May 022011

I presented at Australia’s only Multi-Platform TV show last week and my talk was entitled ‘The Gamification of Social TV – Inspiring the Stories of Tomorrow’. A broad brushstrokes look at the current trend of motivating TV users already busy in social networks to ‘interact’. The slideshare presentation is embedded below and the flow of that is echoed in this post (which has a few other rich media embeds too).

The structure was based on the usual questions, a) What is Social TV ? b) What is Driving it ? c) The Value for the Users  d) What it Means for the Creators who enable it?  Hoping to help the small but quality audience understand the reasons to look at the value Social TV brings to the users vs jumping straight in on the ROI of getting more eyeballs on the existing programming. The Gamification aspect is about looking at the ‘playful’ techniques being used to turn audiences into users around traditional type TV programming – which is already becoming socially active.
The Gamification of Social TV

A Bit of History

In defining Social TV I tried to point out that this is nothing new. Ye Olde Days of Interactive (social) iTV circa 2002 which I was heavily involved in at the BBC although based on single screen interfaces still had at its heart the need to connect viewers to the TV channel but also to each other . I referred to it as SetTopBox iTV with a slice of social and the most popular (up to 8 million during some shows) services tended to be the ones that synched the TV to the interactive element – one small step for tech one giant leap for editorial . So Social TV is not new, perhaps it is up to level 3.0 – 1.0 being single screen iTV, 2.0 video on the web combined with social and chat features and 3.0 the hybrid, global two screen synch’d & app based services we are seeing more and more of now.

From an personal and historical context I also talked briefly about a few early iTV services such as XCreatures  broadband service I produced in 1999 and delivered to 100s of test homes in London over YesTV IPTV service & B T broadband backbone. The BBC’s first broadband programme to live audiences where for me the significant elements was the way users could not only navigate through fragmented clips but most importantly communicate and leave their own comments at the end – remember this is on the same screen using an IR keyboard!

What is Social TV?

In terms of defining the landscape of Social TV I called these early days baby-steps and divided it into three key movements

  • The Conversation of TV   – around the back-channel, recommendation and communities
  • The Gamification of TV   – making services playful, tribe building and participative
  • The Personalization of TV   – encouraging users contribution , making it personally relevant  & drawing in their stories

Social TV Is Not A Battle for Eyeballs

I went out of my way to stress that Social Media is not battling with Broadcast TV for the big Ad Dollar prize , this is not Facebook vs ABC or iTunes/GoogleTV vs BBC but potentially about  the real synergy , Live format TV and Social Media as perfect bedfellows. I continue after the presentation slides.

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Aug 052010

…than Agencies and Filmmakers. Why do transmedia professionals have a difficult time achieving authentic and fluid transmedia stories and why do ‘existing’ branded entertainment & digital agencies tend towards lowest common denominator, tried and tested formulaic cross media, more about  PR, advertising and marketing than real ‘story’ focused engagement. Against this and rather paradoxically we have the ‘so-called’ audience/users actually telling their ‘life’ stories across platforms in a much more natural and engaging way.

Having produced and studied cross media since 1997 (“What do Audiences Want” BBC pres) one very large and persistent problem has always been creating authentic transmedia stories – natural story arcs and bridges that lead you onward through a long format, multi platform experience. So why is this? What techniques do makers of user created transmedia (you and I wearing our normal, connected people hats) employ that make it more interesting to their target audience and what can the ‘artificial storytellers’ learn?

Montecity July 4th Celebs

note: this is a personal/user POV condensed version of a  longer chapter intro section in my wip book Networked Media Storytelling: Transmedia Design and Production.

Networked Media StorytellingFirstly excuse the use of the term ‘audience’ in the title, it is still a convenient catch-all for the ‘great unwashed’, old BBC term 🙂 or rather, non-professional creators. Of course we are equals and participant users when using well designed professional transmedia services, but what do ‘users’ do when telling their own stories, that pro “experience creators” don’t do and may possibly never achieve?

Before we proceed this is not comparing apples and oranges as on one side we have ‘user created transmedia’ (UCT?) ‘life stories’ aimed at a specific ‘user group’ and on the other professionally created transmedia ‘fiction’ aimed at fans or niche ‘players’. Both have a target audience and both have stories to tell.


To help frame this even more a ‘simple’ example. A typical well networked person wants to share an experience, tell a single (or part of a longer arc) story to ‘their’ audience, lets say (deliberately mundane!) a personally amazing chance encounter with a strange overseas friend who share stories during a mini afternoon catch-up adventure & challenges at various city locations. Challenges being obnoxious shop assistants or overcharging taxi driver etc: 🙂 Remember this is their, Hero’s Journey, we all have one every moment of our lives, some bigger than others. In this example the main user has a pre-existing networked media story environment (amongst other networked elements) consisting of:

  1. 500 facebook friends
  2. run a well read blog
  3. 1200 twitter followers
  4. regular FourSquare user
  5. a heavily subscribed YouTube channel
  6. a busy personal flickr account
  7. use sms and skype a lot
  8. meet up with their physical social circle regularly

User Created Transmedia

Full size link – As the image illustrates I hope, and this is probably old hat to many reading this post, we can see how the rippling of moments (Laurel Papworth covers the social aspects of this in great detail in her post Ripple: Social Network Influencers) across the users ‘story world’ is constantly punctuated as the story develops. Also notice how the story world is setup – the Foursquare updates for example ‘this is where I am – if something happens you will already know…” reinforcing environment and back story. It is important also to take on-board that the user in this case feels the ‘need’ to share, part of their being is now about being constantly active in ‘their story’ network, that need will be reflected by by the network (aka a captive audience) – often it will be quick bursts of activity in real time, pushing messages outwards and occasionally responding to ‘influential’ friends as they know those contacts will proliferate the story even more. Notice also in the diagram that auto updates (twitter pushing into Facebook or flickr) are an acceptable part of more social storytelling as the need to know means a level of ‘spam’ acceptance. I could go on but this is to partly demonstrate how

Today’s socially networked users are evolving into the most talented and natural transmedia storytellers, able to fluently manipulate, create and respond across multiple ‘personally nurtured’ channels transforming in the process something very complex into something beautifully simple

OK the best pro-transmedia relies on the social media connections above to disperse their narratives but as with any form of 3rd party story, we see it is a temporary viral layer (movies, TV shows, games etc) on top of their deeper, personal life story…

The most successful element in user created transmedia are the natural bridges between channels and platforms whereas professional transmedia storytellers often force feed its audience explicit or contrived ‘in your face’ links

As usual my preamble has turned into a tome so without further ado here are ten sections that came from lectures I did on transmedia design at various presentations and higher ed establishments in 2008/9 which I will put up on my slideshare account along with some transmedia bible templates – highlighting some of the fundamental and underlying principles of an authentic networked story environment. I have compared responses to each from an UCT and professional creators perspective, across the specific kinds of interactions within the transmedia, social environment. These are all appropriate to drama, documentary and brand/ad transmedia design, production and storytelling.


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