What do we really value online and can traditional publishing companies adapt quickly enough to save themselves?
Earlier this week I and a group of social media ‘influencers’ were invited to a briefing by News Ltd of their, two years in the making plans to move to Australia’s first big Freemium news content model. Basic freemium model – a range of teaser online news excerpts leading to fuller, more in-depth news stories behind a pay wall at subscription prices starting at $2.95 a week to $7.95 including the daily printed paper.
Ross Dawson, Richard Freudenstein, Tim 'Mumbrella' Burrowes - photo garyphayes
Firstly hats off to the large News Ltd operation for taking this ‘if we don’t were damned’ and ‘if we do were also damned’, step. Also for setting up a no-mans land, bridging site, looking at the Future of Journalism. It is really the only thing they can really do at this juncture – so it all comes down to ‘how’ they do it. I and others pointed out during the session that regardless of the mammoth ‘back-end’ production, business and editorial systems upgrade, it really boils down to IF users like the taste of this particular flavour of digital content. Is there a demand for your ‘paid for’ product?
Some heritage news orgs are starting to turn the corner of this ‘experiment’ of course while others have just crashed and burned. Yesterday AdAge reported on New York Times just keeping it’s head above the water with it’s 324 000 and climbing, digital subscribers. It announced that, as it’s print ads decline by 10.4% a quarter it’s digital ads (up 6.2%) and increasing subscribers online are balancing the books, just.
Within the company’s news media division, which includes The New York Times itself as well as the Boston Globe and other newspapers, digital-ad revenue increased 6.2% — slower growth than in the second quarter — while print-ad revenue dropped 10.4% — a sharper decline than last quarter.
In a world of scarcity asking people to pay for ‘information’ or stories about themselves and the wider world makes sense. Get that. But in a world where digital, to a growing number, means free access, open re-distribution, self-publishing and outright plagiarism of those same stories, will ‘paid for news’ ever work?
Lets step back from the granularity of price points and production challenges covered by others for the moment and without getting bogged down in journalistic integrity or endless ‘manipulative’ stats, lets get back to basics.
“We live in extraordinary times and the last five years particularly, a renaissance of storytelling. We are, as we were pre-printing press days when we equally shared, enhanced and distributed the fragments of our engaging stories. Today’s technology has delivered a new spirit of connectivity, a democratisation of story given back to the ‘many’. Storytelling not at walking speed but the speed of light. You equipped to deal with this?”
OK enough opening fluff and straight to the point. I was having a chat yesterday with a colleague at Screen Australia trying to answer a simple question. Cue music…
If you have a story project, that’s a little bit ‘strange’, who ya gonna call?
Not Fearing to Tread - Photo cc GHayes
(Strange = new format, transmedia, innovative, social, game-like, fragmented.) If you have a film and TV project and you need assistance to develop the script, help with the production, work through the characterisations, get advice on Red or 3D etc: there are a zillion consultants, vocational educational courses and many willing wannabe advisors to draw on. Film, Radio & TV particularly have 100+ years of maturity so it is also pretty easy to incrementally innovate, floating in watertight boats on tried and tested waters. Sadly the options for story rich projects that fall outside the straight and narrow linear path, have a more difficult time.
To be professionally guided or get the skills to create new storytelling formats you can
Get in touch with professional agencies already doing this stuff. But they are often rather busy making ends meet and engrossed in ‘transmedia’ marketing big budget or existing story brands to really give you the time and advice you need.
Find a traditional academic ‘digital story – type’ course (marketed as a world first) in your local area. Spend 6 months or longer working with ‘we need to do this stuff’ academics and theorists or at best, passionate aggregators of the best ‘new story’ project trailers masquerading as educational case studies. Also these course tend to be trials and under resourced – erm not the views of me with lecturer hat on, local employers 😉
Find a local specialist individual who ‘seems’ to know about this new space – very few good experienced, passionate folk about and also a bit hit and miss.
Seek out a handful of seminars, short workshops or networking events around the world. There are actually very few and they are often of the evangelising vs really getting down to nitty gritty ‘storytelling’ processes.
So here we are, a great dawning of transmedia storytelling, innovative new services and products yet still no true, deep development initiatives? Academia and industry either too money-busy, unable to take risk or focused on the past to really fill in this void?
With my Director of the Australian Laboratory for Advanced Media Production hat on I often front our workshops and seminars with a kind of ‘trawl’ across the area being presented by specialist speakers. This means a rather high level view of services, key examples and robust case studies that provide a foundation for the other speakers and also a taxonomy, a shared language, for any later workshop elements. There have been two in the last two weeks on TV 2.0 and Documentary 2.0: Serious Games and I have just put my slides up on slideshare – embedded below. The two below are an interesting pair.
I believe that these two areas of transition clearly indicate the major shifts taking place at the moment, already predicated as you see in the Marshall McLuhan clip. The first in this post is the TV form which is now being developed and evolved by global online communities deciding on the more social, tribal (niche) and participatory video format over the regimented, formulaic, commercially focused TV we have seen unchanged on prime time in the past 30 years. The second presentation below is on Serious Games or Documentary 2.0, the nature of learning about real world issues, the evolution from passive through to play. Rather than being force fed a series of edited perspectives in traditional documentary TV style, now we immerse ourselves in the dilemma, the scenarios and understand them by (as I point out in the presentation reference to Edgar Dales Cone from 1946) Direct Purposeful Experience. First though…
Television 2.0 – The Latest Innovations in Online Video The first seminar was looking at the future of online video from a TV 2.0, participatory and socialized TV perspective. Again the issue here was a definition of TV followed by some kind of structure on which to talk about the many and various incarnations of ‘the form’ as it starts to spill out across online communities and portals.
What is TV?
The device or screen?
The distribution channel?
The form, types of programmes?
What is that form? “Popularist, often live, linear video or something far more social & interactive?”
Breaking the hundreds of examples of TV moving from broadcast to shared, socialized and participatory into meaningful categories was a problem so I stuck to three simple ones:
Many-to-many & 2 way
Participatory TV shared video content. Democratized, disintermediated, de-attached
Measurability – New Monetization models – value add & innovative services around the video content e.g.: personalization
Before my embedded slideshow (which includes ‘comic-style bubble’ commentary done quickly after the event!) I embed a short clip (which I showed from around 3:38 onwards) featuring a real futurist Marshall McLuhan whose now ancient words provided some sobering perspective to my talk about the disintermediation of TV and other media forms. We all talk long and hard about the new social paradigms but 50 years ago this was already clearly in the zeitgeist – albeit referring to rather scarce distribution channels but highly portentious of where we are close to being now (thinks ‘twitter’ as the drumming 🙂
and for those who think the decline of print is a 2000’s thing here is some of the latter part of the interview (remember from 49 years ago!) that I didn’t have time to show –
Interviewer “Look lets back up a bit Marshall. If more books are being used, more being sold, the libraries are crowded they are busy, how can it be said, aside from what ever else is happening, we are moving out of a print culture?
McLuhan “As John said books are still very important but their role is changing. The nature of their importance is changing. Remember that books were our first teaching machine and during the Renaissance our only teaching machine. Books are what gave the renaissance its peculiar stance. We had to see the world and others through the printed line on the page but today there are many media of information, many teaching machines.”
Interviewer “By teaching machines I presume you are not only referring to those found in the classroom?”
McLuhan “No, we learn everywhere. The books role has diminished. Because of all the other actors it’s no longer King but subject…Notice the shift in the image. From the assembly line stretched out, events taking place one at a time to the modern automated complex where things happen all at once. Bang. Not a line but a field. This applies not only to products but to people. The line, the individual, the event was the book. The field, the all-at-once, the tribal drum – the new medium”
My introduction to the wonderful world of Serious Games wasn’t without its challenges. Firstly the deeper you look into the area the more you discover a veritable black hole of titles. Literally thousands of console, 2D web based, 3D MMOGs, CD ROMs, locative play, connected DVD’s, Social network widgets, educational virtual worlds – endless places that serious play or games exist or have existed. But as well as the quantity problem we have the issue of how to classify them, break them down into meaningful ‘chunks’ so we can understand them. Finally there is the problem of definition – what exactly is a serious game? So before the embedded slideshow – I pulled out a little definition I came up with and more importantly a taxonomy which we used in the workshop.
Generic definitions from others
Games that are NOT entertainment ?
Games that are simulations ?
Games that are: infotainment, edutainment, advergames, therapeutic, propaganda…?
Games that are used by education, training, health, public policy, defense, and strategic communication ?
Goal orientated ‘play’, often in real world scenarios, intended to ‘improve’ the player/s knowledge, awareness or skills
OK my definition could feasibly include ‘entertainment’ titles but it does raise the question, is a game such as GTA4 or Mirror’s Edge or Assassins Creed actually providing real world training? I would say to a large extent yes – so the field is even broader. So the taxonomy I developed is focused on the intention of the game. What did the creators ‘intend’ the game to achieve, what result would be achieved for the player/s. I developed this list and naturally found a few games overlapped across some of the areas but surprisingly a lot less than broad definitions such as ‘edutainment’! Here is the list (followed by the actual slideshow with examples of each area):
Gary’s Top Ten – Serious Game TaxonomyYOUR INTENTION WITH YOUR GAME IS TO:
A cross-post from the LAMP blog I also run:LAMP mentored ‘Social Media, Multi-Platform’ Drama Scorched won the coveted International Interactive Emmy Award from the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences last night at MIP TV. The first time Australia has won this award.
A big congratulations particularly to producers Marcus Gillezeau and Ellenor Cox from Firelight Productions. These awards are held annually at MIP TV in Cannes and celebrate the most innovative drama, documentary, informational and entertainment services delivered on multiple platforms.
Through these awards, the International Academy of Television Arts & Sciences is celebrating a significantly growing sector of the television industry and recognize excellence in content created and designed for viewer interaction and/or delivery on a digital platform.
The 2009 Winners.
Fiction category winners “Scorched” Firelight Productions in association with Essential Media & Goalpost Pictures, Australia
Non-fiction category winners â€œBritain From Above,â€ BBC / Lion, United Kingdom
Children and young people category winners â€œBattlefrontâ€, Channel 4, United Kingdom
Brian Seth Hurst (Second Vice Chair at Academy of Television Arts & Sciences and CEO at The Opportunity Management Company) who helps organise these awards sent through this Twitpic of himself (mid left), Chris Hilton from Essential Media and Entertainment (far left), Marcus Gillezeau (mid right) and Mike Cowap (Innovation Head at Screen Australia – far right), at the after awards (30 minutes ago!). Picture from Brian Seth Hurst (actual photographer as yet unknown).
Digital Media magazine has a few ‘delegates’ over there at the moment who are twittering events as they happen you can follow them here. This is how we found out about the award over here from several other tweeters…
PipRMB: Aussie digital media company Firelight Prods. have won the first ever International Digital Emmy for best drama for Scorched – huge congrats
BrianSethHurst: Winner Fiction Int’l Digital Emmy Award “Scorched” Australia Goalpost Media, Essential Media
FanTrust: Check out Scorched which just won a digital Emmy— outstanding fictional drama for 3 screens. Live from #miptv
The Digital Media magazine also featured an article prior to MIP TV referring to LAMP’s involvement in the project –
“Meanwhile the makers of NineMSN cross-platform drama Scorched, Marcus Gillezeau, Ellenor Cox, Michael O’Neill and Brad Hayward, have been nominated for an International Digital Emmy Award. The awards ceremony will be held on March 30 at the MipTV conference. Scorched was financed by Nine Network, ITV International, Screen Australia and the New South Wales Film and Television Office and developed through the Australian Film Television & Radio Schoolâ€™s Laboratory of Advanced Media Production (LAMP), which is Australiaâ€™s premier emerging media research and development production lab.”
The International Academy of Television Arts & Sciences revealed the winners for the International Digital Emmy Awards at the MIP TV opening festivities in Cannes, France.
Australia won its first International Digital Emmy award in the fiction category for â€œScorched.â€
The non-fiction category went to â€œBritain From Above,â€ while â€œBattlefrontâ€ won the children and young people category. Both programs were from the U.K.
Below is a shot of the team with Jackie Turnure (far right – now at Hoodlum) back in May 2006 when they started planning the Social Media elements of the experience on a LAMP residential. There were then several follow up sessions with them to help crystallize their ideas. (Pic Catherine Gleeson)
Scorched has received a great deal of attention and commentary from press and also those closer to the project. This is the LAMP post about the launch, here is Guy Gadney at MIPTV at the moment (then head of PBL New Media, Channel 9) and Gary Hayes (LAMP Directorâ€™s personal media blog). It is great news that another LAMP connected project has won the International Emmyâ€™s – examples of earlier ones included Jim Shomos (LAMP mentor) with his Forget the Rules projects, the winner of the Ogilvy Amex award by then LAMP mentor Jackie Turner and other LAMP projects such as The Deep Sleep won development awards too.