Yesterday afternoon I attended the ‘Storytelling Through Advanced Mobile Content’ panel at the CTIA Enterprise & Applications Conference in San Diego. The panel featured four case studies from Transmedia LA members and a ‘fire-side chat’ between Seth Shapiro, Principal at New Amsterdam Media and Partner at Media Valuation Partners, and Albert Cheng, Executive Vice President Digital and Chief Production Officer at Disney ABC Television Group. Needless to say, it is impossible to recount all presentations and discussions in their entirety, but I would like to highlight a few points I myself found the most relevant:
1. JC Christofilis, founder of Dilemma, pointed out how important ROI – “Return on Innovation” – is for contemporary businesses to succeed. Innovation requires calculated risk-taking. Entertainment decision-makers must therefore actively fight their fear of the unknown and be proactive as well as smart. They must innovate, experiment, AND hedge their bets to stay in (and on top of) the game.
2. John Heinsen, Executive Producer and CEO at Bunnygraph Entertainment, made some (extremely) well-educated guesses about the future of entertainment production, distribution, and consumption. The core concept here is that technology and media gather around the intellectual property rather than vice versa. Entertainment content will have to actively seek out the places “where the audience lives” to reach them, and it will have to approach audiences in many different ways and on several different platforms (Albert Cheng later reiterated this point as well). This, however, also means that entertainment production will have to be adjusted and better integrated with marketing, scheduling, and distribution.
3. You should always try to produce the best content (quality) possible. This point was reinforced by Zach Jordan (Founder/Partner at Joe Digital, Inc.), JC Christofalis, and Albert Cheng on separate occasions. Yes, quality costs, but being resourceful is just as important as having a certain size budget to prove your worth to decision-makers and the audience.
4. If you produce quality content that people care about, they will pay for it. Micro-payments in particular seemed to be very promising to the panelists.
5. The importance of mobile phones as touch points for a transmedia story must not be underestimated. As JC pointed out, phones are now becoming extensions of our own bodies, and we are able and willing to spend time on our phones 24/7.
6. Measuring success remains a challenge, and it needs to be determined anew for each transmedia enterprise. Some producers might only want exposure, others want new audience members, and again others intend to make large sums of money. Data can be both a curse and a blessing in this case and will be debated hotly in the years to come, due to the fact that many views do not translate into fans or money spent, for example.
7. Transmedia storytelling and cross-platform content must no longer be considered marketing-gimmicks. Instead, a story must purposely be developed across platforms from the very beginning, not as an afterthought.
8. There is a growing digital divide between the tech-savvy audience, innovative producers, and key decision-makers in entertainment. After climbing the corporate ladder and acquiring decades of experience, many executives are now seeing times and technology changing rapidly around them, and the most common reaction is fear of innovation and fear of change (both of which ultimately translate to fear of failure). It is up to producers and executives to work against a stand-still and towards a more dynamic and innovative entertainment production.
8. “Go big or go home,” says Albert Cheng. Dare to experiment and to make huge changes. There is no guarantee that you will not fail, but whether you do or you don’t, you will collect valuable experience that will already put you one step ahead of your competitors.
9. In order to be engage your audience you must find out how you can create “emotional triggers” that will keep them involved. Telling a story is the basis and only the beginning of this (says, again, Albert Cheng.)
10. Distributing globally remains a challenge, mainly due to legislations, time zones, languages, and competing media industries.
11. The story is the driver – of audience interest, of production, of distribution, and of money. The story increasingly stands at the center of everything, and whoever does not have a relevant, engaging story to tell will lose out.
Looking at this the message becomes clear: Innovate, experiment, and dare to try. Be resourceful. Always within reason, of course. Even if things don’t go the way you want them to, you will gain a valuable learning experience that will give you a very crucial edge. You cannot afford (literally) to let fear stand in your way. And always, always have a great story to tell – it is what will drive your success.