Storyworld Conference Day One (Part 2)

by April Arrglington on November 14th, 2011

For Part 1 of this post click here.
Panel 3 - New Business Models: Be Small, Think Big, Move Fast
On creating projects outside of gatekeepers:

It seems like convergence will prevail for a few years before people stop designing projects that just go through some platforms just for the sake of covering their new media bases. The only way to counter this trend is by having more original IP integrating Transmedia storytelling through out the whole experience.

When it comes to designing a particular experience there are several ways to go about it, pending on your platform picks. Nobody thought of Facebook as a narrative channel until about a year or so ago when Murmur experimented with that notion. They launched “Him, Her and Them”, a social interactive experience released specifically through Facebook, which made for a very interesting case study.

Then there is the exact opposite of that, in which you would release a project for the audience to experience, just to later release the platform. That’s exactly what the folks behind of “Authentic in All Caps” aim to do with the application they have created, that allows for what Christy describes as ‘audio tours around the web.’

There is also the instance where you would mash these two models, and bundle an experience together. The best example of this is Bjork’s recent released Biophilia music app. Just have in mind that, which ever model you decide to experiment in, always take in consideration your audience and what kinds of platforms they are approachable in. Treat your audience as the real gatekeepers; if you win them over they will support the trajectory of your project from the bottom up.

On sustainability:

  • Make the projects replay able and persistent.
  • Work on scalability.
  • Focus on production values.
  • Make the experience a product in itself.
  • Insure your IP rights.
  • Make IP relevant across time so that it can live online forever.

On funding:

Be creative. If you work in an agency funnel funds through it and look into investing at least 4 to 6 percent of the total income in an innovation hub for R&D. These exploratory labs help support proof of concept.

Make partnerships with creative technologists who are interested in co-creating projects and are invested in the work. Also look at collaborating with up and coming digital teams looking to build their portfolio.

Build an audience by reducing meta-promotion and opt on promoting the project as you are writing it and building it through. Describe the project while you work on it and explain exactly how is going to work. Create visual assets, like say an interactive trailer, and make sure they are shareable.

NOTE: As complimentary reading for this Panel I HIGHLY recommend Brian Clark's recently published series on new Transmedia Business Models posted at Henry Jenkins' blog.

Panel 4 - The Distribution Dilemma: Paywalls, Piracy & Subscriptions
On highest ways of monetization:

There are many different models to consider besides freemium and premium models. There is definitely value on data in the freedium model, and there are applications that can grow from this model over time, pending on how the audience consumes a particular franchise. For premium models the important thing is to understand audience behavior and what they seek out of each platform. In the gaming industry is all about cost balancing and what values you can offer to the consumer.

For example you can create a game meant to be played for 10 minutes while you wait in a line. The dynamics of that model change when you create a game that requires for longer commitment. While it is easier to get many people to pay for something small, it is true that there is an equal value in the fewer committed players (often call in the gaming industry ‘whales’) that are willing to invest more money in a more expensive game.

In the gaming industry many argue that the ‘whales’ are the ones keeping the business running. But that mentality is a gamble, as the conversion ratios confirm that whale players stand for only 2%. Moreover, realistically speaking, you can’t only rely in the capabilities of only one market. While is important to service your loyal costumers, it’s just as important to get different revenues streams. As with everything in business is a numbers game.

The challenge then is to move that paradigm to more frictionless payments by general non-hardcore players. In order to do that you have to understands what motivates this particular set of players. While is true that most people will be willing to try something for free, there are things that can incentive these non-hardcore audiences to move into paying for what is behind the paywall:

  • It has been proven that certain people will be willing to pay for virtual goods if the content is compelling enough. This is how whale gamers can be created. While on the subject of micro transactions, is important to point out that in some instances paying for virtual goods is just as valid as paying for a subscription program, because players can starts to see how a virtual good is a type of specialty brand product. When players can make that connection and equate the value between the two you can start cashing in.

  • Other audiences are motivated by certain gaming dynamics they experience in other platforms. Incentives like badges, points, and merchandise tie-ins work to hook them and keep them engaged. When it comes to merchandise tie-ins, however, there are many different views on how to advertise and give discounts. Tie-in merchandise advertising offers don’t work for the first penny in. At that early stage is still all about the game.

  • Other audiences like social dynamics in games. This sector will be willing to make purchases when it benefits others they care for (like giving gifts or making specific ‘sponsor’ donations). In these instances is important to have easy accessibility through easy pay mechanisms behind the wall. Also, in the case of IMVU, funny money can also be accessible via IMVU cards and similar game phone apps.

Lessons learned regarding multiple platforms:

If we talk specifically about TV, it is shocking to learn that ‘Family Feud’ and the ‘Price is Right’ are the most successful properties when it comes to interactive audience engagement. In addition to different mobile and browser apps, Facebook changed the landscape as well, adding virility to the brands by experimenting with time play, score boards, and different types of virtual goods. Another great dynamic is to add freeplay giveaways through advertisement services like Brandboost.

This brings up the importance of partnerships with brands, because the right partnerships do drive audiences back to those product and services. So treat brand products and services as virtual goods and vice versa. Virtual goods/currency are so amazingly valuable, game companies have even hired economists out of Wall Street to manage the health of the economy of these game/storyworlds.

Interestingly enough, the importance of currency management was first introduced when game designers realized how new players always felt virtual goods were just too expensive. In trying to adjust for inflation standardized best practices then encouraged giving more money to new players to start with. All in all it’s a difficult balance.

When it comes social games in the mobile space, the most pervasive model that has emerged is the one where someone else finishes your game. The premise is that the game has 4 rounds, you play 2 to 3 rounds and then the game opens the last round so that your friends from messenger or Facebook become users of your game. The mechanics of this are genius cause of the immediate viral hook.

The game structure applied in these types of games is based on the philosophy that people play in chunks of 15 minutes of time. So in making games 5 minutes long you can cash on the idea that by the 3erd game people will be compelled to play, and pay. In the mobile studies of this paradigm they have found that people take up to 10 minutes to play, which allows for at least a 2 games engagement.

The challenges on the mobile space, however, are software compatibility and issues like piracy in more hack-vulnerable markets, like Android. This issue is not as prevalent in the US, but elsewhere in the world. That is why freemium models in this space are most successful.

On immersive advertising tactics:

Many questions still rise when it comes to disruptive advertising practices. Can a player appreciate taking a survey at the end of a game for a free meal/coupon, or would the player rather get free virtual goods instead? These sorts of questions have encouraged the creation of the time driven pay-to-play paradigm, in which players rather just get more free time to play.

The main player to watch in this space is Google, because of what their doing with their opt-in ad experiences model they have borrowed from YouTube. The reason this is particularly relevant is because of the data applications that introduce implications for everyone.

This brings us back to story. Maybe the question we should be asking is how incentives best fit the storytelling? For example, is increasingly difficult to tie-in charity incentives in the middle of game play. For this particular case the best model for philanthropy efforts is to match dollars with winning points.

Panel 5: Co-Managing in Collaborating with Stakeholders
What is the estate of affairs when it comes to rights across mediums?

When dealing with multiple platforms the main challenge is that there are multiple hands in the pot. In addition, the decision making on a particular IP has become increasingly complex because we are now finding ourselves not only pitching the story but a new business model as well. This is the reason why deals take forever when dealing with tent-pole IP.

The most important thing to consider is who has the rights and who is granting the rights. Of course the networks want all of the rights, so how can one maintain chain of title? This is a loaded subject as legislation on copyright keeps changing and the information on new laws in not always clear. Currently, the most identifiable gaps in the law consist of registration requirements on vintage properties.

There are companies that specialize in knowing the status of rights in these instances, because most often that not the reuse of content might not be easily accessible. And when it comes to fair use, the reality of the situation is that it’s a defense, not a right under the law.

So what kind of legal issues independent content creators have to face in terms of liability?

When it comes to negotiations, there are many rights one has to deal with. In terms of distribution, independent content creators are more likely to withhold rights of lesser value. But still, if you don’t set a standard for rights negotiation from the beginning, then future deals on the property are likely to be affected. In addition you want to make sure you are insured somehow against piracy and rip-off scenarios. This is why a legal team is always recommended. If a lawyer is not an affordable option, is important to have at the very least some sort of collaboration agreements in place.

In terms of deals on new business models, everyone is very nervous because there are no experts in this new multiple platform field. In a way the system is posed to function in a domino effect. Once one firm agrees on a sensible deal that works for those involved, then everyone else follows their lead.

What are the challenges in terms of rights on data?

First of all you need to prove you can execute on those rights effectively because you are going to encounter a push back from the digital mediums. Again, currently models are reversed engineered from new opportunities, so is helpful to forge partnerships in place before hand for fair split agreements.

NOTE: As a response to this panel please read Simon Pulman post on Storyworld: Practical Legal Considerations. I HIGHLY recommend it.

Posted in not categorized    Tagged with #swc11, Tommy Pallotta, Christy Dena, Ian Ginn, Kevin Franco, Mike Knowltom, Murmur, Authentic in All Caps, Bjork, Laura Sterritt, Transchordian, Brian Clark, Henry Jenkins, FrancoMedia, Universe Creation 101, Hubbub Media, Charles Hudson, Soft Tech VC, Olivier Delfosse, Fremantle Media, IMVU, Kevin Henshaw, Telescope, Jason George, Brandboost, Scott Walker, Brain Candy, Christopher Kenneally, Copyright Clearance Center, Zak Kadison, Blacklight Transmedia, David Tochterman, Innovative Arts, Joel Gotler, Intellectual Property Group, Simon Pulman


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