Apr 212007

360 Award Winners
YAY! Jackie my LAMP cohort and Paul Bennun (a new LAMP mentor on the next lab in Tas) won their development awards categories! more later…Writing this on various jetlagged Europe to Australia plane hops so excuse any fragmentation of style – will be tidying and adding links and speakers quotations (to bring it to life) when I get back to Oz, compiling them on the last leg from Bangkok to Sydney. This is actually posted from the surreal Bangkok international sci-fi tube airport in a bleary haze from the previous cramped eleven hour flight (OK enough boring travel detail)…

This final full day looked on the surface like my ideal conference agenda 😉 Thanks Ferhan. So a delectable mix of seminars like social tools driving formats, virtual worlds (keynote, brands) and games in cross-media entertainment amongst many others! So how did it live up to expectation? First though a few comments about the Ashley and Jana double act the previous evening before Emmys…

BBC Keynote – Focus on-demand

Jana Bennett “We need to be ahead of the audience not behind them, The conversation can be creative, two way and in many cases multi-way. And we are witnessing new creative possibilities open up when many of these ripples bump against each other”

I am not sure what has happened since last year when Ashley gave a rundown of the many and various activities across BBC New Media including the latest broadband and broadcast interactive ‘TV-forms’, interesting new services such as the subtle ARG Jamie Kane (is it real or not) right through to a whole bunch of participatory aspirational and delivered online content. This year though it seemed to be Jana Bennett (Director, BBC Vision) talking broadly about embracing viewer created content and Ashley Highfield, (Director of Future Media & Technology) focussing wholey on BBC on-demand – whether via the iPlayer or a beta timeshifted interface for a forthcoming DTT, PDR (Personal Digital Recorder – wish they would use that rather than a DVR or PVR, which stresses video).

Ashley Highfield “Coming to a platform agnostic device near you soon. Our trials show that the BBC IPlayer counts for 10% more of BBC TV viewing in broadband homes…with this level of nascent demand we want to make BBC iPlayer as widely available as possible across as many platforms as is feasible. Were starting with the biggest available audience the 22 million who are broadband connected in Britain, The next biggest audience will be the 3 million cable homes. After that its Max, Media Centres, smart handheld devices and once we’ve done all of that we are going to turn to the really tricky platforms like digital terrestrial using PVRs or internet hybrid boxes”

Anyway so a little dissapointing from a ‘innovation’ perspective but encouraging as finally a culture of manifesting the TV-Anytime vision (which was not really about standards but about the many rich services that broadcast and broadband delivered audio visual enable – just wish people would read the flippin’ business models documents for phase 1 and 2, cause it covers virtually everything I saw at Milia when function, form, creativity and business models are discussed around on-demand (especially personalisation, mobile PDRs and targeted ads). Anyway, a long way to go it seems for the BBC as the 1000 clips/programmes is not a big enough pot yet to try the really cool stuff, such as ‘Buried Alive’ from last year. Hats off to Phil Jay and others for producing a nice carousel interface for the BBC PDR, subtle hints of Dale Herigstad work and even the very first Digital Text prototype I made that had a genre carousel selector – but that was nine years ago 😉

Back to the final full day. I attended in post Emmy wobblyness a Marc Canter breakfast. Marc is sold as a “techno rabble rouser, with an operatic voice”. In 1984, he co-founded MacroMind, which became Macromedia in 1991 but that is long, long ago. We had an informal chat with croissants and coffee, before his talk and it became a trip down memory lane of using Macs at the dawn of interactive creation, made me and a couple of others involved feel very old. His talk eventually got to his new passion – merging his multimedia heritage with social networks, creating what he calls ‘digital lifestyle aggregators.’

Marc Cantor “I believe that every single brand wants to have an audience relationship with us. Not now but within 10 years. Nowadays the notion is about digital lifestyle aggregate. Three fundamental principles. First is integration…if you could have your IM, with your blogging with your social network with your shopping all in one interface that would be an integrated environment, easier to use. Second, aggregation. Bringing all your information into one place. Third…customisation…”

He loves the word convergence and hates labels, especially Web 3.0, his focus is close to my heart and that is transparent interoperability between social networks and technology – a long uphill battle. In fact I had asked a similar question of Dr Yoo of Cyworld, could MySpace and Cyworld and all the other ‘profile’ based SocioNets ever be compatible so you can move info around instead of endless maintenance of all of them. Dr Yoo said extremely difficult, Marc Canter has the energy to at least trigger some strong thinking in the area it seemed. Brian Seth-Hurst as usual moderated the session and a quote will follow.

Video super panel TV 2.0 Meets Web 2.0
This was almost a clone of last years panel which was one of the better ones but with the addition of a comical Steve Billinger (now leading CBC Digital) and a more serious Henrik Werdelin (of the new kid on the block Joost). It had Mr Google UK Patrick Walker there representing the big brother, the black hole and lots of jokes about them buying the rest of the panel at some point.

Ken Rutkowski (moderator) “Google literally trying to take over everything from the desktop etc: and not in a negative way, a postive way, Everyone used to call Google a search engine it doesn’t even resemble a search engine anymore, there is so much content that is out there. How do you now take advertisers and help them get their brand in front of everyone. For example on YouTube there is no advertisement inside the video, like Revver does something that is post-roll, and others are doing similar things. Where do you highlight an advertiser inside the content?”
Patrick Walker (Google) “ Well the advertising business is based on the ad words, the websearch side of things. It is a very robust business and we share a lot of revenue with partners. We are also introducing new forms of advertising looking how to play video ads, display ads on 3rd party websites. Were experimenting we have a very successful and major business thanks to the partnerships we have with advertisers and websites. So we are able to experiment on websites like Google maps and websites like YouTube where we don’t want to rush in and throw in a bunch of ad formats that maximise revenue but destroy the user experience. We have an engagement model that comes with advertising and so we will slowly introduce ads, we will experiment and get user feedback. At the end of the day if you can deliver ads that are relevant and are interesting and specific geographically then that itself becomes interesting content”.

But the panel showed that things are maturing very quickly and I pointed out that Patrick and Andy Grumbridge (Managing Editor C4 UK) were sat next to each other and asked about my tipping point observation that Google ad sales are now ahead of C4s. Andy kind of resigned to the writing on the ‘bottom line’ saying that C4 were still good at doing video ads so will be around, albeit ‘never’ again to overtake Google.

Gary “It is interesting that Andy and Patrick are sitting together C4 and Google because I think it was this time last year when for the first time in history Google ad sales were bigger than Channel 4 and it sent shockwaves running through the industry. I am just wondering if you see that as some kind of tipping point?”
Andy “We are quite good at doing video ads so we think that’s a good opportunity to get back in the game. I am not sure we will ever be as good as Google again. What was interesting though was that was achieved not through video advertising but through ad keyword display”

The panel talked again long and hard about ad funded video, the tidal wave of viewer created and the difference between aggregators and content makers. I will follow with some quotes below that tackle some of these head on. I mustn’t forget the final speaker Anthony Lilley, CEO, Magic Lantern Productions and William Linders, Executive Director Digital Media, Endemol who represented the content side of the discussion.


The virtual world keynote from Phil ‘I-try-to-be-a-reluctant-benign-God’ Rosedale” – a 101 for the fascinated hoarde.
We had to put up with this strange passport style image of Philip all week starring at us from various promo billboards around the palais – but it seemed to draw interest and it was a packed hall for this keynote. I had had a quick chat with Phil at the Emmy’s about things such as branded registrations into Second Life and the national mix but his talk to this noob audience was really a quick intro combined with some good metaphors about why SL is significant. The most poignent and resonant point he made (again for me at least!) was about real time, collaborative communication – Second Life represents people being online in the same space at the same time in a user generated environment (vs the abstracted’ness of 2D web interfaces, time shifted comments via blogs, or time shifted edits on wikis and so on).

Phil Rosedale “Nobody jumps into a new medium as an organised controlled strategy where their trying to deploy business advantaged content on that platform, it never happens. A bunch of virtual reality companies were too early in the 80s and 90s simply approached the space, the whole idea wrong. All new mediums, instant messaging, the web itself, email, television they started with whimsy, fantasy, vanity, artistic self-expression, they didn’t start with business applications, they didn’t start by trying to market real world products”

A packed crowd in the Esterel Auditorium therefore had a basic intro to Second Life and it was a shame they didn’t see the thousands of other things it represents and why Phil had to pull out images of Angshe yet again? – money talks I suppose. He did mention the many developers that are around to hand hold potential brands and TV properties into SL (including MUVEDesign of course) but referred specifically to Millions of Us and Reuben Steiger in the panel following.

“Second Life is still hard to use on a lot of machines doesn’t run well on a lot of laptops. Open sourcing was a big piece of this, were building out our team as we become profitable and are able to get many more engineers working on R&D on this. Expect Second Life to run a lot smoother, it should just work like a browser” Phil Rosedale

More significantly he was asked about the User Creation percentage referring to the 1% creation and 99% voyeur on YouTube…

“This is a point that the world of broadcast medium is really something to really think carefully about. When we started with Second Life, of course everyone spent all their time making things. Well the reason for that was the world was basically a sand block with palm trees, so if you wanted a house you better, make a primitive and paint it and sit there with your friend, it was the only thing to do. We always said as this matures as Second Life gets mainstream, whatever that means, we will see that number drop down. We looked at the number about 2 years ago when Second Life was 25 times smaller and about 30% of peoples time was spent making stuff. Now we have grown more than an order of magnitude and guess what the percentage is now, about 30%. I suggest this is the reason. We believe that people want to be entertained by passively consuming content, we have always believed that. I think that this is one of those cases where we are mistaken in why we believe that. We think because it is in human nature , most people just want to sit and be entertained, I think that is wrong. I think what we are missing is that in the past 50 years the only way we have been able to distribute great content to people is by a centralised, single point distribution mechanism which reduced costs to a reasonably point. So we believe we are passive entertainment consumers only because technology has let us do it that way. If people want to be creative 30% of the time then everyone had better rethink the nature of media and what that means”


Here we see Phil showing the audience his inworld identity – I was thinking at the time shouting out that ‘hey, you should get a good skin and hair, your embarrasing the hardcore avatars” (he looks like a noob for the uninitiated) 😉 But he made some introductory remarks about the nature of identity in Second Life and the usual audience ‘gasps’ when he started to fly, yawn, but hey all they had seen up to that point was him rezzing a bunch of powerpoint slides on the beach! Even so I had lots of folk say later ‘ooh we must buy an island and do x, y and z’ – and as usual I had to point out that certain of those things were not the most engaging for an SL audience, which was excellently covered in the next panel.

One statement from Phil that brought another few gasps was his rather matter of fact way he delivered the following line when Ken asked him about his role within the world, president, dictator?

Ken Rutkowski “Your the president of Linden Lab and so there are several million people in this environment, so are you the president…of this world? Are you seen as a president, a dictator, what are you?”

Phil Rosedale. “Depends on the day or the nature of the last software release…I try to be a reluctant benign god within the virtual world.” (sniggers from the audience) He tried to justify this statement “Theres a deeper point there. Second Life could not be successful if it were centrally controlled. If our position was that of editorial content arbiter for example I can guarantee you that it would not be as successful” and added earlier “We dont make deals directly with broadcasters or content owners; were a level-playing field platform”

Marketing in Virtual Worlds

Promised to be a great panel but I think a concentration on just Second Life and not on other less immersive avatar based psuedo 3D services would have been better. Even so we got great insight from BMW (Jens Monsees) and Millions of Us CEO Reuben Steiger gave an inspirational look at human evolution and why we are moving into virtual worlds – a proper quote to follow but he talked about the basic human need to build and make things, rather than passively consume media.

Reuben Steiger “What we say to brands coming into Second Life one of the first things we say is you have to be culturally relevant. Secondly brands need to relinquish control. Very tightly scripted, formulaic experiences don’t work they miss the mark completely…Brands need to embrace an element of user creation and chaos and the brands role is to really set the stage around their brand but to give users things to do and ways to change their experience – to give pens to their users. The brand has to write the first page of the first scene and its up to the brand to have the bravery to hand pens to their audience and let them write the rest. That is the only way to be successful.”

He also had a good array of what brands and properties should be creating for the community of Second Life – like Phil Rosedale before him tripping off the standard line ‘you must add value to the community’. I added in a question at the end that brands/properties MUST be prepared to put a lot of effort into post build with human resources too, everyone agreed. Other speakers and more quotations, especially from BMW’s experience of the virtual society to follow below..

“Our typical campaign the results are very very dramatic. Within second life our average client will get between 30 and 50 thousand users over a three month period, coming into direct contact with the brand. For our clients that is a rounding error they don’t think in terms of these numbers. Here’s where it gets interesting. The average engagement ranges from 20 minutes to 5 hours! That’s off the charts. If they do it in the way were describing it here that’s imaginative and user generated and somewhat chaotic, the experience leaves Second Life and the conversation moves into the blogosphere, they take photos of themselves interacting with the brand and upload them to flickr, movies to YouTube, Impressions in the blogosphere are between 1 to 10 million the same as in mainstream media. So the experience happens in Second Life with a core community and all the reach is on the net”. Reuben Steiger, CEO Millions of US

Eileen Bastianelli, Managing Director, Shake Content/BBDO (France)
Bas Verhart, CEO, Media Republic Development (The Netherlands)

Games for Cross-Platform Entertainment
(I can see people shifting down to gate C3 so will just quickly type a few lines to be developed later). This panel really stood out against the rest of the more integrated (for TV folk panels). Deftly and expertly led by Matt Costello (who had too many things to contribute to really be a moderator) it felt though a bit too much a look ‘inside games industry’, under the bonnet and a bit disenfranchising for TV folk. Some were drifting out as they talked about the detail of games design and not really about true cross-platform integration but Matt did mention some interesting parallel and cross-over, mixed reality formats between shows and virtual worlds that caught my ear (especially as I am involved in a few both in LAMP and in the commercial sector).

Deborah Todd “With CSI the people who worked on the game, the developers, they had their own writers but they worked very closely with the CSI writers in LA. So yes it does make sense (to integrate the show writers into the game production). The gaming world is very collaborative and I think it makes a lot of sense for us to get as much input from people as possible. But just because you have somebody who is familiar with the show doesn’t mean they can think in a non-linear fashion. Its very dangerous to think that your script writer on the show is going to be just great at coming up with your game. There are design elements that come into play, character development and sometimes you have to create backstory, puzzles, things for players to do etc:. It is better at this point in time to hire someone who has that capability and who can hit the ground running”

Most of the focus though was on sticking the game on different platforms rather than parallel or linked services. Also, although they broached it slightly, they missed the chance to talk about cost effective it is to enter customisable MMO’s like Second Life for new entrants – after all there are plenty of MMORPG like worlds inside Second Life (Midian, COLA etc) and no one even mentioned the L Word or Laguna Beach as TV property brand examples. Anyway Matt and Gina Jackson (Head of Business Development: New Media, Eidos Interactive Ltd.) and the knowledgeable Deborah Todd, (Independent designer, writer, producer) kept the hardcore games folk happy – just a shame it was over the heads of many there. More detail to follow…

Tools creating new media forms
A great idea for a panel but at the start there should have been a real overview and context as to what we were about to see and their relevances and scope! More to follow – here are the speakers
Mark Bole, CEO, Shozu ( USA)
Justin Bovington, Creative Director, Rivers Run Red Europe (UK)
Suranga Chandratillake, CTO & Founder, Blinkx (USA)
Olivier Dufour, CEO, SkemA (France)
Petteri Koponen, Co-founder, Jaiku Ltd (Finland)
Claire Leproust, VP Marketing & Content, Eyeka (France)

Lifestyle media future panel
Must admit to falling asleep for a bit in this one only to be awakened by a power cut (a Milia first? – perhaps as the produced Zapping Show was being rehearsed upstairs)…here are the panellists for now and another quote from Marc Canter who really was the only forward looking speaker…

Marc Canter, CEO, Broadband Mechanics Inc.(USA)
Eyal Hertzog, Founder and Chief Product Officer, Metacafe Inc. (USA)
Joe Michaels, Senior Director, Entertainment Business Development, MSN, Microsoft Corporation (USA)
Joanna Shields, President, International, Bebo UK Ltd (EMEA)
Michael Werber, Managing Director, FiveWorks GmbH (Germany)

Marc Canter “One thing that it is important for the crowd here to understand is that the other fundamental shift that’s happening is that the traditional world of media puts themselves in the middle. Theyre the copyright holders, theyre the investors, theyre the company…they are important, the paraparazzi shoot them and that’s the centre of their universe. They have this concept of customers, they will take what we give them. That’s pretty much mainstream media. Now I want you to flip it. I want you to imagine that the number one most important thing is actually your customers. Imagine that I/me are the most important thing. The number two most important thing are my friends and family. They are the people I care about, consumers don’t care about a company. In fact we should not even call them consumers, they are not ‘born to buy’. Think of this as concentric circles. You are in the centre, then friends and family surround that and finally the brands and companies surround these people, trying to reach into their pockets to turn them into consumers…technology and the software that runs on it is social…and people are the most important thing.”

Zapping Show
The closing ceremony of Milia (vs Mip) as the 360 pitching folk, eight teams this year, are given their big cardboard checks and a development deal. The show itself was not as good as last year mainly because the 30 sec pitches were a bad idea – listening to 24+ of these was tiring especially as they all came out very vague and samey after a while. Would have been much better to have a few visuals and something about the personality of the teams. Ray Cookes was his usual cheeky Cockney self but the highlight of the evening for me was when Jackie Turnure won the Ogilvy/AMEX pitching comp (really the hardest category being overtly advertorial) – she seemed genuinely surprised to win, but very well deserved as the project, a Diamond Heist ARG, has most potential. Other notables was Paul Bennun (from Something Else – and a mentor in Tasmania for us in a few weeks) and a LAMP alumni Kate Crosse who was showing off the Deep Sleep project, which I believe would have won the BBC award had she not been Australian. Shame.


(The plane is being called now!) I will provide more feedback on the 360 pitching comp later, why dont they have WiFi in economy class ;-( But I will talk about Patou Nuytemans from OgilvyOne Worldwide and others comments about the process on the Friday morning review session later too…Phew, now wheres my boarding card!!

Posted by Gary Hayes ©2007

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)
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

May 232006

Thanks to Lost Remote’s steer on this one – There has been much discussion that the series ‘Lost’ has borrowed greatly from the gaming world – eg: the plainly titled Is Lost an Interactive Game. The essence of lost, the plethora of treasure hunts combined with RPG combined with tribal warfare combined with myth and so on make it seem like your watching some omnipresent force driving the narrative. So it comes as no surprise that today we hear that Ubisoft are working with the game-mad producers of Lost to create an interactive console/PC version that is very closely aligned to the world of the show. This will probably be the most successful repurposing of a TV show to a game format given the original spirit of the original linear production. From the article Lost and Found at Gamebiz:

‘We are delighted to work with Bryan Burk, one of the biggest producers in Hollywood and with Touchstone Television,” said Yves Guillemot, CEO of Ubisoft. “That they have chosen us for the adaptation of the cult series ‘Lost’ is the best homage that a producer can make to the creativity of Ubisoft.’ ‘The creative appeal of ‘Lost’ transcends borders with its character driven stories and addictive mysterious mythology,” said Julia Franz, executive vice president, Touchstone Television. “It’s not enough for fans worldwide to just watch ‘Lost,’ the game is a wonderful opportunity to organically extend this creative phenomenon into an interactive consumer experience.’
‘Many of us on ‘Lost’ have been hardcore gamers for years and the chance to work with Ubisoft, a company behind some of our favourite titles, has excited us to no end,’ said ‘Lost’ producer Bryan Burk. ‘With the ability to tell new interactive stories within the ‘Lost’ universe, we’re giddy to be developing a game that, once completed, will be as engaging and fun to play as it is to create.’

I like the last line. As producer of many interactive services I often get lost myself in the challenge and fun of creation that one loses sight of the experience for the user of it. Glad that Bryan here has the insight to realise this and that in fact to take it one step further, allowing the viewers to create sequences or challenges for each other may be a good way forward.

But this whole new area of ‘experience’ production brings to mind a potential range of other ready-to-go big four (TV, Game, Broadband, Mobile) cross media’s formats. Given the range of ‘hunt/cryptic’ shows coming up on the global TV schedules and a likely further range of Da Vinci Code wannabees (as box office is now taking off) we can imagine a future where the ‘challenge’ given to the protagonists of the linear title will/should become the precise same challenge given to the game player (or rather the ‘experiencee’. This is exactly what producers should be considering now. Rather than pushing a story at viewers, they should consider strongly ‘how’ they can put audiences in the shoes of the protagonists. This could mean putting them inside virtual reality worlds, making them hunt for clues across their life devices or creating services where they must move around their physical world – all designed to give them an ‘experience’ closely aligned to the original intention of the author. In many ‘interactive’ development labs I often start as a mentor in asking that question directly to the producers and we explore the avenues in which the experience can resonate for the viewer. We are probably seeing a divergence split on one side – the immersive world of big screen (eg: IMAX) and on the other a ‘constructed reality’, painted as a tapestry of fragments across smaller screens and other media forms for the audience to move within.

This suggests we are now in a transition zone towards the much maligned ‘holodeck’ paradigm, put the viewer inside the experience and then give them the narrative to experience as first person – but of course that will be seen by traditional storytellers as some kind of sci-fi fantasy. We as producers of content should realise that audiences now have the tools to tell their own linear stories and their authenticity will be preferred to ‘overtly artificially scripted’ creations. One thing that will differentiate producers from this pack will be their ability to author ‘experience’ and not just tell story. I advise that when you create future services at least consider how ‘close’ you can bring the audience into your world – make it as personal to the viewer as possible. OK they don’t have to wear VR helmets, body suits and the like (yet), but get them active, involved and personalize it for them and your authorship will be rewarded by returning audiences.

Posted by Gary Hayes ©2006

2 pages