Feb 282011
 

Mid 2010 draft catch-up post – What will it mean when we all use a handful or even just one device to consume ‘all’ our media? Will we also use it to share ‘all’ our content, pushing it to large, dumb screens around us? When we talk about transmedia we often mean, telling a complex story across many platforms used by many users, objects and screens, perhaps partly in a book, on a TV show, inside Facebook on the PC, in a console game or at the cinema  – but what will happen if all our personal media is consumed only on one screen? A world where TV is not about home screens, where Facebook is not about desk or laptop PCs and the most used games are not on chunky, dedicated consoles?

This is article is not a resurrection of the dreaded, old school (circa late 90s) convergence debate but something much more akin to the Trojan Horse saga. We are palpably moving into a space where a certain medium size screen, portable device, connected, personal & social is slowly permeating our world. As powerful and practical as all the other gadgets & screens we have gotten used to the 7-10″ tablet is has hit a sweet spot. Already the fastest selling device of all time, the iPad has caused a storm, the dam holding the waters back has leaks and other similar devices are starting to trickle out, but the dam is about to burst and we will be flooded in the next year as these tactile hybrids of smartphones and laptops seep into our daily lives – once again 🙂

Painting Original: The Marriage of the Virgin by Raphael. Public Domain

But will we converge towards this swiss army media device? Does it fulfil all our video, game, communication, work & social needs?  More specifically, just as we are starting to master the ‘Art of transmedia Storytelling’ are we now looking at a mono device future? Will the art of transmedia storytelling turn into telling our stories across services and channels on a ‘single’ device rather than across multiple devices and platforms?

Context

Almost half a decade ago I did a post called Media Journeys Part 2 that explored a simple evolution of media technology from cinema at the start of the last century through to the portable revolution of the mid noughties. That post implied a device that would be a screen, with a quality good enough to view films on, portable, tactile, connected, communicative and powerful enough to play networked & graphically rich games on. This post completes that train of thought and asks a key question – are online tablets the end point of a 100 years of platform evolution and more significantly can we actually expect to see a decline in the number of ‘discrete’ platforms available to transmedia producers?

The Evolution Timeframe

Firstly the timeframe. As explained in my earlier post the most useful timeframe for this ‘postulation’ is the last 110 years – from the dawn of mass media communication and non text based story-telling (film). There has been a compression of the evolution in the last twenty years, so the curved template below reflects that year-wise. The reason the chart is curved is to allow my five key trends to converge visually.


Convergence Media Tablets

Evolution of the Human Interface

Convergence Media Tablets

One thing I didn’t cover in the post from five years ago was the evolution of interface which reflects how the technology has become sufficiently powerful enough for us to need to do less ‘unnatural fiddling’ at the ‘control’ end and use our bodies more naturally – less of a slave to qwerty or cross, square, circle, triangle (PS reference!)…a continuum (each number corresponds with the icon sequence, left to right, on the chart)

  1. The remote or keyboard – Alongside the TV in the 1950s the button based infrared remote control was born and a decade plus later early QWERTY keyboards were used (using strange alien languages) to communicate with computers. The remote is still with us today but as we know a revolution is about to take place there.
  2. The mouse – The PC’s popularity spread quickly when the Mac was born in the early 1980s and the computer mouse became the norm for how we interact with complex lean forward screens vs rather clunky text entry using QWERTY keyboards.
  3. The controller – When game consoles entered the living room in the mid 80s more complex controllers were required
  4. Voice – although still not universal, voice controlled PCs became usable for dictation and basic control in the late 90s
  5. Touch – Touchscreens were suddenly on every device from 2005 onwards and today any portable device that is not touch feels very antiquated
  6. Body – at the end of 2010 XBox Kinect led the way for popular use of the whole body to interact with games, of course Sony and others had launched similar interfaces many years earlier, but the 3D sensing of kinect raised the bar significantly
  7. Mind – (future only) having played with controllers such as Emotiv we can certainly look to a time where using parts of our body will seem so old fashioned, but that is another evolution diagram

Items 4 to 7 are of course sensory, based on natural human movement & communication.

So we need a device that responds to my touch, I can wave it around so it gets a good sense of the GPS environment it is in, as well as controlling games or measuring my physicality and without a mouse or remote in sight.

Evolution of Film and TV Viewing Screens

Continue reading »

Jan 182009
 

3202996043_3a42cea2a0 I don’t know what is in the blogosphere water at the moment but every day for the last 6 months or so we seem to get a new list or top 10/20/25/50. They seem to fall into 1 of 4 categories.

  1. The best of’s – Ordered lists based on some open or secret formula of the good, bad an ugly personalities or online sites.
  2. Great tools/software – Really simple pointers to applications that are going to make your online life easier.
  3. Tips/tricks – A plethora in this category as we all want to list our prioritized strategies for engagement, ROI, KPI, SYF and other acronyms.
  4. Case Studies – we all want to know what is working and who is making Social Media, PR, Marketing etc: work.

I have nothing against lists per se as to many new entrants they are very useful ‘bookmark’ fodder or research or creating ‘Link Juice’ ® and getting ‘linked’ to the top influencers/sites etc: but the reasons they are created follow a rather predictable pattern. First the top ‘anythings’ attract us generally – knowing the best examples in any field will help us ‘enter’ that field. Secondly in a linked online world, all those links out draw the same people to your list to check out ‘where they are’ – they will then often re-blog your list and add endless comments of thanks, what about so and so plus quite a few moaners about ‘how unfair the system is!”.

BTW the picture top right is me just playing with my new Canon 5D MkII (*distant shouts of show off*)

But generally it is, like the Oscars, a virtuous circle – award winning, creates more award potential. For any new Social Media entrant, throw a top 20 list together over breakfast and watch the technorati links come in – even if you don’t really have a clue about anythong on the list your creating! Thirdly being seen creating a list suggests, contrary to point 2, that you know so much about your area you can actually filter, rate and rank ‘all’ the masses of activity in that space. Many lists use a mashup of traditional SEO type ratings (links in/out, longevity etc) but we still need to get to a point where subscribers and more importantly true engagement (how many comments and how much time the ‘auteur’ spends in conversation with his/her readers – Laurel Papworth has just done a comprehensive post No Comments? No Engagement, on this).

DRUM ROLL

So without further ado here is a list of my top (plucks figure out of the air) 25 lists/top ofs/best of’s lists (Social Media, Marketing, Media and some Australian ones thrown in). I have used a special algorithm (roughly if the list has lots of pretty colours and has me in it!) a rating from 0 to 100 and then the associated position. Seriously, it is ranked by me on the science behind the list, how extensive and global and if it looks ‘real’ vs political (sure you know what I mean here). Plus elements of timeliness, if the lists are dynamic or a manual operation every month or so.

But I hope you find it useful,  the list ranking is the number at the end of the first line – *sits back and watches the links & comments come in 🙂 Or have we reached saturation point already!*

1 – The Power 150 Media & Marketing from AdAge 92

Not really 150 but now approaching 1000 blogs/sites, a dynamic list (I like those) based on many of the key web measurements systems (technoratic, google, alexa etc) “The Power 150 is a ranking of the top English-language media and marketing blogs in the world, as developed by marketing executive and blogger, Todd Andrlik.” Also check out MediaHunters blog, he has filtered out Australians on the list (snapshot only).

2 – Best Internet Marketing Posts of 2008 by Tamar Weinberg at Techipedia 91

A fabulously researched list of the best articles (cause that’s what thought provoking longer form posts are) on Social Media & Marketing “In the Internet Marketing Best Posts “series,” I take posts that are typically timeless — they’re not confined to a specific event or news occurrence — they’re valuable for the long haul in terms of Internet Marketing and creative strategy. Hopefully, you’ll see that these posts are still relevant in a few years down the road.”

3 – Top 50 iPhone (jailbroken!) Applications by Doug at Installer Apps 89

There are hundreds of iPhone lists popping up – that look a lot like this one. But this top 50 involved the iPhone modding community in a big way so thumbs up from me! “The list is the top 50 applications for the jailbroken iPhone and iPod Touch. If you’re looking for a top list of ‘official iPhone apps’ then refer to the 2 links at the top of this post. I have taken the data from the iPhone Apps you all have rated. . .tweaked the list a little(adding some apps not listed here). . .and here is the massive list.”

4 – Internet Marketing Top Blogs – The Ultimate Rankings – from Winning the Web 88

Tracking over 300 blogs – IM Top Blogs uses a variety of important metrics when ranking sites on the list: Feedburner, Alexa, Complete Rank, Technorati, Google PageRank, Yahoo, Stumble, delicious, Winning Web links and user votes. These 10 quality factors are weighted according to their importance and then combined in a way to give each blog a relative score in points (out of 1,000). This comprehensive points system is used to accurately rank each blog on the list.

5 – The Twitter Power 150 from A Source of Inspiration 87

Based on a secret TwitterRank algorithm and is a bit of a mashup between AdAge Power150 and Twitterank  “the January 2009 list for the top 150 twitter users with advertising and marketing blogs”

6 – Top 100 Australian Blogs Index – by BigPond (Meg at BlogPond) 85

Although an ‘all areas’ list, I like this one because Meg actually tells you the formula (albeit very few ingredients) – useful if you want to try and game…I mean improve your rating! For now the secret recipe  “The Index can be explained as follows. I have taken three variables – AU = Alexa Rank in Australia, X = Global Alexa Rank, T = Technorati Rank and applied a formula – which is (3 x AU + X + T) /5.”

7 – Top Ranking Social Media Websites by Michelle MacPhearson 84

Probably the only ‘top’ list that has an accompanying video! Michelle has some very practical 101 link building & SEO  tips on her site “These are the top ranking social media websites that you should focus your link building efforts on.”

8 – 50 Best Web 2.0 Travel Tools by Christina Laun 83

There is a bit of a collection growing in this series and they are all pretty good. From Christina on the travel tools “Travel tools on the Web have continued to evolve, taking in all that Web 2.0 has to offer, and enhancing the ability to share information, work creatively and increase collaboration between users and companies”

9 – BIGLIST of Search Marketing Blogs by Top Rank 83

OK not particularly ordered, just a very Top Rank editor’s BIGLIST of SM and marketing blogs, alphabetically. A good resource, but not really a “best of”? – “…a collection of over 400 blogs maintained by the staff at TopRank Online Marketing. This edited list includes blogs that cover a range of internet marketing topics ranging from SEO (search engine optimization) and PPC (pay per click) to blog marketing, marketing with social media and online public relations.”

10 – Top Mobile Social Networks Services & Applications by Laurel Papworth 82

A particularly large growth area. This directory site is a great starter resource for those looking at some of the key applications across the mobile social web. “This is a directory list of all known mobile social networks for cellphone and mobile devices. Well, known to me, Laurel Papworth anyway. I compiled a couple of hundred social network services for the cellphone and mobile devices in mid 2007 for a presentation at WebDirections on Mobile Social Networks. In 2006 ish I was posting on GPSLocationBasedService any gps mobile stuff on social networks I could find. In 2007 I used MyMobilePals. I’m now merging those two sites into this directory list of mobile social networks.”

11 – Second Life in perspective: A round-up of 50 virtual worlds by Dan Taylor 81

One of the best early lists showing how widespread virtual worlds are becoming – and there are a lot in this category also. This list contains lots of useful subscriber information but also has online games. Of course I did my own post and popular Virtual World video list (of sorts) a few months ago here. From Dan “the below round-up of 50 virtual worlds, ranked by approximate user numbers. Gleaned from a wide range of different sources, they are mostly self-reported and cover a multitude of differing definitions. I’ve tried to reconcile the figures wherever possible to try and reflect number of active users rather than number of avatars or visitors to the website, although many will still be way off base.”

12 – 50 Top Niche Social Media Sites, and Their Power Accounts from Kolbrener 78

…below is a list of 50 niche social news sites and their power accounts. You could contact a few power accounts the next time you have a piece of news you want to get out. You could join a small community and become a power account yourself. Or you could just check the list out for a few new interesting sites to visit.

13 – Top 25 Ways to Tell if Your Social Media Expert Is a Carpetbagger from The Buzz Bin 77

As a result, there are many, many companies, agencies and consultants rushing to offer social media services. Unfortunately, they don’t know what they’re doing

14 – 10 of the Best Social Media Tools for PR Professionals and Journalists from Mashable 76

In the ever-evolving world of social media, public relations professionals (PR) and journalists have more opportunities than ever to build strong relationships.

15 – Top 42 Content Marketing Blogs from Junta42 74

Junta42 is a search community site focused on content marketing and custom publishing solutions. If it’s content about content, from blogs to articles to podcasts to videos, you’ll find it here.

16 -Top Social Media Sites by Prelovac 72

Only based on Alexa but a nice long list and nicely coded with column sorting. This is a good exercise in php/Alexa and all about deciding what should be included “This is the comprehensive list of best Social Media and Social Bookmarking sites. I have sorted it by Alexa ranking which roughly represents the popularity of website.”

17 – Top 150 Social Media Marketing Blogs by eCairn 71

Bit of a URL dump but based on one of those ‘secret algorithms’. “We just implemented our “influence ranking algorithm”. So we ran it against the ~1000 ’social media marketing’ blogs we monitor on an ongoing basis (along with tweets, forums, Q&As…) – The influence algorithm used for the ranking is purely link based. Its uniqueness is that we are only counting the links within the dataset of blogs that are part of the community, both blogroll and direct links.”

18 – Australian CEO’s that Twitter by Laurel Papworth 69

Another list only, but given Twitter’s growth and engagement a very important one from a national standpoint. It contains over 40 examples with links to their Twitter accounts. Be interested in other country’s version of this from Laurel ” Want a list of Australian CEOs that are on ? Scroll to the bottom. Business Week have a piece on each CEO that uses the so-called ‘microblogging’ service . I don’t like the term micro-blogging when applied to as it’s less of a one-to-many asynch depth of content site like a video blog or a multimedia blog and more of a few-to-few synchronous chat channel.”

19 – Top 25 Web 2.0 Apps to Grow your Business from Aviva 69

“In this guide we cover the 25 best web2.0 applications for entrepreneurs who are looking for simple, cheap, and effective solutions to solving some of the tasks facing their small business or startup. The 25 applications selected were chosen both on the basis of their usefulness for the individual small business manager as well as their effectiveness in providing community support and networking opportunities for users”

20 – Top 100 Australian Marketing Pioneer Blogs by Julian Cole 68

Really an Australian subset of AdAges Power150 with a Julian  ‘marketing innovation’ ranking element – “The ranking system is very similar to the AdAge Power 150 methodology…I have also added a Pioneer score (10), this is a subjective score which is scored in terms of the blogs ability to have pioneering thoughts about Marketing. I believe it is our role as Marketing bloggers to discover and inform the rest of the industry about the changing Marketing landscape.”

21 – Australia’s Top 50 Twitter Influencers (aka The Twitterati Top 50) from Shifted Pixels 67

There have been a number of lists posted around the blogosphere about the Top 50 Australian bloggers or Top 100 australian marketing blogs etc. As we couldn’t find an equivalent list for twitter – we put together a list of Australia’s most influential Twitterers. This is a draft version for now and im sure we will release a more accurate version soon.

22 – The Top 50 Social Media Blogs Of The Year 2008 from Evan Carmichael 65

Trying to keep on top of the ever-changing world of social media? Whether you are a marketer, developer, technologist, industry insider, or simply a news lover, this is the list for you

23 – 50 of the Most Powerful and Influential Women in Social Media from Immediate Influence 64

Based on Alexa and Twitter nominations only “I asked my twitter friends to nominate people who they thought were some of the most powerful and influential women in Social Media. It was no surprise that they quickly and enthusiastically responded with the list of ladies below”

24 – Social Media Case Studies SUPERLIST- 19 Extensive Lists of Organizations Using Social Media from Interactive Insights Group 63

OK getting spooky now, lists within lists within lists…A great way to get ideas for how your organization can use social media is to check out what others are doing. Here are 18 sites below (and one book) that will get you started.

25 – Top 12 Communications, Marketing And Social Media Podcasts from Davefleet.com 61

“If you’re into PR and social media and you’re new to podcasting or are looking for a few new shows to check out, here are my current favourites, in no particular order”

26 – Top 10 WordPress Plugins for Social Media from Traffikd 56

Did I say 25?! Ah well. If you’re a WordPress blogger and you’re looking to use social media to reach more readers, there are plenty plugins to enhance your blog’s optimization for social media. Here are 10 of the best.

So there you go. You made it this far and still conscious. If you have any other great top 10s/20s etc: or other favourite lists please chuck-em into comments for all to see and who knows there may even be an update of this already definitive (hehe) list….

Nov 132006
 

BBC 360 02

ARCHIVE: Just spotted my old collegues Matt Locke and Frank Boyd launching another series of 360 lab initiatives at the BBC. Not much has changed since the labs of 2000 and earlier, when EXACTLY to the day, six years ago I was presenting slides including those on this post to wannabee cross-media BBC producers. Incidentally I have put a selection of my old and new presentations up as a permanent, growing page here if you get the urge. Think it is important to look back on ones crystal ball gazing to constantly hone future predictive media skills.

But back to the cross-media multi-platform conundrum. There are many problems in creating great, audience engulfing services across a sea of devices and these are not going to go away. As I have found out with hundreds of projects I have been involved in, we are on constantly shifting sands as new converged devices, distribution channels and changing audience numbers mean producers have to constantly be on their toes – part storyteller, part trend analyst, part risk taker. I have avoided statistics in this post, but we can take it as read that audiences are constantly fragmenting and using more and more media forms across more and more platforms. Much of the below is based on real world services to real audiences but the lab environments I am involved in are also good (especially LAMP 😉 not necessarily for what comes out of them but for the way it transforms producers – and I get to see their on-going concerns and their future ‘approach’  to dispersed, interconnected and distributed service creation. What follows below is a draft’ish diatribe of cross-media thinking prompted also because I am speaking at a couple of conferences in the next couple of weeks (SPAA and ACMA) on the subject of 360 storytelling and viewer platform trends and with this and my leadership of LAMP I thought I would try to put keyboard-to-blog page and capture some thoughts, concepts and techniques. This helps me too, so note to me!

BBC 360 01

Cross-Media Production

There is quite a lot of mystique surrounding cross-media. As if some kind of black art that only those ‘in the know’ can produce, something very complex that only those with a techhy frame of mind can understand and a new audience who are too hard to reach. In fact cross-media has been with us for many decades, nay centuries and all that has really changed is a exponential growth in the valid distribution channels. It is a problem for traditional media aggregators and creators who are seeing audiences on their main platforms diminish and so, have been for the last decade (since audiences flooded onto the web), trying to create services that pointed back to their main ‘production’. We all know that using alternate platforms to ‘sway’ audiences back to your main ‘channel’ is a dead end street and the only real sustainable course of action is to develop innovative, truly multi-faceted services that work with the cross-media snackers we have become. The important signposts and calls to action across a viewers media device armoury still follow the same rules of engagement and storytelling that existed when an enigmatic poster promoted a theatrical event several centuries ago. Today though the cross media creator has to tackle critical temporal and locative elements and think way beyond passive consumption and become an ‘experience’ designer. This is not just about cross promotion, or extending the story or even complementary elements on each platform, no this is:

“bathing the audience in a sea of your original inextricably linked content across continents of devices, letting them find their own path to live their own story”.

A little personal history

My own foray into cross-media began probably when I was creating, producing and promoting music in the heady Manchester music scene of the 80s. There was nothing black art about doing radio interviews that navigated listeners to a concert or magazines and posters that promoted a record release or the main tryptych of radio to record release to gig (where the record store had a poster of the gig). Of course this was in the days pre-web and mobile phone but there was many and various initiatives that allowed you to preview music on landline telephone calls for example, or the old fashioned in-store promotion kiosks.

When I joined the BBC in 95 the web was in its early days but already TV was promoting the BBC Networking Club in various late night ads. The BBCNC was effectively an ISP and at that point offerred people free internet accounts. Over the years that followed 95-04 I was part of the revolution as the tables were turned and the internet moved from being a partially referred adjunct to in 04 many shows needing to be promoted ‘from’ the internet. We are still at this tipping point and as such anything conceived now will only be a transitional service -  beware those who say they know the future of the cross-media. The first real audience centric cross-media I produced at the BBC was in 97. A netumentary project in Central Asia which was live creation of world and local radio, a 40 day long story website with audio and photos, TV doc filming, daily viewer interaction as well as casual sound games. It was a lesson in making lots of rich-media in real time, which was good training for later on in interactive TV production. I also spent several years leading early thinking in BBC cross-media navigation (which I have referred to in posts before), which was at least seven years before its time!

Alongside the two powerhouses of web and TV there was a slow fragmentation of audiences across a growing range of life devices. I call them life devices because most of the cross-platform revolution came about as consumers took control over when, where and how they get their media. I was lucky to be part of the global thinking about on-demand as well (my tenure as TV-Anytime Business/Audience Model Chair) and the move to content on demand onto portable, IPTV and TV PVR devices when combined with mobile phones and thrown in with TV and web well – things got complicated for producers. I deliberately put these slides from over six years ago not just because it was part of the first wave of BBC 360, Strategic Compass thinking, but to reinforce the point that no cross-media strategy or theory beyond generalistic audience media consumption habits will persist.

Cross-Media Talent

Before we look at specific services, which I will add on tomorrow, one of the first key problems of real world cross-media production is and I quote the oft phrase “where is all the content going to come from? We have just enough resources to do the main show! It is easy for non-producer types to say you have a mobile bit here, a website there, some TV over there and a bunch of blogs here, and even if you can do it cheaply there is still the problem of the time and people resources. If the cross-media element is heavily linked to a TV property as it so often is, the real problem comes from ‘diverting’ the producers from making their oh so important show, which must go on. I have heard this so many times. The BBC was quick to devolve New Media creation back into production. A few other broadcasters have done likewise, just, but for the most part cross-media is a team of ‘webbies’ beavering away grateful for any morsel the TV or film team can throw over the wall to them. Even today in the US it is hard to get ‘talent’ to do specific non-TV elements. I recall twisting many linear producers arms to get talent to do some pieces to camera and how the process was oft slotted in linear production ‘breaks’. Then there was the period when talent sniggered when they said “www dot bbc dot” etc: Now of course the talent take it all very seriously – most of their audience after all are ‘engaging with’ them on that ‘dot’or interactive TV thing.

So having strong branded talent on your side is important. You need them to stimulate the audience to move between platforms with great call to actions – get them to say why it is worth their time to ‘tune in’ over there, what’s in it for them, the reward, the importance, why they will be missing out, they are addicted so heres another hit and because they trust you and you say so. More on why and the storytelling element, later. For now back to content production.

Cross-Media Content

What’s there for them when they do make the move and make another date with your property. Well here are four quickly thrown together cross-media, 360 classifications (updated copied from my Wikipedia contribution)
Definition
Crossmedia (aka Cross-Media, Cross-Media Entertainment, Cross-Media Communication) is a media property, service, story or experience distributed across media platforms using a variety of media forms. It is about the journey across devices and through forms and is most seen in branded entertainment, advertising, games and quest based forms such as Alternate Reality Games where there are a range of dependencies between the media and fragments there-of. There are potentially four main categories or levels of cross-media:

Cross-media 1.0 – Pushed.
The same or minor variations of content placed on different platforms in different forms. E.g.: A minor re-edit of the audio from a TV programme for a podcast or a script adapted for a website and in its simplest form exactly the same content delivered on multiple platforms such as mobile, TV and broadband web. The user in this case could create their own cross-media links such as watching half of the episode on mobile and the rest on broadband. This level does not have strong cross-media triggers but may promote the same content on another platform.

A good simple example of this is the world first Forget The Rules which was a weekly short form drama delivered simultaneously on TV, Broadband Wed and 3G mobile.

Cross-media 2.0 – Extras.
This is content produced alongside a main production and delivered on different platforms from the main production. This ‘extra’ cross-media content is naturally different from the main property and not necessarily dependent on it – temporarily or editorially. For example it could be a mobile video-captured behind the scenes of a feature film, destined and delivered in segments on the mobile phone. It could be a flash game strongly based on a radio drama or a book back story delivered through posters in train stations. The most obvious incarnation is the ubiquitous ‘making of’ feature that may be delivered only via video web portals.

A good recent example is the various transformations of a property called Thursday’s Fictions. This started as a book, turned into a surreal dance film and more recently a Second Life presence created for it. Each version played to the strengths of each platform.

Cross-media 3.0 – Bridges.
The truest form of cross-media where the story or service structure is specifically authored to drive the audience across media devices to continue the journey. The content placed on the other platform is critical to staying in touch with the experience and the narrative bridges tease you towards investigating or moving to another media form/platform. Obvious examples include a TV show that ends suddenly and gives you a URL to explore more. It may be a SMS that teases and points you towards a live concert in a city square which then leads you to a TV show, then to a podcast then to subscription emails. The trigger, or bridge, is the critical component of this in motivating the cross-media action.

A very strong example of this is the 30 second Mitsubishi Superbowl 2004 TV ad which showed objects being thrown out of a truck in front of two trailing race cars. It paused on a cliff-hanging moment (as two cars were thrown out) and invited the audience to go to seewhathappens.com. Millions did.

Cross-media 4.0 – Experiences.
An aggregation of the first three levels this is also where the content is distributed across many platforms in a non-linear way and is producer ‘hands-off’- in that they have created an environment, much like a game, that the participant/s ‘lives’ inside of, following their own path and personalizing the experience. A cross-media 4.0 property is co-creative collaborative play with the audience across many devices, which evolves and grows a life of its own. Although likely to be heavily authored the cross-media triggers and invitations are part of the experience in terms of the audience creating their own bridges. The best examples of this are Alternate Reality Games and it incorporates elements of the first three levels but is likely to be dynamic in that producers will have to be constantly bridge building in response to where audiences are travelling.

Part of the mix is also what I called Mixed Reality, merged media entertainment and multi-modality – which doesn’t need multiple devices, but utilises multiple media forms in the same place, from many distributed devices back on to ‘one’ device to give a ‘distributed’ entertainment experience in one place. At one end of the spectrum therefore it is a sort of ‘fractured’ CD ROM (yes those mid 90s things that had lots of stuff that you navigated around), a pot pourri of content thrown onto many devices BUT without coarse temporal signposts that break flow and ‘cheapen’ a users journey. At the other end it is something that doesn’t really exist beyond a seed of an idea created by the producer. Perhaps a viral video, or an extremely enigmatic blog. I am avoiding talking about ARG’s here as to me they are a subsection of CM 4.0. A cross-media 4.0 property evolves and grows a life of its own. Where a producer for example writes the first scene, some context and like the process of starting a fire, uses paper, matches, tinder wood, breath, small twigs, large logs and coal – a range of ‘elements’ to build the flame. Requires constant nurturing and that in truth is a content producers role in the future, growing an audience around their property, fanning the flames when required. Not very specific but I will talk more in the techniques section.
BBC 360 03

The Cross-Media Audience
Right a major problem for producers with cross-media at the moment is with CM3/4 above. If any platform has a dependency, in other words you must view or collaborate with that device/narrative element to continue the journey there is the potential to lose parts of your audience. One sees this all the time. Even though video on mobile or video iPod could be a compelling element, when you say only 5% of the audience may get it, it becomes a nice to have, then eventually a ‘lets forget it’. A shame but that is life. You can throw duplicates onto those devices, but if you cannot make it a necessity then it falls outside of true 360 innovation. This is the really big thorn in 360 production’s side at the moment. Anything outside TV and websites is a potential problem. Physical elements like playing cards or almost ubiquitous SMS can be thrown in but even then if they are critical bridges you may lose audiences who cannot cross it. So most cross media tends to fall into v 1 or 2, because that is the safest, it has elements of brand reinforcement and allows a traditional publish and get on with the next thing, mentality. Even so younger audiences are so 360 savvy that they don’t need to be told when and where to go, they will do it anyway. So CM3.0 is the only way to go for most producers, you have to move your property onto other platforms or you will lose them for completely the opposite reasons ‘ they see you as one dimensional! As for CM4.0 this requires you to be so in-tune and as simultaneous a user as the audience that you effectively become what is referred to as an ‘alpha user’ – a leader of a niche cross-media audience. To some extent you need to be able to ‘live’ the story with your audience and play with it on their terms. If you are not a heavy cross-media user yourself you may not understand their world and no amount of trend analysis will get you there.

Cross-Media Techniques

Dont want to get bogged down in detail or specificity here but just look at a simple range of techniques, that should work sympathetically to the four levels above, of how historically and in the future audiences will be moved around platforms. (Note: some of this is circa 2000 and I have kept the ‘fishing’ metaphor for now even though it suggests a non-collaborative relationship, so not totally ideal but…)

1 ‘Fishing for your audience’. This is more a pre main event experience (not that one should consider anything in a true CM world as a main event really), but this is about fishing for audiences across platforms. A poster on the underground, an enigmatic SMS, a viral video on the web, something odd in a TV trailer. They may or may not make direct references to go somewhere or do something else. This is about bait. Garnering interest in your initial creation by having tasty or interesting morsels dangling around the platform environment. Traditional ads and trailers are well too formulaic now for savvy and heavy CM users, they want to be wooed more.

2 ‘Getting them to bite’. This is covered to some extent in a post I did a while ago about immersion and addiction but this is where you have to be clear about what they are going to get. The benefits. This is selling your service. If the service allows them to win money this should be clear, if is about a narrative experience like no other then the ‘teaser’ should have that inherent embedded into it. Doesn’t have to be the gravel voiced film trailer man, but paint a picture of something big (see my scaled points in the above post). If this has been delivered in a viral way consider a phased release of other parts of the puzzle virals with more clarity, as the first viral picks reaches a critical mass and the fish start to swarm. As all good fishermen know patience, timing and knowing the difference between ground bait and hook bait is critical. The lesson here is to surround the potential audience with small fragments of morsels, immerse them in a cross-platform ‘trail mix’.

3 ‘Reeling them in’. They bit and are holding on. So does your property live up to expectations. How do you keep them there? There is so much more bait floating around in this sea of media. Do you open the curtains and reveal all? This is a relationship and like any first, second or third date to reveal everything, warts and all may not be the best tactic. You need to constantly court your audience and give a sense that your service is worth spending more time in. This is where meticulous planning of phased releases of story fragments across the media channels comes into its own. To some extent this is no different from a series editor/writer who has to arc each weeks episode narrative to keep them coming back for more. In a 360 world though it is layered up three or four times and with the disadvantage that audiences are probably viewing your service in a not so ideal order. You need to offer more and more attractive bait and again in my designing experience post in 2 above, you will need to be fleet of foot.

4 ‘Go there for more’. As old as the hills the simple presenter or burnt in signpost url to get more stuff – after, post a main event. Usually seen as an ad or end credit sequence where the voice over tells you why it is worth your while to carry on somewhere else with them. Breaks the fourth wall but is a clear directive. “and over on ABC2”, “read more on the website”, “vote and win prizes by calling this number” and so on. It could be in-story “want to find out what happened to so and so? Go here”.

5 “Parallel Dimension”. There is something on another platform running synchronous to the one you are watching – so treated slightly differently to number 3. The simplest example is when I used to watch cricket. Watch TV while listening to Radio 3 in the UK, because I preferred a more ‘in-depth’ commentary. Now of course there are many other parallel channels. Web, mobile and TV all running along with each other. I am more and more involved with parallels between real and virtual worlds. The techniques to draw audiences into these experiences are often inherent in the service such that if you are on one you can actually see the other one taking place. A website in shot on the TV show, a video running inside a virtual space or a TV studio show live on your mobile. If the parallel element is part of your design and services USP then make sure you reference it in both channels. There are some automated systems that will do this for you I talked about in this cross-media trigger post.

6 ‘Storyworld, fishfarm. On their own’. Many refers to CM 4.0 above, but this is where the narrative or just the expectation from the audience that there will be other media elsewhere, drives their journey through the story. The technique here is the hardest to identify but it follows the same technique of designing a physical hunt. You hide things, give not so easy clues and then set the ground rules. Even if you are telling the story of how they used to build Pyramids for example, make the cross-media experience as far as possible deliver something that makes them ‘feel’ like they are a pyramid builder (examples to follow). They will expect something on all platforms and this is where the term 360 or cross-media will eventually become redundant. All properties will have something on all platforms, the same way DVDs now all have extras – or if they don’t they at least pretend to. This all comes back to expectation and trust. If they have enjoyed cross-media experiences from you before they will come back. It is about trust, being consistent and giving them a media world to play in.

I have a few more areas I would like to cover, for my own benefit at least 😉 Will have a go tomorrow and probably tidy up the above! To come

Cross-media communities, Meaningful 360 examples, Commercial vs public service examples, When cross-media becomes a redundant term.

Posted by Gary Hayes © 2006

7 pages