TV. Where since my production of BBC’s digital text service in 1999 the BBC has delivered hundreds of enhanced programs in over a decade and earned user Trust in its Red Button services – a value proposition, which across in the various single screen iTV are reaching over 12 million users a week and growing
Social Game TV
Part of finding actual value in multi platform services is carefully thinking about where users are spending their screen time, but also how to extend brands into services that span at least 3 of these screens. The power of TV branded social games. Pawn Stars averages 200 000 unique players per day – a quarter of a billion plays since launch. A Facebook game that can be played and continued across platforms – certainly not true transmedia which as well as defined as distinct story elements across platforms could be defined by this Latitude Research paper.
Where it looked at key features described by users who wanted much richer modes of storytelling. Immersive, true interactivity, integration with the real world and impact in their own lives. Truly experiential services are extremely hard to create but when you put in the time and effort… You are rewarded with extraordinary engagement. Some of the most popular, albeit marketing focused, alternate reality games have had millions of players locked into experiential story for weeks. The ultimate actual value? But getting users involved doesn’t have to be big production numbers. Here a super low budget film created a cause, got people to demand screenings (we all like to be part of something bigger than ourselves) and turned a 15k movie into a 150 million box office.
Multi Platform without a Cause
Causes don’t have to be monetarily driven- over 4 000 players joined a global movement in Tim Kring’s Conspiracy for Good with real charities and real world outcomes woven into the narrative and half a million downloads of the mobile game. Experiences do not have to take place in the real world of course. This new format called Rides TV from 4th Wall Studios in the US plays with the idea that almost like radio, in that stories reach out of the screen. This visual story plays out in online video but characters communicate with you to your email, via real phone calls and social networks – a dramatic bridge that draws you into the narrative by actually breaking the 4th wall and moving the story into your own reality.
Effective integration with the show is critical to achieve perceived value. Alongside BBC’s The Code a range of online games brought people into the show’s story world – over 1 million players took part in the code cracking games linked to the show and ending in top players actually physically going to the home of code breaking, Bletchly. Significantly over 100 000 actually played over several weeks and of course watched the actual program to progress. It is important to alter ones approach to new types of experiences particularly across the mobile and social revolution. Some are working on the principle of rather than construct an expensive story world, why not layer story elements over the real world. Much like the already common audio museum tour, but far more story centric.
Layer your stories across the users world
ABC have also dipped their toes into situated storytelling and ABC Pool have created a similar offering to PhillyHistory – placing content in location for others to explore. The perceived value is a lot higher than the actual but that is about to change. Beacon Hill is another simple but very effective murder mystery audio walking tour around Boston. In Australia there have been similar ones, China Heart for example looking at Sydney’s immigrant story in China Town. But situated story is not just the domain of the audio drama professional. Broadcastr allows any user to create their own audio story spread around their location. A deeper value in being able to share their human story with the world, on the world, for posterity? Likewise services like History Pin and TagWhat allow users to leave images and audio stories in location around the globe for others to view using the web and smartphones in location. Locative services are new and certainly hard to recoup development costs yet, in this evolved multi platform space, promotional use is never far behind – scvngr (a create your own physical world hunt) is already generating large amounts of revenue because of extremely well done brand integrations – such as with Dexter and Inception TV and Film properties.
New Ways to Connect
New interfaces offer new ways to connect ourselves to users and unless we watch the spread of these carefully we may be caught out. We are not far from wearable browsers. As many organisation struggle to create responsive design (where you build once and the content reformats itself) new interfaces are appearing as fast. As mobile music moved from ghetto blaster to in ear headphones – what of the mobile visual browsing ? and the interface is getting closer and closer to the eyes. But out of scope for this presentation! and so is this – although I have one at home and nearly have it trained to read my mind!
In summary. There is actual value of putting our stories everywhere. Users expect it now and to lock content down to single platforms is suicide for any media organisation. To borrow three points from Google’s recent research. Avoid mobile services as the trigger at your peril. Sequential usage means carefully mapping user journeys and be strategic to each channel individually.
It is critical to have a vision, a path to follow in this altered landscape, without it you will always get lost in a jungle that is sprouting new plants at every turn. If you do not know where you are headed in this constantly changing world you will find yourself going around in circles and/or simply disappearing for good. In this evolved media landscape there is something far worse than failing, and that’s not even trying.