Sep 282008

Have we reached a tipping point – with many more user hours spent with games than films are they now more culturally relevant (as in our cultures are saturated with them)? With most films having ‘game-like’ story arcs and, at the last count, nearly 80 films with stories based on game titles in production I am starting to think so.

Game culture and their inherent stories are now absolutely mass media. In a low risk, and dwindling film business, creating stories around experiences that people have already spent 20-40 hours immersed in the story world, is a no brainer, so what we are seeing is a threshold now of game-like films but more importantly films based on games. Anyway more after the ten minute video – stick with it.

“Playing With Stories” THE CINEMATIC GAME. A Film by GARY HAYES

I am designing curriculum for cinematic games and virtual worlds at AFTRS but also doing another report on the market potential of this cross-media, gilm (game/film) landscape. In the process again I threw together a compilation video of notable examples (I know there are at least ten times this btw!) interspersed with tasty quotations. “The Cinematic Game” was initially designed to be a look at the cross-promotion and story development potential of this most powerful mixed-media marketing machine. But, during the process though I was staggered to see the number of major feature films in production based on new and existing game universes (listed in this post below and scrolling at the end of the video) – suggesting to me a tipping point.

Game story starts to lead film development?

TV and Cinema has already become much more of a background or escapist medium for larger numbers of media consumers. In homes around the world we are spending more time in online pursuits than glued to the content breaks, in-between the advertising slots of traditional TV. We are also immersing ourselves in the social and story ‘exploration’ of the current generation of PC and console games. So how will TV and Film survive in a world where social gaming and associated peer appraisal online is far more compelling? Also given the choice will we continue to passively watch the protagonist or ‘be/live’ the hero? It is interesting to see 8000 employee EA Games now developing major strategies whereby games are made to be easily adapted to comics, books, TV and Film. In the business week article “Morphing Video Games into Movies” they note how EA are trying to emulate small non-game companies have built mini empires on their ‘story IP”

The idea is to repeat the success of companies such as Marvel Entertainment (MVL) and Hasbro (HAS), which used their base of fans to transform from marginal companies into Hollywood players. After licensing Spider-Man to Sony Pictures for a string of hit movies, Marvel has created its own studio, with Iron Man and other films set for release this summer. The Hasbro-backed Transformers movie grossed more than $400 million in 2007 global box-office sales, which in turn boosted company sales of movie-related toys and games.

It is interesting to note that the music industry is also starting to ride the coat tails of the games world. Kotaku reported on a ‘run-in’ between Warner Bros. and Activision about Guitar Hero. Suggesting the music publishers should get more royalties from games that use music, Activision’s boss Bobby Kotick hit back at Warner’s and said the following (which implied as the Kotaku item said ‘Perhaps the record companies should pay us‘)

We’re going to favour those publishers that recognise and appreciate how much we can add value to their artists… in the case of those kinds of products, you should be paying any money at all and whether it should be the reverse.

Back to the main thread of the post, it does make you wonder how many screenplay writers are sitting in front of their XBoxPS3Wii’s looking for inspiration nowadays? Variety suggests that in fact ‘all’ games could be made into movies but I will be really interested in what kind of film comes from The Sims and already know the likely story arc of MassEffect having run through it a couple of times but many others on the list below will be of interest, especially World of Warcraft which has around 4000 story threads/quests – so which story will we be ‘offered’?Films of games have had a shaky past with only a few critical successes such as Tomb Raider, Silent Hill, Resident Evil (there are several on slide 75 of my game/story presentation below, that I did several months ago) but given the serious money and credible directors such as Landau, Lucas, Speilberg, Cameron, Jackson etc: plus a deep desire to properly reflect the integrity of the ‘interactive’ experience, the tide is turning. Being an avid machinima maker I know at first hand what it means to capture the ‘essence’ of game playing, adapt it, reflect it and, if you understand the culture of the game, interpret it – the good thing is A list filmmakers (as you can hear Peter Jackson say at the end of my video) understand it too.

I must again finish with a plug for a couple of unique courses at AFTRS and related to this post an article in one of its blogs RedSet called “What’a film, TV & Radio school doing offering courses in game design and virtual worlds?” makes the relevant point:

“AFTRS new game design and virtual world graduate diplomas will push students to go beyond the generation of clichéd actions and stereotypical characters, students of these new courses will be encouraged to step up and learn how to create meaningful interactive experiences for a variety of platforms informed by the expertise offered in all of the other creative disciplines taught at AFTRS such as directing, screen composition, screenwriting, sound design, production design and more. The field of game design and interactive experiences is equally as collaborative as the world of filmmaking, drawing together diverse specialists who together create the whole – writers, screen composers, programmers, animators, art directors – at AFTRS all of these disciplines are already housed under one roof – with a track record of cross disciplinary interaction and a staggering successful graduates.”

More about my video

A non-exhaustive compilation of story rich games or gamic films including in order of appearance: Contact, Indiana Jones, Heavy Rain, The Game, Burning Crusade, Max Payne, The Matrix, Heavenly Sword, Final Fantasy, Lord of the Rings, Ironman, Call of Duty 4, Simone, Rage, Tron, Bicentennial Man, SpiderMan 3, War of the Worlds, Tomb Raider, I am Alive, WoW Lich King, Indigo Prophesy, Jumanji, Desperate Housewives, Da Vinci Code, The Beach, Assassins Creed, Thomas Crown Affair, CSI, Halo, Resident Evil, James Bond, Sleuth, Afrika, The Godfather, The Cube, Narnia, Time Bandits, The Golden Compass, Half Life, Never Winter Nights, Silent Hill, Hellgate, Beowulf and interviews with George Lucas and Peter Jackson plus quotes from many film directors and games designers

My film contains some of the better hybrids, either films inspired by games, games inspired by films or just very rich cinematic, story or character rich games. I make no excuses that I have used a mixture of cut scenes as well as ‘real’ game play in the video – that is really to show where we are heading as game graphics continues to hurtle towards the real time equivalent of the likes of Beowulf and other ‘trickle’ rendered CG features. After the quotes and textual references from the compilation below, are more elements on this very exiting hybrid cross-story, cross-IP, cross-reality world.

I want gamers to be surprised by their own creativity. I want players to feel not like Luke Skywalker, but George Lucas Will Wright (Sims, Spore)

We’re way beyond the notion of game-as-brand-extending afterthought. Let the virtual world–the vibrant, living world that people inhabit–let that influence the movie. Let it feed back into the process and provide unparalleled riches and depth to what we’re doing
John Landau (Titanic)

Games are already good at creating fear, suspense, excitement, shocked surprise, and laughter. Much rarer are games that create genuine sadness … I have never cried during a videogame
Marc Laidlaw (Half-Life)

I think the real indicator will be when somebody confesses that they cried at level 17
Steven Spielberg

When I found out one of my guildmates had died, someone with whom I had fought monsters, explored exotic lands, shared moments of jubilation and defeat, I wept. In spite of having never met him, the knowledge that we would not continue the story together, brought me great grief.
Laurel Papworth

We had a notion to take the stars of the movies and have them play supportive roles in the video game and tell a story that is a companion story to the movies
Joel Silver (Matrix)

If done well, I don’t believe a videogame itself can detract from a film experience. Ideally, it would be a complement to the film and a way for fans to further involve themselves in a world once they leave the cinema
Peter Jackson, (King Kong, Lord of the Rings)

There are scenes that start in the video game and will complete the movie – ¦and fell like it’s a part and experience of the movie
Joel Silver (Matrix)

Games and MMOs in particular are providing such a sustaining experience that challenges us to make the theatrical experience better
John Landau (Titanic)

The next big emotional breakthrough in gaming is being able to tell a story that is consistent throughout the narrative. If the game is 15 levels, it’s just like 15 chapters in a story
Steven Spielberg

We’re trying to understand the language of the film, but diverge in ways that are right for the game medium.
Neil Young’ EA VP (Lord of the Rings)

Games sometimes can reveal things. To watch someone in movement, unconscious movement, can be very stimulating and revealing, whether they win or not.
John Turturro (actor)

People wonder why games don’t have the same emotional palette as movies. But that’s the wrong way to look at it. It’s like saying, ‘Why isn’t radio like reading a book?’ Games, inherently, have a different emotional palette, which is their strength
Will Wright (Sims, Spore)

Scroll at the end of the compilation:

FILMS BASED ON GAMES IN Development or Production 2008/9 (Wikipedia and IGN source)

Alone in the Dark 2
American McGee’s Alice
Area 51
Battle Royale
Biohazard: Degeneration
BloodRayne III: Warhammer
Broken Sword: Shadow of the Templars
Citizen Siege
City of Heroes
Clock Tower
Cold Fear
Crazy Taxi
Deus Ex
Devil May Cry
Doom 2
Dragon’s Lair
Duke Nukem
Earthworm Jim
Eternal Darkness
Eternity’s Child
Far Cry
Fatal Frame
Fear Effect
Gears of War
God of War
Hunter: The Reckoning
Jagged Alliance
Kane & Lynch
Legend: Hand of God
Lost Planet
Mass Effect
Metal Gear Solid
Mortal Kombat: Devastation
The Neverhood
Nightmare Creatures
Ninja Gold
Paul Blart: Mall Cop
Rainbow Six
Resident Evil IV
Return to Castle Wolfenstein
Sabotage 1943
Silent Hill 2
The Sims
Soul Calibur
Sonic the Hedgehog
Spy Hunter
Street Fighter:
The Legend of Spyro
The Sims
The Suffering
The Unforgettable
Tom Clancy’s Splinter Cell
Tomb Raider III
Warcraft (based on World of Warcraft)
Zombie Massacre

Mixed Reality Futures

As a lead into a post about to be published I have been talking for a couple of years now (The Mixed Reality Perfect Storm ) about the fantastic potential of the live and by implication shared TV experience to be enhanced by extending the world into online games. It is exciting to think where we will be in a few years once the ‘broadcasters & studios’ realise that keeping an audience involved in the ‘IP’/programme in-between airings or sequels is a good thing. Good for the story creators, the latent creative audience and of course advertisers who need eyeballs/hands/ears/minds and hearts.

A further afterthought there are several companies around the world developing Cross-Reality forms, one that I am heavily involved with‚ The Format Factory, are pioneering formats that bridge the space between compelling participatory TV/Film and online game worlds. They have a promotional video that metaphorically demonstrates some of the ’embedded’ world-within-worlds. A trailer video teaser for the mixed reality, inhabited TV formats being pioneered and piloted by The Format Factory.

Other posts on this topic:

Feb 132008

…or so it seems by the constant line of broadcasters (ABC, SBS, CBC, C4 and endless news reports) who deliver so called ‘insights’ into the growing phenomenon of Social Virtual Worlds. The new BBC doco aired a couple of nights ago (YouTube segments embedded below) brought to mind reasons why traditional media companies may want to negatively ‘colour’ people’s views about the metaverse – but I see a more positive spin.

Many of the LAMP folk here are old enough to remember the sorts of programmes that appeared on TV around the dawn of the internet – “the web is about child porn, sex, deceit, corruption, unregulated, poor experience, obese people, bad dates, breeds killers, broken families” and so on. In fact one or two people quite close still have some of those views! Ten years on, the web is now the young adult on the block that has to be taken seriously and more importantly befriended by the older traditional media areas – it has become mass media and vast swathes of the audience have shifted as it gives them more control if nothing else.

So I feel (and have said in many keynotes over the past years) that 3D Social Virtual Worlds are about at the same point as the web was 10 years ago. Traditional media companies find it hard to stomach large groups of children spending 2-5 hours a day in worlds like Webkinz, Nictropolis, Neopets when they should be watching their daily dose of kids tele. Or worried that larger numbers of women (around 42% of online gamers are women average age 29) are not watching their passive magazine or cooking shows. So what should the response be. To create programmes that show the wonderful educational activity in these spaces, the amazing amount of creativity by new artists, the societies that are working out new ways of living together in simulated towns and cities, the new form of filmmaking, how people are making money from their new found talents, the new friends made etc: no…exactly like 10 years ago they send their reporters along (who generally have spent minimal time getting to know the inworld culture) and focus on how this new form is about adultery, dubious sexual relationships and how it breaks up society and is generally evil 😉 So the positive spin – traditional broadcasters are taking this movement seriously enough to feel the need to put it down. Or am I being paranoid and this is just ‘bottom of the barrel’ sensationalist journalism. Over to you!

The well made, in that it does sensitively show distressed relationships, but ultimately mis-guided programme from the BBC called “Wonderland: Virtual Adultery and Cyberspace Love ” below is in 4 parts on YouTube

Nov 062006

Are we already past the tipping point? Google’s ad revenues in the UK overtake that of Channel 4s. If that isn’t enough, 16-24 year olds in the UK are watching 7 hours TV less a week than the average.

THe Tipping Point

I am not sure why traditional broadcasters still say that the web is there to support and enhance dominant TV and Radio output. At what point do they sit up and listen. I have been running another LAMP lab in Tasmania and I was surprised when project teams still talk about a big call-to-action for viewers as ‘getting on TV’. This is nostalgia for pre 1995 when mass media was the Goggle box. But now mass media is the Google box. If you dont measure it in falling TV numbers (and no it will never die, just fade out to background radiation) then how about measuring in hard cash, advertising revenues. A couple of articles point out that advertising revenues in the UK for Google are bigger than the TV advertising revenues for on of the biggest commercial channels Channel 4. More importantly at the current growth rate within two years online advertising in the UK will be bigger than the main cFTA (Commercial Free to Air) consortium of ITV who rake in 1.7 billion GBP.

The BBC Article “Who is watching the viewers” suggests that the 5% of total ad revenues that Google picks up in the UK (�900m) is not really that significant. Given that it is more than Channel 4’s total ad income, C4 CEO Andy Duncan in his Reuters interview (covered here in the Age) thinks differently

“(This) reinforces that significant structural change has been going on and will continue to go on,” Duncan said in reference to the UK advertising market. “Some broadcasters have been very slow to realise this. The industry as a whole is frankly rather backward looking and is perhaps underestimating the scale of change that is going on and the pace of change.”

My friend Will Cooper of Informitv reports also on Lord Currie of Ofcom in the UK with some cautionary words for those still doubting the quickening pace.

He said the �on-demand� delivery of services is becoming a reality for younger consumers. They expect to watch television programmes and listen to radio stations which interest them, rather than just accept what is on at the time…this generation will be parents with young children �for whom broadcast television will have ceased to be the lead medium. As broadcast television overtook radio, then newspapers, so internet-delivered video content will overtake broadcast television,� he said. �Advertising will follow suit, causing shifts in traditional business models.�

OK 60% of online ad revenues are based around search and many think that makes it in some way invalid. A bit like those in the 80s who said people would not want to walk around with a telephone or music system attached to them. What this is about is personalization. Relevant ads, based on your interest at that moment, recommended product and not scatter gun irrelevance. I have a personal issue with the irritation and annoyance of TV ads to the point at every break I HAVE to turn the sound down now. Why should I be subjected to 5-10 minutes of ‘noise’, that has no meaning to me. This is a dinosaur about to topple over. The way TV is holding on to its old models, not investing in innovative new web models (and no sticking a bunch of video on the web with embedded ads is NOT innovative) and generally burying its head in the sand reminds me of Al Gore’s ‘frog piece’ from his recent filmed ‘keynote’ presentation (aka as ‘An Inconveniant Truth’).

If a frog jumps into a pot of boiling water, it jumps right out again, because it senses the danger. But the very same frog if it jumps into a pot of luke warm water that is slowly brought to a boil, will just sit there and it won’t move. It will just sit there even as the temperature continues to go up and up. It will stay there until.. until.. it is rescued. It is important to rescue the frog. The point is this: Our collective nervous system is like that frog’s nervous system. It takes a sudden jolt sometimes before we become aware of a danger. If it seems gradual, even it is really adapting quickly, we are capable of just sitting there and not reacting.

OK so the media ad pot may not be boiling just yet, but there are bubbles forming on the bottom. The question is what happens when online ad revenues are bigger than commercial free to air TV. Are the broadcasters sitting in hot water, waiting to be rescued. How will the quality of TV suffer in the meantime? Also will the money dry up so quickly that investment in alternatives are left too late? Again from Reuters, Andy Duncan…

…said he expects the TV advertising market to fall by 6 to 7 percent for 2007, and broadcasters needed to put an emphasis on quality programming to prevent viewers from drifting to other forms of media. The Internet Advertising Bureau (IAB UK) said last month that online advertising spending in Britain had jumped 40 percent in the first half of 2006 compared with a year ago, taking a market share of 10.5 percent.

But that comes back to my point again. At what point will ad revenue fall off mean that there is just no money to invest in new form programming, more immersive ‘game-like’ services, experimenting with inventive cross-media services and creating more than, value-add web services. I think that being complacent and waiting for the Commercial Free To Air ad drought before any kind of ‘meaningful’ action is a very dangerous game and back to the metaphor, like global warming, we are already past the tipping point.
Posted by Gary Hayes © 2006

Oct 152006

Barrier Social NetworkGot a constipated blog draft situation – lots of half finished posts in the saved area. So to catch up I take a mouthful of wordpress ‘fibre’ and put these out slightly half baked, drafts to mentally move on. Oh the compromised nature of blogging! Its a shame because this particular one is the big issue at the moment. Still part of my assimilation process too. There will be a few more catch up posts in next couple of days…

“Just had a week break walking in the rainforests of Far North Queensland and diving in the Great Barrier Reef and as one does in the relative solitude I kept thinking about the reasons people join and use social networks? Around 600 million or a 10th of the planet now take part in online social networks. With the mighty Google and YouTube now controlling 60% of all shared video on the planet and the potential that MySpace may be made interoperable with both of them we are starting to see a major consolidation in the way we share and communicate. I have also talked before about web 3.0 and the impact of immersive areas on social networks, also about advertising in social nets (part two will have more) but for now I am keen to see how ‘business’ and to some extent professionals can play a part in this. The biggest question on everyones mind. I might make this a two part post as I am still formulating but here is part one (sitting in draft for weeks!).

Part One

Apart from the obvious reason that humans are evolved social animals and simply need to communicate with each other to survive mentally (less so physically today of course), doing this via the intraweb, though abstracted interfaces, and clumsy tools is a far less efficient medium than face-to-face. Also the new social networks are easily the equivalents of what used to traditionally be mass media – the water cooler is now transformed into a database-driven, globally connected, busy-bee-hive of media nibbling participants. But of course there are far more elements at play here beyond just, ‘contact’, so I thought I would throw a ‘media laymans’ group of enablers to the great social network explosion.

This is not academic in nature, that would be in PDF format and have a PhD disclaimer attached of course, not this is just observation and open to flames and debate. Even this post itself is part of one of the areas I will be discussing, the constant ‘injest and regurgitation’ aspect which will be referred to. The reason I wanted to understand what the ‘motivational’ draw of social networks is, is to work out at what points advertising, subscription or pay-per-service actually make most sense. There are potentially many models that can come into play that are being overlooked by the current plethora of networking services. Part of this came on a personal note when I was struck by a synergistic push, an email from Friends Reunited towards their Genes Reunited a couple of days ago. For various reasons I checked it out. Just at the point I had found a potential long lost relative it asked me to subscribe for the year at $20 Aus. This allowed me to contact (like LinkedIn’s chain of contact) to owners of family trees that may contain members. I dug a little deeper and at the point I wanted to check the online birth records back to the 1600’s another fee $7.95 required. The message here is work out when user need is the greatest, when the experience is about to jump a level and place a micro-(or major) fee on it.
Lets look at a real world metaphor. The social network of the ‘bar or club’. People are driven to a place where it is easy to express and talk, express their sexuality, have conversations, show off, dance, escape from normal life, feel safe (or feel in ‘safe’ danger – space cadet mode), feel connected to a larger group and so on. To achieve each of the non exhaustive list above what do they happily spend money on?

a) They pay entrance fees for a kind of exclusivity,

b) buy lots of drinks to escape and make conversation easier, spend money on clothes to attract new partners before they arrive,

c) buy music to get clued up and appear to be up to date –

I will stop this ‘day one’ social anthropological study just to point out that for social network designers, we need to think about the ‘experience’ that users want and charge them for those things they value most highly if any kind of money is going to be made. So entrance fees for exclusivity, no brainer, make it easy to escape/safe haven (which is why virtual worlds are growing) and around that the ‘tipped’ barman model, pushing conversation along, cross-recommending people (the escort role) finally making sure that there are lots of cross-media links, to extend the world, aid learning and sharing and not make it feel claustraphobic.

Before we go further though what is a social network via the intraweb? Wikipedia has a definitive list here so will not relink from here. But what are social networks used for.

  1. Keeping up with partners/friends/contacts. Social and business
  2. Generating new partners/friends/contacts. Social and business
  3. Sharing your media with the world. Social and professional
  4. Being part of like-minded, niche-interest, speciality groups
  5. Targeted ‘contact’ services for family and very close friends
  6. Various clusters of blogs that organically form into social networks
  7. Collaboratively creating and potentially monetising that content
  8. Combinations of all of the above

Why do we join these social networks and what may be the points we can monetise? Assume with all of these that the key business model of ‘targeted’ and ‘personalized’ advertising can run throughout. Relevant ISN (In Social Network) content and OSN (off social network) product will be gently pushed, after opt-in, to participants. There may be a general subscription to use the service and most things may be included with that, what follows though looks more at the free-to-join, pay-per-socialise type model.

Social Currency

Bush Fire near CairnsSlightly more abstract in nature but to make it easier to grasp. This post is part of social currency. The fact that I have decided to share some of my meandering, random thoughts, the fact that you are reading it still, may lead you to consider adding me to a blogroll (go on!) make your own comment, tell others, be inspired to rip off parts of it and so on. It all comes down to “this person has contributed content/ideas that are of value to me”. This model becomes a social currency of sorts – you do this long and hard enough and you gain a position of trust and like heritage media, you get enough people reading, listening or watching your stuff – well you know the rest. But there is a problem. Many heritage media folk I talk too still think that model exists – people will pay for content in the same way they paid for books, music and film. Up to a point. But we are now in a world where the value of your content is based on the ‘collectively agreed’ value of your social wealth. Slightly utopian I know, but like the world of art, people will pay $2million for a painting that cost $10 to make, if everyone agrees it is worth that. Same with gold, same with virtual gold or land and so on. So for media creators, you need to create a social status around your content in the blogosphere and on these social networks to then be able to start to charge for and heres the kicker – digital, limited editions. It will happen. Part of the progression of these business models is a system that hackers will not break (even if they can) because it is ‘socially’ unacceptable and there will be less anonymity, greifers and hackers will be visible and ostracised. Piracy also will not be good for much longer.

Peer pressure

We want to be part of a community of small group. Natural human desire. We dont get that very easily anymore in modern society. Where most of the teenagers in the US create blog communities around their existing 20 plus friends for example, these social networks are almost obligatory for certain key demographics. “What, you dont have a MySpace account!”.

A Gary Business Model Tip – have tiered levels of subscription. The free means you will get pushed advertising (naturally!), may get hit by griefers (those who just like to irritate others), and you will not get by default an ability to create a private group or perform a host of customisations. This comes with a subscription. Tie that into a ‘recommend a friend’ into your private group credit so you are growing clusters of private groups – this of course does not mean these participants cannot join the wider network. There may even be a higher tier for organisations who want to use the tools of the network but just for the organisation – this is a model I haven’t seen used that often. A MySpace for the GPS Postal Workers in the US? A Friendster for the 25 000 that work at the BBC? Almost enterprise software with some customisation. Another I am looking at, a Second Life for worldwide media schools. Special rates and custom firewall type gates to the wider networks.

Because its free and easy

The tools for blogging are essentially the same as the tools within most social networks. As blogs go above 100 million and social networks combined go above 600 million the number of participants is almost proportional to the ease of use of the ‘tool’. Creating a website in the early 90s required a level of technical prowess. Creating a dynamic, database driven website in the early 00’s likewise. Now any user can build a rich media dynamic web presence, espress their view and package their world for all to see as simply as using a word processor (almost).

Gary’s Biz Mod tip – As the open source tools become more free and easy to use there is a market for charging for the integration and bells and whistle elements (plug-ins) that is not being leveraged. A key differentiator to the ‘publisher’ (viewer creator or the old UGC) is showing off. In virtual worlds a big part of the economy is ‘buying stuff’ – mostly to show off to peers/dates/gameplay etc: Those who can develop even cooler ways to present, even around open source tools, have a big, very big market. We have not seen a really good tool for example that is a one stop shop for podcasting, vodcasts, blogs, preparing graphics, editing sound and publishing it all and so on. MySpace is pretty crude, web 1999, I think there are social nets around the corner ready to take the baton.

To be heard

Never before in the history of mankind has one individual been able to at no cost, or relative risk, been able to express his or her opinion. This is intoxicating enough already for many enlightened people, but when the rest of the world catches on to this, watch out. You aint seen nothing yet. Of course as we have seen with YouTube the sharing of what many people in the developed world can produce now with little effort (video) has sky rocketed in the past months. Much of this is driven by the need to share something personal or funny or dramatic with the world for altruistic reasons but much comes down to vanity publishing and the next topic.

Gary’s Biz Mod tip – create competitions for fee to participate and upload or share your content around themes and develop internal economies linked to social credit. Facilitation of themed content participation that has entry fees, sponsorship and across the network voting encourages loyalty. Make the prizes big enough. Put the winners on the still existing parts of mass media. At the moment most ‘calls’ are share based formats particularly with broadcasters and most of the other several hundred call for submission sites. I think something like TriggerStreet could easily generate within it a viable economy – social credits are transferrable for more real world

To find stuff

Being part of a good social network often means you have a digital fingerprint, a profile. The advantages of this as a user is you are able to be matched with and be presented with content (which includes people – as personalizemedia readers will know in the digital world we are all represented by clumps of metadata, social networks are no different). So through a series of collaborative filters, dumb and intelligent recommendation agents and user tracking these networks actually connect us better to other content and people than independent systems.

Gary’s Biz Mod tip – like my Genes Reunited hint earlier, there is the potential to monetize (at micro level) connectivity. The dating sites have worked this out already, tempt you with a potential partner and a fee required to make the actual contact. In a social network there are many ways to tempt users with the promise of lots of really cool content they will like (and content includes other people). Like some of the immersive virtual worlds, the sort of 10c for ten albums you dont own but would die for, a dollar for the people most like you and so on – you get the idea…many have been implemented already, but this ‘find-for-fee’ model is really under used at the moment and open for new players/alogorithms, intelligent agents and artificial intelligence to come into play.

‘Random’ minutes of fame

I will not resort to using the obligatory Andy Warhol phrase or variants of. Simply that being able to become ‘famous’ is a big reason people use social networks. The notoriety of being the most downloaded video, the best reviewer or the most hit blog post is again a compelling reason to participate.

Gary’s Biz Mod tip – Monetize the ability for people to be included in these top tens. A small fee gets you considered for the hall of fame. Perhaps have an internal currency so you can organise ‘electoral’ style lobbying to get votes. Add a real world element (physical prize sponsored by an advertiser who wants to get noticed) to make the carrot even bigger. Also give people content themes to upload as in the ‘to be heard section above’.

Escapism and Addiction

Modern society is full of trials and tribulations (I know sounds like a voice over for an old movie) but the web is a place that millions are withdrawing into. Never before has the disenfranchised been able to find solace with like-minded others, or teenage angst been shared. Some social networks like second life (I oft post about) are alternate worlds in themselves and deliver potentially total immersion and alternate identity. But the more general 2D social networks allow one to escape the bounds of geography, time and true identity. That again is compelling enough for many.

As mentioned above. Pay-for-escapism. Events for your peer group. A special event only you and your friends can chat with a celeb for fee. Work on the group vs group, tribe vs tribe mentality to encourage some competition on doing the coolest, escapist things, that you can do online. OK sounds like drug pushing – I know. But what has the media been for the past 1000 years. The ‘I have gotta have it’ because everyone else has is working on us at a primal level – don’t want to be ostracised because I am not fitting in. Charging for ‘must have it’ is what advertising is – an ad blitz for the latest movie, is nothing more than filling your neural maps with the property and brand, via the back door. Being hooked on drugs works on the same associative, emotionally linked neural net principles.

A sticky post I did called Media Addiction the next wave which implies this most obvious business model, make it hard for them to give up and the escapist element we are seeing with the social nets inside say World of Warcraft (the guild must-take-part or I lose social standing) for example are verging on the ‘addictive drug’ parallel. The key is to know on a pay-per-hit model the point at which it is impossible to refuse. As I said in the other post – there is an element of getting them hooked (immersed, engaged etc) then introducing a fee. OK the immersion and level of interaction with others is compelling but not addictive, what is addictive is ‘it is harder to stop than to start somewhere else’. So much time and effort is already invested in building up profiles, making contact lists. I wonder if the one trick pony Google with its ad search model would consider slipping in subs for premium parts of video sharing once it has swallowed up the next 10% of video? MSN and Yahoo excluded…;-)

Time out on this one. Part Two soon – mostly focusing on the holy grail business model, targeted and personalized opt in advertising!

Posted by Gary Hayes ©2006

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