Storyworld Conference Day Two (Part 2)

by April Arrglington on November 28th, 2011

For Part 1 of this post click here.
Panel 2: Navigating the Silos
What are silos and how they affect the work process?

The silo effect refers to a lack of communication and common goals between departments in an organization. It’s an attitude of not sharing that describes the absence of operational reciprocity.

As conglomerates get bigger, divisions are being absorbed. Each department struggles to keep with its cultural environment and agenda. While working in isolation sometimes produces quality, the communication problem endures. And because of the fragile state of the economy, many people behave out of fear of getting fired.

The problem also translates to every single step of production, from the pitch to the marketing campaign. And what is more, when there is lack of common goals within an organization, then is that much harder to reach audiences in an efficient manner. All these factors affect the work process.

What should we look into in terms of finding a solution to this problem?

Arguably, we can say that silos are the reason why we have producers in the business. In order to navigate the silos, such mediators should negotiate with different divisions in a delicate manner as to build relationships based on mutual respect. In addition, said mediators should focus on education and persuasion as a way to slowly chip away at the silos.

I personally find interesting that it seems women are especially good at navigating the silos. Just looking at the panel alone, consisting of mostly women, confirms my observation. Maybe is because women are particularly good at building relationships, and relationships are what breaks down silos… just like social media relationships breaks down social hierarchies.

Where does Transmedia fit in all of this?

Transmedia offers a vertical integration for the silos problem by shifting the paradigm and changing the way we have been doing things. Transmedia positions by themselves are geared into orchestrating better communication among different departments trough cross-departmental integration.

This is particularly true in the TV sector. When considering Transmedia strategies from the beginning, things like incorporating a 2nd Transmedia Unit during the production stage creates more visual assets in a cost effective manner. Also, integrating marketing schedules from the time scripts are locked allows for a cohesive release of all digital assets. Furthermore, establishing partnerships with brands and innovative technologies allows for rich tie-in extensions.

The key to this organizational revolution is to start small. Execute one integrating strategy at a time. Come up with several pitches targeting several silos. And don’t be afraid of trying new things. It is all a process that only gets validated with time and proof of success. It is going to take a lot of evangelizing at first, especially when dealing with silos at opposite ends of the production chain. For example, content creators are often at odds with distribution dynamics, and afraid of how to maneuver the press. But if you can capture the elements that can become Transmedia extensions from the beginning, you can gain their trust and push through.

What are other challenges to consider?

  • A big issue, of course, is control and having departments being comfortable trusting a more integrating paradigm. This issue calls for the creation of a centralized Transmedia hub that runs its own P&L, and it’s independently funded.
  • Another problem is the lack of technological savvy within the industry that just slows effectiveness and productivity.
  • Then there is the rights factor and its multiple ramifications.
  • And last but not least there is legal, which is often challenging integration because it is always required to look for the common denominator in all the elements involved.

Panel 3: Pitching and Selling your idea
As we all know, the spec market is basically dead because the industry is currently looking for franchises. The most viable trends for acquiring IP are coming from profitable authors, the graphic novel, and YA market. Fantasy and Sci-fi are popular genres because they allow for viable universe extensions. However, it is important to point out that IP thrives differently on different platforms.

For example, properties that might be suitable for TV may not be for suitable for film, and vice versa. The thing to remember is that film IP unfolds as a one time event, while TV IP focuses on the characters and the relationship they develop with the audience. Because of this relationship, TV properties easily allow for universe expansions and the amplification of certain content.

Lessons and Considerations:

Mike Monello explains that in the case of True Blood, one of the first things considered for the original pitch was to explain the story through the filter of whomever they were pitching it to. So, for example, when it came to pitching for the marketing department they pitched the project through the release schedule.

Lesson one: Understand who you are pitching to, and learn if they in turn are going to be pitching your project to someone else. If that is the case, you indirectly need to pitch how to pitch your project. The best policy in these cases is to never dilute the pitch. The clearer they can become with the idea the better.

Lesson two: Understand the infrastructure of the company you are pitching to as much as you can as to better navigate the silos in charge of looking at your project. And because the assortment of teams that are going to be involved, you also have to make sure that the company you are pitching to is the right fit for your project.

This is a very important issue to have in mind. Not only does the pitch needs to be catered to the company’s wants and needs, bit the company needs to be able to handle the Transmedia strategy you are planning to develop. Some companies are not even equipped to handle Transmedia strategies, so make sure you do your homework before hand.

Lesson three: Bring a concrete value to the pitch. For example, innovative digital strategies can translate to followers. But there is no way to know this for sure if you don’t try to find out first. This is why there is tangible value in R&D. Many elements in a Transmedia strategy may not be immediately measurable, but can still be viable extensions. The only way to find out, however, is by testing stuff out. Rule of thumb is that proof of concept always speaks louder than sizzle reels.

Lesson four: Apply Transmedia principles to the pitching process in order to mirror the strategies that you are looking to pursue in a bigger scale. Be realistic, however, and don’t expect getting all your points of entry approved from the get go. Pick and choose your battles, and break it down as to make it less threatening to investors.

Lesson five: Don’t only prove your capabilities. Investors are more concern about the visibility of your project in a saturated market. So make the pitch sharable, and consider having a built-in audience. Fans not only have the authority of busting down doors, but they also have leverage when you are planning on revisiting investors.

It is also important to consider that, when it comes to building a relationship with your audience from the beginning, the quality of online engagement also matters immensely.

Lesson six: Be prepared to talk not only about budget, but about your monetization plans. Know in what ways your extensions can generate money, even if you are not entirely sure about the overhead.

Lesson seven: Getting validation can be a slow process, so collaborate with people that can support your vision. Also, for liability reasons, it’s advised to establish partnerships before targeting investors.

Lesson eight: When it comes to protecting yourself against people stealing your ideas, just know that there is no reason to be afraid of sharing until money is being generated. It also helps to have many visual assets for the project that in and of themselves can’t question your authorship. Meanwhile, if you don’t share information it could be detrimental for the pitch, and it is to your advantage to have a fan base backing your work. Just know who you are dealing with when you go in for a pitch.

By the same token, if you are very particular about a piece of original IP, then the best thing to do is stash it until the right time comes and you feel more comfortable and confident putting it out there. In the meantime work on something you are willing to let go off more easily.

Panel 4: Generation C & Shared Storyworlds
When it comes to audience engagement the truth of the matter is that audiences are not really as passive as we think they are. The problem is that we just can’t quantify how active they really are as of yet because we can’t measure properly their engagement behavior correctly across multiple platforms.

It has been found that a vast number of unaccounted fans actually want to engage in a deeper level with a storyworld, even add to it and create their own extensions. It is only as of recent years that technology has allowed for these audiences to engage in this manner.

Additional content, then, is a direct byproduct of the relationship between audiences and IP. This in turns translates to value co-creation, and the ability for audiences to experience validation within the storyworld as contributors for the IP. By the same token, content creators enjoy the benefits of a loyal following. This not only allows for monetization opportunities, but fans commitment to maintain the integrity of the IP universe.

What content creators should consider when building shared storyworlds?

In order to keep a symbiotic relationship with the audience, you must allow for transparency, authenticity, honesty and respect. After all, fans only want the freedom and autonomy to curate content and show their dedication to a property.

The first thing to consider is creating a setting that allows for a dynamic response from the audience experience of the story. Keep the integrity of the IP, but utilize the negative space of a property to not only allow for spin offs, but also audience exploration. Also consider getting strong reactions from audiences by pushing the limits of the property’s canon. Creative restrains have been known to yield creative results.

When it comes to the integrity of the story, make sure to clearly define the parameters audiences can play in. Explain subgenres, and the importance of coherence and continuity for the sustainability of the IP. Also, allow for flexible ways for audiences to tie-in their content back to the main canon.

It is also important to consider the integrity of the platforms use to engage audiences with the property, as there are different attributes for how different platforms are perceived and consumed. Communities look for open comment policies, freedom of IP manipulation for fan art, fan fiction, and other fan related assets. They also look for the ability to engage in their own immersive dynamics when such are not readily available to them, like character interaction and role play.

If content creators are flexible enough to support these policies, then they can take advantage of the dynamics of emotional support that fans get from their communities. By lining up production cycles with those needs, you amplify the ways you can measure engagement contribution.

Where does ownership stand in all of this, and is there room for monetizing?

If there is an intention to create a shared storyworld for your property, then the design for it needs to be incorporated from the very beginning. Also, there needs to be an understanding that absolute control of the IP is an illusion. This is why relationships between publishers and participatory audiences are so tricky.

When it comes to fiction, consider building the collaboratve mechanics in stages. First find the audience members capable of co-creating. Build a reputation system within the community, yet allow for democratic world building dynamics through things like workshop collaboration.

For non-fiction, the dynamics are only slightly different. The pull in these instances comes from the meaning and messages behind the story. This is what generates audience commitment that keeps content generation.

In terms of monetization, you just can’t think of monetizing from all the free content coming out of the fandom. That attitude is what can ruin audience experiences with shared storyworlds. You have to think in terms of mutual benefits, and what you can offer to the fandom in return.

Fans usually just want validation of their work, and further access to original content. Innovation technology allows for creative solutions in terms of applications that could fulfill such needs. Reasonable solutions can only be reached by thinking out side the box.

NOTE: For more on shared storyworlds check

To keep reading click on Part 3.

Posted in not categorized    Tagged with #swc11, Ivan Askwith, Nicoletta Iacobacci, John Heinsen, Lisa Hsia, LucasFilm, European Broadcasting Union, NBC Universal, Interactive Fiction BBC, Bunnygraph Entertainment, Jesse Albert, Mike Monello, Campfire, Kenneth Swezey, Toby Moores, Sleepydog Ltd., True Blood, Scott Walker, Brain Candy, Molly Barton, The Penguin Group, Esther Lim, The Estuary, Pamela Rutledge, A Think Lab, SharedStoryWordls, SharedStoryWorlds


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