StoryWorld 2011 in San Francisco: Day 1

In case you couldn’t make this year’s StoryWorld Conference in San Francisco, I’ll be offering a few short re-caps of key talks and themes throughout the next three days. Here we go.

DAY 1 – Morning

Key Themes:

  • The story remains crucial to transmedia. A transmedia project should not originate from the desire to make use of new technology, but from the desire to tell a captivating story.
  • After centuries of ‘broadcasting’ (radio, TV, film, publishing, etc. – offering mass content to isolated consumers) storytelling now returns to its social roots, particularly due to new media’s possibilities to share content.
  •  The audience now expects more content, and audience participation is a) inevitable/an indicator that you are doing everything right, and b) necessary to keep a storyworld alive whilst trying to keep pace with audience’s insatiable demand for additional content.
  • Opportunities for audience participation should ideally be planned right from the inception of a transmedia project.
  • Creators need to have a clear vision of their storyworld, and engage in active and careful brand management throughout their transmedia enterprise.
  • The more touch points are offered to audiences, the more invested audiences get into a transmedia project.

 

Jordan Weisman:  The New Power of Story

Challenges ahead for transmedia and entertainment in general:

  • Distribution – interactivity of content creates new distribution bottle-necks
  • Discoverability – infinite amount of content drives up cost of exposing content while cost of producing content decreases; it is very hard to be seen but once an audience is built it is easier to lead them from one platform to another
  • Creation flow – creation becomes a shared process; one content owner is replaced by multiple co-creators.

 

Panel Discussion: From Stories to Storyworlds

Brian Seth Hurst (moderator): There are four levels of audience relations –

  • Broadcasting: Generating content flow towards audiences with little or no interaction between producers and the audience
  • Listening: Producers listen to audience’s points of views and may or may not incorporate these into their work
  • “Welcome to my world:” Welcoming audience engagement and opinion and incorporating it into production
  •  “Take it, it’s yours:” Actively inviting audience participation and user generated content

 

Panelist consensus (Zak Kadison, Liz Rosenthal, David Tochterman, Morgan Bouchier):

  • Producers must start with the story, then consider the platforms involved, and must always manage the entire storyworld on all of its different platforms to ensure the narratives stay consistent.
  • Audience relations must be actively managed and cannot and should not be ignored. Must also take UGC into account and must NOT suppress it – keeps the story alive.

Will content creators ever share their revenue with creators of UGC?

  • Zak Kadison: Not any time soon in Hollywood; studios are unlikely to let go of their revenues and rights.
  • Liz Rosenthal: They will eventually but it takes time, and it will probably start out with independent productions.

 

DAY 1 – Afternoon

Panel Discussion: C0nvergence Culture in Business – Franchising and Product Integration

Panelists: Cheryl Rubin, Miguel Gonzalez, Blerime Topalli; Moderator: John Heinsen

  • You need to understand the audience you are trying to reach with your content.
  • Your content and a possible product/brand partnership or integration must be a good fit – same personality, features, characteristic, vision.
  • If you are aiming to collaborate with a particular brand, find out which agencies it uses and pitch to them. Also be sure you pitch to the right type of agency depending on the nature of your project (advertising/digital/promotional/etc.).
  • Make sure your entire team works on the transmedia project early on, including technologists and marketing, for example.
  • If you own a trademark or a brand, you need to manage it actively and foster it. Have clear guidelines what uses are acceptable for your brand and which ones aren’t. Otherwise it gets inceasingly harder to defend your copyright (which you should get asap if you haven’t done so yet).
  • Also have a clear system of rights management outlining which terms and names can be used in what types of context.
  • One of the problems of revenue-sharing between UGC and PGC are the trademark rights, amongst other things. If you let others use your trademark/brand AND make money of it, you will find it harder to defend your rights to the trademark in front of a legal jury against other producers.
  • As a transmedia consultant you have to accept and prepare for cases where your client changes their mind about a project rapidly, or drops the entire project altogether.
  • Each transmedia poject requires its own way of measuring success. Define what success means for your project, including target demographic reach etc. Also, don’t be afraid to leverage data about your consumers; knowing which platforms they are coming from, and where they are heading next is incredibly valuable.
  • Google’s Zero Moment of Truth is a free ebook that the panelists can  recommend on getting started with evaluating online data about your users.

 

Panel Discussion: The Distribution Dilemma – Paywalls, Piracy & Subscription

Panelists: Jason George, Kevin Henshaw, Olivier Delfosse; Moderator: Charles Hudson

  • When pricing your individual content units you need to consider how expensive it is to produce one more extra unit. If this cost is low, it may be better to start with a freemium approach; if it is high, you might be dependent on subscriptions or larger single payments.
  • One problem we are facing is that as the cost of producing content goes down the quality of the content we are producing does not necessarily increase.
  • In freemium models – which have worked extremely well for social games like Farmville – only a very small amount of users (1-2%) will actually be willing to pay a large amount of money (several hundred dollars) for more access and more play. Most other consumers will be more likely to make several micro-payments. Because the micro-paying consumers make up such a great proportion of the market, it is more profitable to primarily cater to them rather than the big-payers.
  • Points-systems tied in with e-commerce are a great way to repay user loyalty.
  • If consumers want something badly enough, they WILL pay for it. You just have to make sure that your content is good enough for users to really want it.
  • You have to make it easy to pay – frictionless. Find a way around your users having to put in their credit card details again and again.
  • The first time paying is the crucial one. Afterwards consumers are a lot more likely to pay again.
  • Piracy is a great problem for mobile-based games.
  • When dealing with teens & tweens, subscription models maybe best as they only require parents to enter their payment details once and decrease the probability that youths will use their parents’ credit cards unauthorized.

 

Panel: Co-Managing in Collaboration with Stakeholders

Panelists: Joel Gotler, Zak Kadison, Christopher Kenneally, David Tochterman; Moderator: Scott Walker

  • There is currently no standard practice to handle the rights management of transmedia properties, and many lawyers are still inexperienced in this field.
  • You should ALWAYS get an attorney, even if you are on a budget.
  • If you are on a budget, try to do as much research as possible before getting an attorney, and begin to draft your own ideas on how the rights should be handled.
  • Large entertainment companies always want the most profitable rights (film, TV, etc.). If you are the content owner and want to retain certain rights you must demonstrate that you are able to exercise the rights you want to keep.
  • Tread extremely carefully when it comes to rights management and licensing, and ALWAYS draw up documents stating the rights/licensing situation, even if you really can’t afford a lawyer. If you can’t afford a lawyer, draft the document yourself but do so extremely detailed and extremely carefully.
  • If you invest in lawyers once you have the possibility to set a company precedent, which in turn will save you money and effort in the long run when it comes to drafting licensing/rights documents.
  • One aspect that is currently not covered by rights or licensing is the data acquired from monitoring consumer behavior. These can be worth a fortune, so consider the use of these data wisely.