Presenting Media140 - Photo: The Cut Creative, Perth
I keynoted at the Media140 conference three weeks ago (26 Apr 2012) wearing my ABC Exec Producer TV Multi Platform hat. Now responsible for non-kids ABC TV online & mobile offerings & TV mobile and social strategy my 20 minute talk was rather focused on the high level challenges for broadcasters trying to truly integrate fiction, factual and entertainment with social, mobile and 2nd screen (or synch services). The transcript, slideshare and more ore detail follow but first…
…apologies to regular readers for my long absence from post on this blog. I started an ABC role back in October which overlapped with me running the Screen Australia StoryLabs weeks and as well as tidying up and finishing a range of commercial projects meant actually talking/blogging about all the stuff I have been doing in long form, has been tricky – plus there are confidentialities to take into account. The adage certainly holds true those who can, do, those who can’t, write long blog posts or podcasts on the topic 🙂 Might get flamed on that one, but I think having an hour or two to sit and post is a luxury. In other full time roles I still manage to provide a commentary into the cloud but the ABC is particularly under resourced in multi platform areas with many folk working beyond the call of duty. I am also taking advantage of my partner Laurel Papworthaway, spending a few weeks on a pilgrimage across the Camino in Spain, and doing very well with it.
Talk intro – the challenge, the hybrid and the prototyping
Also like most big media organisations the ABC is a mirror of the external larger world itself. There are silo’s, politics, technical differences across the divisions, resource scarcity, diluted budgets and linear controllers / commissioners who all need to be sold on the importance of Multi Platform and the potential of different types of services. But that means a good part of my role inside the ABC is very similar to my BBC Senior Dev Producer role, to evangelise but also implement new services. That means I am exposed to the key challenges in terms of merging or hybridising broadcast and on-demand TV with some of the key driving forces outside a broadcasters world. Without drilling down into the detail (or breaking any confidentiality!) the top level challenges for all traditionally one-way media organisations is:
Sorry too busy to talk – We don’t have enough people resources, social media staff, to engage in widespread, authentic, editorial conversation with our audience/users
Bolt on effect – Our massive internal technical infrastructure/s can’t be glued to always new, transient, multiple external services/APIs
That’s they way it is done – We have decades old editorial & commissioning processes in place and until any big multi-platform ‘story-telling’ breakthroughs we will need convincing of a reason for changing that
Multi platform and social media is really about marketing isn’t it and therefore warrants those types of relatively small budgets
Sure everyone is shifting attention to mobile & social but until there is zero people watching our main channels we have a job to do!
Rights are not set up for multi platform, period. Expensively produced linear video leads, the rest follows, still.
and the list goes on and on
Ok I am being a little provocative and at the ABC, I and many others are very aware of the challenges and getting on with the changes required. Alongside managing producers and resources I am able to run group workshops internally with the key show creatives and together (vs telling what we should be doing!) to slowly move forward. I also have a great role in developing working prototypes (and final services) of synchronous 2nd screen and social mobile services. Being several months into these, I also refer to at the end of my talk of the key differences between vanilla social TV, content owner social TV, content owner driven 2nd screen storytelling and the hybrid of all of them. When someone is engaged with a great synch story experience of say tablet against TV it makes absolute sense to include social elements, for them to invite and share that experience.
I also mentioned in the talk and interviews around it about the need for content owners and broadcasters to be driving the 2nd screen experience – these have to be truly integrated story experience and although there is value in trying to layer or bolt on these synchronous services. Although voting, polling, surveying type services can work, ideally with presenter driven call to actions, many well written pieces of video do not have much ‘space’ for the interaction (or parallel narratives to ideally slot in). There are two arguments to that. Firstly formulaic storytelling combined with the distractions our already existing 2nd screen habit means we are constantly snacking on our 2nd screen anyway and ‘missing’ the important bits of the show. Secondly, in a world where on-demand, when you want it, watching is so ubiquitous, I am devising several formats where the linear video is simple paused and the interactive component has its own space to breathe in this time frozen moments. I am suggesting in all my meetings with show creatives that if possible, the best approach is to design from the ground up. But that then moves into eons old ‘commissioning’ processes and for now I won’t go there, perhaps later…OK onto the talk
Hello, Good Morning and Welcome
It was great to be in Perth again with a very enthusiastic crowd, which speaking to the folks there, encompassed most of the digital fraternity it seemed. There were many folk live blogging the event and my talk (e.g.: Sarah Tierney and Matthew Allen), I did a few small interviews (e.g.: Western Australian / Yahoo) and at least 60% of the audience tweeting. Media140 is the brainchild of Andrew Gregson and the event was very well organised, technically and management wise. The slides below were presented on my new iPad (3) so hopefully the formatting came across OK. Transcription follows the slides
You shouldn’t be asking do I need a community of interest around me and my work but what will happen if I don’t have one!
Yesterday I presented twice at a great two day conference in Melbourne called ‘Arresting Audiences‘. The irony of the title not lost on this writer as the real intention of the event run by Film Victoria (a traditional film funding organisation) was commendable – finally focus on ‘users‘, ‘watchers’, ‘participants’ aka as old school ‘audiences’.
Most of the talks explored new marketing, basic demography and obligatory future trends with a couple of inspirational ‘write for your inner audience’ highlight talks from the likes of Jane ‘buffy/BSG’ Espenson, but I was asked to look at the social and transmedia aspects that affect and impact on audiences/communities so below is:
the embedded slideshare of my presentation
a little explanation
a trans-social-media community flow chart (used as a presentation pivot)
and a draft ‘in-development’ widget, which I didn’t show but which looks at reach & impressions over time (broad engagement)
While lecturing to AFTRS students last week about multi platform, social media & new forms I got on to games and social virtual worlds. When I asked who knew about Second Life one student chirped up “oh isn’t that the place where ABC TV got bombed”. Now a few things immediately sprung to mind when hearing this comment
Having built the ABC TV Island in 5 days or so and part running it at the time I knew the background to this intimately, so how much detail to go into?
I was also bizarrely running a LAMP residential lab in Tasmania when this event occurred and Lisa Romano then an ABC producer was one of our mentors, she also was in charge of the ABC Island at the time – so very much involved in the response
These events are very rare and my experience was either mostly technical server errors or simple admin error, so the problem was fixed in an hour or so as we immediately liaised with Linden Lab who run Second Life and fixed the problem
But the thing that really sprung to mind was, wow this event was back in May 2007. A two year old story. How and why would it persist so long and into the heads of ‘one so young’ – well mid 20s gen, young in my book :). Then I started to think about the story I used to tell not so long ago to folk who were fascinated by the story of the intriguing ‘ripple’ effect. How a technical error ended up with the CEO of ABC TV being interrogated in government about the act being about anti- Public Service commercialisation combined with terrorism training. This also reminded me forcibly of Laurel Papworth’s Ripple effect and more importantly the Long Tail of an influenced ripple effect – whereby a story is spread like chinese whispers and in some cases enters into folklore and myth – even with endless online interrogation. I also liken this to the Butterfly effect or chain reaction, where a small event can end up causing something far more significant. In this case study below of ABC Island, as you see below, it was more to do with a kind of mass hysteria about the medium of branded virtual worlds & the reflection of that out into real ‘prejudiced’ society. An example of online mass hysteria or clever marketing? You decide.
So here is a glimpse into the Butterfly Effect chronology on 2nd year anniversary of the momentus event 🙂
What may save TV may also truly grow Social Virtual Worlds. As online audiences continue to ignore TV and vanilla/social virtual worlds suffer from a lack of direction, perhaps the marriage of the two will save both from irrelevancy? A report by Gary Hazlitt in various TV branded virtual world spaces.
There have been several forays by TV properties (gradually losing their audience and associated ad revenues) into social virtual worlds over the past two years. I don’t just mean branded one-off events but actually setting up shop, building a familiar and representive space for the ‘users’ to play in. These forays range from at one end, simple branded spaces pushing episodes on screens through to actually running variants of the TV format to be played out by participant avatars in a detailed build -with many points in-between. But before the meat of the post (a couple of new entrants) here is a quick list to give you an idea of some of the shows and channels that have tried, had some success or failed. As I have been involved in a few of them and visited all, I have listed ones I think have had most impact (engagement) through to those who didn’t quite get it (reversioning).
There is a rule of thumb regarding TV execs and virtual worlds or serious games initiatives – do not let the TV folk take control as they have too much ingrained baggage around non-participatory media and the resultant compromise is often of no use to anyone – get people who understand game play (and be aware that often excludes traditional game developers) and social media involved or face the consequences. The ones above that really worked allowed the participant audience to really ‘live’ in the shoes of the characters either by having activities similar to the protagonists, meeting the ‘fictional characters’, a social space that resonated with the shows aesthetic or a great set with game-like elements. I have talked a lot about Mixed Reality Entertainment in the past and how one of the most innovative uses of virtual space is to extend the TV or Film property into a 24/7, participatory environment. The main reason for doing this is to drive traffic to the TV but also to keep existing followers loyal to the branded property. As an example there is more detail about the reasoning on my post on Big Brother (good and bad) in Second Life (Witnessing the Birth of an Entertainment Form) as well as posts nearby on CSI in Second Life and many of MTVs properties in There.com (TV Property Branded Virtual Worlds – The Beginning). There are moves around the world including BBC and many European broadcasters who are creating worlds alongside and in some cases in front of the TV episodics and this is the important point. Promoting films with games or virtual world spaces has a very limited life span, forging a strong link between virtual world events and TV episodics is to me a virtuous circle – especially considering the 200 plus worlds populated by the youth audience who are typically turning off TV – teens and tweens. Earlier there were many experiments of TV/World hybrids and I was involved, as mentioned before, in the Mirror. Here is John Wyver (then Illuminations) talking about that (remember this is circa 1997!).
The other key element that contributed to the success of The Mirror, much as in real life, was the provision of regular “hosts” for the space. These needed to be frequent visitors who spent a significant amount of their time in the world, and whom users could have some reasonable expectation of encountering when they logged on. These hosts would greet new entrants, introduce people to each other, point out activities and generally help people around. More than this, however, over time they became the core of the community of the world, encouraging people to return and beginning to develop the particular language and culture of The Mirror. Needless to say, they were the saddest to see it turned off after seven weeks – although a number of relationships begun virtually have continued in the real world – including at least one marriage and one recently born child.
Recent company start-ups or collaborations also suggest that there are moves afoot. Icarus studios are squarely aiming at the TV/VirtualWorld hybrid and about 18 months ago Endemol & EA teamed up to create Virtual World TV formats (VirtualMe) based on Deal or No Deal and Big Brother. Also there have been a plethora of immersive film launches (play-in-the-set-type builds) across the metaverse and I Legend, Digital Hollywood, Iron Man, Quantum of Solace and Transformers spring to mind as I write – but as I said this post is more to do with a continuous, what happens on TV resonantes into the virtual world and what happens there is reflected into the TV episodics. (I regularly consult on this specific area so won’t go into any more detail!)…
So, it is interesting to see this trend continuing as new world Twinity starts to do more experiential ‘film’ property marketing and even more ‘demographically focussed’ the current series of Heroes being extended into Habbo
The agreement was brokered by the William Morris Agency and marks the first time ‘Heroes’ has partnered with a virtual world.
While following directions from a mysterious virtual messenger, the new character will take the audience on an adventure as she discovers the history of ‘Heroes’ through a journey that travels back and forth between Habbo.com and the ‘Heroes’ Evolutions site. “We’re excited to work with Habbo to introduce a new character that will extend the enormously popular and EmmyÂ® Award winning ‘Heroes’ interactive story beyond the official Web site on NBC.com,” said Stephen Andrade, senior vice president, Digital Development and General Manager, NBC.com. On Habbo.com, fans of the show will be able to interact with the new virtual hero through a variety of in-game activities. Habbos participating in a weeklong quest will discover their own special powers and will be recruited as new heroes. Those who successfully complete the mission will be awarded various virtual prizes. On the ‘Heroes’ Evolutions site, the new virtual hero will be woven into several of the in-universe, interactive extensions of the on-air show, including a character profile, the Primatech Paper Assignment Tracker and new chapters of the ‘Heroes’ graphic novels.
One of the more obvious links between TV and film of course is simply to broadcast a seed back story as a series, animated makes most sense to keep a strong visual link and then run a MMOG alongside it. This extends, involves the audience more in the narrative and allows them to personalize the experience. We are seeing this about to play out (in Asia at least) with Fusion Fall on the Cartoon network.
This is a great use of virtual worlds and it also shows that you don’t need richly rendered environments to be able to engage with participants in these spaces. Also in terms of the ‘linking’ paradigm, it is close to ‘my’ level 3 wikipedia cross-media definition
Excerpt “Cross-media 3.0“ Bridges. – The truest form of cross-media where the story or service structure is specifically authored to drive the audience using strong Call-To-Actions, 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 an 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.”
Onto Twinity and the images here and above are me playing around in the pre-build set of the recently released and not universally praised film The Spirit. Although it grossed $10 million in the first 4 days it was pulled up for being unemotional and 2D. Well part of the problem generally with many big features now is that audiences have changed and want something more experiential – especially with ‘comic-noir’ films – why not let them ‘live’ in the story environment (my wikipedia item)? Twinity though have teamed up with Will Eisner studios to do this event (not in any way my ideal episodic but potentially a way for the Twinity user base to ‘create episodic, comic-noir’ machinima on-going?
CineStar Spirits you Away to Another World – CineStar’s CUBIX cinema in virtual Berlin is the premiere address for all movie-related events in Twinity. The cinema is currently showing the trailer and other exciting movie material from the upcoming premiere of The Spirit, a movie based on Will Eisner’s cult 1940s comic book series, which will be coming to a cinema screen near you from 5 February.Â Fans of the movie can get their hands on exclusive Spirit merchandising: including posters, standees, and an incredible Spirit mask that lets you see special visual effects inworld. Find more information here. Save the date and come to the opening party!
Date: Monday, 2 February
Time: 17:00 Berlin, 11am NYC, 00:00 Singapore
Where: CineStar CUBIX
Twinity (by Metaversum, the German created virtual world) are a long ways from a mature stable platform, hence being in beta for the past 12 months or so, but are already exhibiting the best ‘world-led’ event-based, user activation. This in my mind is high on the list of reasons for likely success over many of the areas that over-hyped Second Life suffered from in the early days. OK the world is quite big and empty and many ‘social’ tools are not yet available inworld but the kind of activity quoted below (calling for videos, images, stories etc: attached to some well know brands) is great first step community building and more importantly getting a growing community to market for you. Even I had a go at one a few months ago – video embedded below 🙂 BTW Metaversum you really need to improve the video tools (detached camera please!).
Submit Your Artwork and Win! – Take part in The Spirit Screenshot and Machinima Contest and win an exclusive film poster signed by cult film director Frank Miller or The Spirit action figures.
Things Are Looking A Little Different Around Hereos Wear the mask and see Twinity through the eyes of the Spirit! – Use Twinity’s screenshot and recording tools to create incredible Spirit- inspired images! To be eligible to win the contest, screenshots must be created while wearing the Spirit Mask and its visual effects must be demonstrated in your machinima. Screenshots may be submitted in jpg, png or gif formats. Sensational Prizes – You have the chance to win sensational The Spirit prizes! Three prizes will be given out to the lucky winners of the Screenshot and Machinima Contest:
* 1st prize: The Spirit action figure and film poster signed by Frank Miller
* 2nd prize: The Spirit film poster signed by Frank Miller
* 3rd prize: The Spirit action figure To take part in the contest, all you have to do is:
Upload your movie to a video sharing website, for example “YouTube”, then submit the link to your uploaded video together with your Twinity name to firstname.lastname@example.org
Competition deadline: 28 February 2009
We’ll celebrate the winning entries with a Winner’s Gallery party in the CineStar Event Hall! Artwork will be displayed in the CUBIX cinema during The Spirit promotion. Keep an eye on Twinity’s Event Calendar for further details!
Of course I would encourage all TV producers to think about their current audience and whether they want to reach them this way. More importantly you need to think of the appropriateness of creating inworld characters or environments for them to exist in – serious games (from documentaries) and childrens episodics are hot ones at the moment . The real effort is more about having great characters that are persistant in the space but beware of bots or NPC’s (non player characters) pretending to be real, this can have a strong counter productive effect. More later.