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…

Absent note

…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

Good morning and thank you for inviting me to be the first speaker today. I am currently the Exec Producer of TV Multi Platform at ABC, responsible for the non-kids TV sites, social media strategy and implementation and mobile apps. The department also runs iview and all the kids multi platform services as well as trialing new services, such as the live Q&A vote over the past few weeks. I have only been in the role for 7 months so my talk reflects some of the challenges and new service opportunities I see for ABC Multi Platform with fresh eyes. Challenges I think that are relevant to all media organisations in a constantly shifting user landscape. ABC is already a leader in multi platform services but there is a long road ahead and one that requires significant vision to ride out the coming storm. For this reason I called my talk The Hybrid Media Challenge, taming the coming perfect storms – I used the plural of storm as yes, there is are a few ahead. But first a little background history.

The first time I came to Australia in 2000 was for the Small Screen Big Picture conference round the corner in Freo. I was over here keynoting about BBC Interactive TV, as Senior Development Producer, and how red button, one way interaction was transforming TV. Today I want to continue some of that presentation, but first a little something I presented on the final panel of that conference – what the world would be like in 2009 as seen from 2000. You can see that slide from 12 years ago here – apologise for the text blitz… Surprisingly, I looked at this last week, nine of these ten predictions are pretty spot on and four form the foundation for my brief talk. Seriously using old content!

  • ‘Scheduled live video becomes a special group shared event – these events generate most online discussion
  • Everything can be made portable and kept forever.
  • The words TV, Radio and internet disappeared from our vocab. Even the word interactive went – everything is now interactive
  • Everything is available on-demand from anywhere over vast broadband networks. Everything is pulled & only personally relevant content is ‘pushed’.

Translating these into the present day, what are the new Forces of Media, and what is their trajectory, developing those perfect media storms. The four areas of that are reaching hurricane proportions are:

  • Force 1 – Social Sharing – Ubiquitous social media, shared everywhere
  • Force 2 – Connected or on-demand TV – TV has become for many, video-on demand stories vs appointment to view
  • Force 3 – Mobile – The personal portable portal. Our always on, private windows to the world.
  • Force 4 – Transmedia – Content is agnostic and expected to be available across a users platform eco-system

I will get onto the Hybrid Media focus of the talk in a moment and how combinations of the above help us steer through the confusion. We need to ask ourselves, in the coming stormy digital environment should we hide or try to control and tame it? The ABC has been at the forefront of mainstream multi platform over the last two decades and continues to do so. Here are a few services we have launched over the past couple of months while I have been there such as traditional popular TV web sites such as Miss Fisher, The Straits and the Time Travellers Guide to Australia.

Alongside this we have a range of highly social media friendly programs coming up such as Randling, Opening Shots, Life as a Playlist and many kids services. Previous 2009-11 services that got widespread recognition and incorporated community content or personal exploration included Making Australia Happy (which had 30 thousand take the test), Gruen Transfer, Angry Boys (amazing social engagement) and Wide Open Road. But the environment that these services existed in has changed rapidly so you and I, as content makers, need to be prepared. What are the big changes?

Firstly we are seeing a massive growth in the proportion of mobile accesses of ABC Online content. Growing at almost a percentage a month and now currently at 18% of all online visits. If we look at engagement or time spent we may be looking at early 2013 as a point where more time is spent with ABC online on mobile than PC. The recent launch of the Good Game app for instance. There was a simple submit your review feature in the app. In the past year via the website 500 reviews were submitted, in the first week of the apps launch more than 31000 reviews were sent in via mobile. Also iview is seeing massive increases in mobile views and we predict that in 2013 the viewing will be higher on mobile than on TV too.

Social Media Counts

But with the increase in mobile access there is the decline in general viewers of broadcast TV content and the shift to on-demand or catch-up. I won’t reveal Australian stats so lets look at the recent fall in ratings from our cousins over in the US. Sunday’s New York Times reports that during March compared with this time last year Fox lost 20% of its viewers, NBC 3%, CBS 8% and ABC 21%. Then there is the issue of social media. Users so busy sharing their own stories to care about the ‘curated’ ones. As I was the one who created this widget I hope you will forgive me displaying it once more. Two simple things to draw from this – online content is now becoming as trusted if not more so than traditional media, but the tsunami of community created content is accelerating faster than traditional media output who are resorting to repetitive or repackaged, unsurprising, irrelevant content. How will that work out? It is critical to have a vision in this altered landscape, without it you will always get lost in a jungle that is sprouting new plants at every turn. If you do not know where you are headed in this constantly changing world you will find yourself going around in circles and/or simply disappearing for good. Continuing this plant metaphor, content needs to remove its single platform roots and be accessible everywhere. Transmedia is a term we don’t use a lot in the ABC as it is not specific or focused enough but the principle behind it is simple. Transmedia is about keeping users engaged in your story as they move across their media & life platforms and channels on one or multiple platforms or devices. Build connections According to Oztam in Q4 2011 Australia we have a tipping point mix of platforms – DTT at 95%,  PVRs at 44% Mobile 49% Internet enabled households at 77% tablets 10% and rising quickly.

But media is no longer a single ‘push’ island, controlled and fenced in – scarcity is a thing of the past. The landscape has splintered, fragmented and all organisations need strategies to produce content that can travel. I often call it transocialmedia, because the ‘packaged’ stories are in many cases transported or referenced by social networks. Many broadcast shows are well crafted video stories by those who have big budgets to create high production value linear content. But producing stories across platforms is still very difficult because funding and commissioning in 99% of cases still given to those who have a track record in single platform storytelling. This needs to change if it is to remain relevant. I was going to talk more about one area on this map in the bottom left called the Straits of Augmented Reality but time is pressing.

But be prepared for the slow layering of the digital over the analog, our physical space. Think about each of these ‘social’ services being layered and mapped across our real world. What are the implications, the opportunities? High production value, geo located content is certainly new and is actually one of the few areas where normal users are ahead of the ‘professional’ creators. Everything humanity has created can potentially be geo located but more than that new hybrid forms will organically emerge. New forms of storytelling for example Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries could be delivered as video, audio or mini games across physical Melbourne Streets on smartphones or tablets, you follow the trail and experience the real environments. Finally I want to get onto a key Hybrid Media Form from ABC perspective – Social TV and Second Screen. Two of the most powerful media forces at the moment still. 1 – Live broadcast event TV and 2 – social media. The conversations that occur against one off events, live shows, reality TV etc: are without doubt with us forever and compelling for many. 280 million for example share TV shows on their Facebook profiles and TV dominates twitter worldwide. Social and TV are compelling bedfellows.

85% of TV watching in the US is with a connected device, mostly mobile or tablet. There are many vanilla Social Program Guide services springing up globally, I have about 30 on my iPad and Android tablet at the moment, and we are still very early days. Most have no connection editorially to the shows, which is where the creators of content have a clear advantage. The appetite may not be fully developed yet in the audience, but content owners are laying the foundations for hybrid mixes of synchronised 2nd screen, deep social sharing and stickiness.

This leads back to the start of my talk. Interactive TV 1.0 that was red button, user against the set top box. A rather one way, cold experience. But even then, when the editorial was right, such as some early services I helped make like Test the Nation or Walking with Beasts, the interactive users reached 8/9 million per show. But now we are in an evolved second screen world, the social layer combined with play-along apps and finally a robust way for users to communicate back, in real time, to the creators of the shows.

The ABC and other broadcasters have a great opportunity now in creating the ultimate Hybrid Media Format. Personal Mobile alongside Live TV – a perfect storm and a marriage made in media heaven. We are trialing services like the recent Q&A vote to start to test the appetite for real time interaction. Q&A of course is already well known for the parallel twitter feeds around and into the show, but we are looking at synchronized services across the board, especially kids services. Compelling 2nd screen storytelling interaction that will potentially bring users back to appointment to view, broadcast – because simply, there is something to do.

I am also developing in the Multi Platform team, something we are calling the ABC companion app. What you see here is a very early prototype which is evolving quickly and it combines a range of features that we see are important to meld together in one service.

Features such as recommendations from friends and AI agents, social share, 2 screen synch elements such as vote, play, extras, some gamification elements, integrated on-demand and catch-up, remote control and much more. Admittedly there are other services that provide some of this but it really starts to come into its own when the content creators are involved and can really link social features with editorial content.

I would have like to have explored many other hybrid media forms which are on our radar but for now lets think more broadly. Hybrid media combinations are like relationships. Marriages of say, two talented and powerful individuals. One cannot sit in the shadow of the other, if TV treats social media as a weaker partner to be used when it sees fit, the social element will just leave and do it’s own thing. Each party in the relationship needs to be respected and allowed to display their own special characteristics, to grow together. The coming perfect storms will be tamed by those who are flexible, can bend with the wind. Those who respect the true power of each of the forces and those brave enough to get out and face it. I hope the ABC can and does, and perhaps ABC may eventually become known as Australia’s Broadband Community. Thank you