Transmedia Storytelling, Social Games and Hollywood

03/26/2010
Courtesy of Jerome Kashetsky

Courtesy of Jerome Kashetsky

Last week, DigiBC and the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade (DFAIT)–in production with a handful of other partners like Emily Carr, Telefilm Canada and the CFTPA–presented some of Los Angeles’ biggest social media experts and personalities to a sold-out Vancouver crowd. The workshop was appropriately titled, “Social Networking in Transmedia Hollywood: A Strategic Masterclass.” The gist? The discussion formed around the landscape of transmedia storytelling in Hollywood: How is it different from a traditional story arc? What does this mean for producers, biz people, game designers, artists and marketing strategists? How is TV and film content being consumed as new media platforms like Facebook, mobile and social networks proliferate? What does the economic incentive look like for content creators in this world? (Show us the money, por favor!) And lastly, how can we actively involve and engage the audience through transmedia storytelling?

As we’re always glad to participate in forums that deal with socialization on the web, this event was a natural fit for us. In particular, we were interested to hear (and offer our thoughts to content creators) about what the experts thought about monetizing content–in the context of social games and entertainment properties–through micro-transactions. Gregory Markel, an SEO expert from Infuse Creative (@infusecreative) echoed our sentiments that micro-transactions are great way to generate revenue. He agreed that using “non-cash transactions,” in particular, to keep audiences engaged was something more businesses needed to think about. We mentioned this concept in an earlier post, but essentially, in “non-cash transactions,” a player doesn’t directly pay money directly to the content producer, but performs some task for which the producer/advertisers/game designers indirectly get paid. The most obvious example would be the “offers” delivered by SuperRewards or one of the other CPA networks, but broaden the view and it could be any number of tasks within the game that adds value for other players, sponsors, or the game developer. We think the implications of applying the techniques built and perfected by the free to play, micropayment based, games to more traditional media content are potentially huge, especially as traditional advertising revenues continue plummeting.

Personally, I felt that there were shared anxieties from businesses about creating content that could (and would) appeal to the different target audiences on different platforms. The ways in which businesses can measure success on these new platforms was also something that many people wanted to know about. (To RT or not to RT?) How did the experts address these issues? Darcy Jouan, President of Slam Internet, a company that develops online content for CBS’s television show the “Ghost Whisperer” offered great insight for content creators. He recommended developing companion content to existing brands (TV or film). He believed however, that the challenge for content creators was staying consistent in storytelling through new platforms (so to extend the franchise or help build brand equity). As he explained, in many instances stories are re-purposed and repeated from their original form to a new platform and this doesn’t work all the time. Peter Huh, Co-Founder of Vimation and Shira Lazar (@shiralazar), an Emmy nominated “Media Empress” both emphasized the importance of online video. They stressed that videos needed to be presented in a more authentic way, as this could lead to audience engagement that builds a stronger brand overall.

While I would agree with many of the points raised, I think that one (exhilarating or terrifying, depending on your point of view) challenge for content creators that remains that there are as yet no rules for how you come up with a transmedia story arc from the ground up. How do you ensure the movies, video games, smart phone applications, books, and other media are appropriately weighed and all necessary elements are there to form the whole story? Based on the latest news from Hollywood about transmedia storytelling, I think we’re not the only ones thinking about this. What do you think of this space and the potential it holds? As always, we’d love to hear from you so drop us a line.