Tag Archives: social media

A Transmedial Tale: Beauty and the Beast

“I think the core of it, is confidence in storytelling.”– Chris Sizemore Editor at the BBC [1]

Storytelling is the creative’s greatest tool. Everyone and everything has a story, but it’s the way in which a story is told which gives it the ability to capture our imaginations. A great story can make you laugh or cry. It can bring us together or make us feel alone. The most important stories are the ones we learn at a young age. They teach us right from wrong, and how to behave in this new and exciting world we find ourselves in. Transmedia is a form of multimedia storytelling conceptualised by Henry Jenkins [2]. It is defined by the way creators use technology to expand upon their narratives [3], using ‘multiple delivery channels‘ to create ‘a unified and coordinated entertainment experience [4]’. With storytelling entering a digital age and Disney’s new live adaptation of ‘Beauty and the Beast’ arriving in cinemas soon, it’s important to ask how transmedia could be used to better educate children and adults, why ‘Beauty and the Beast’ would be a perfect vehicle for this and whether Disney should be taking a greater advantage of transmedia storytelling?

Written by French author Madame de Villeneuve in 1740[5], ‘La Belle et la Bête’, tells the tale of a handsome prince who is transformed into a beast, due to his spite and hubris. The curse can only be lifted if, before his 21st birthday, he finds someone who loves him despite his appearance. Constructed through magical realism, the narrative conveys a warning of the danger of preconceptions. The beast becoming the physical manifestation of his own prejudices taught the reader a cautionary tale [6] of the consequences of prejudice towards others. Such moral questions provide the perfect foundation for expansion through transmedia storytelling. The immersion and interactivity of apps, social media and VR, combined with this universal tale could create limitless learning opportunities.

Transmedia Literacy is a programme set up precisely to explore this potential. Funded through Horizon 2020, the programme is headed by Carlos A. Scolari[7], Associate Professor at the Universitat Pompeu Fabra[8]. The author of 15 books on digital media, Carlos wants to explore the possibilities of immersive educational tools. The project aims to bridge the, ‘cultural and technological gap between today’s youth and [the] school system[9]’, which has been caused by advancing technological integration in our lives, as well as to encourage schools to do more to implement, ‘transliteracies’ into the classroom. The programme is a collaboration piece with scholars all over Europe working together to develop a greater understanding of child learning behaviours through technology. The program will redefine classic storytelling blurring the lines between ‘offline and online’.

The Walt Disney Company was built upon the foundation of redefining storytelling, adapting classic fairy tales like Robin Hood and Snow White into new and exciting animated films, with unforgettable musical numbers and vibrant artworks. By using tried and tested analogue devices Disney encouraged ‘participation,’ and, ‘loyalty’ [11] from its audience. These early adaptations, and this era of Disney we will call ‘analogue transmedia[10]’.

The 1991 animated film [12] introduced Beauty and the Beast into the Disney cannon. As an instant success it lead to the Broadway adaptation which ran from 1994 to 2007, becoming Broadway’s 10th longest running show. The new live action adaptation [13] is once again another opportunity for Disney to expand upon this story. The retelling provides a chance to update the original, for instance the casting of Emma Watson, an actress known for challenging traditions and subverting gender roles, is a sign of societal progression.

Disney’s ability to retell classic literature and develop pre-established worlds with care and attention, provides the perfect foundation for expansion through contemporary transmedia. The Beast feels he needs to act like a monster because of his appearance, but it’s only when he realises that Bella loves him despite his looks that the curse is lifted. These are contemporary issues. In an age where the fundamentals of identity can alter within the merits of social-media, it’s easy to become manipulated by social expectations.  With social media’s heavy focus on appearance it’s easy to feel we need to be someone else, someone more successful, someone more loved. Looking at Beauty and the Beast through a transmedial lens would allow Disney to use multiple delivery channels to deliver a story critiquing society’s perceptions of appearance. They are well set up to do this. The Marvel and Star Wars acquisitions should have shown them how to expand a universe to have cross media potential, since these properties were already well established in popular culture. Star Wars before its acquisition in 2012 was regarded as one of the largest transmedial cannons of any franchise [14].

As Disney steps into a new year it would be exciting to see them use these modern transmedia techniques to expand age old stories, deconstructing these messages and applying them within a modern context. Disney has confidence in storytelling, but do they have the confidence to innovate it?

Frederick C Lampen

Links:

For more on Transmedia:

http://blogs.gre.ac.uk/creativeconversations/2015/09/03/the-hyper-connected-audience/

For more on Writing:

http://blogs.gre.ac.uk/creativeconversations/2016/07/25/the-writer-as-collaborator/

 

[1] Smith, S. Transmedia storytelling, BBC Academy (BBC 2017)

[2] Jenkins, H. Spreadable Media: Creating Value and Meaning in a Networked Culture (Postmillennial Pop). NYU Press (January 21, 2013)

[3] BBC Academy, Transmedia storytelling 101, BBC Academy (BBC 2017)

[4] Jenkins, H. Transmedia Storytelling 101Confessions of an Aca-Fan, the Official Weblog of Henry Jenkins. March 22, 2007

[5] Madame de Villeneuve’s. The Story of the Beauty and the Beast: The Original Classic French Fairy tale CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform; Unabridged edition (27 Oct. 2014)

[6] Dr Tehrani, J. Durham University News, The Department of Anthropology (Durham University, 4th February 2016)

[7] Associate Professor at the Department of Communication at the Universitat Pompeu Fabra, in Barcelona  and author of 15 books on digital media

[8] A. Scolari, C. Transliteracy – 645238 / Horizon 2020 – Research and Innovation actions (2017)

[9] Castells, M. The Rise of the Network Society (Oxford, Blackwell, 1996).

[10]  Lee, N. Madej, K. Disney Stories: Getting to Digital. Springer Science & Business Media, 2012 (Page 72)

[11]Beuder, P. People’s Insights Annual Report. (he MSL Group’s Annual Report, 2013)

[12] Woolventon, L. Chapman, B. Beauty and the Beast (1991) (The Walt Disney Company, 1991)

[13] Chbosky, S. Spiliotopoulos, E. Beauty and the Beast (2017) (Walt Disney Pictures, 1991)

[14] Hood, B. Why Disney Blew Up More Than 30 Years of Star Wars Canon (Bloomberg 1th 2015)

 

Attending to Social Media: Panel Discussion

This Creative Conversations event, held on 30 November 2016, brought together creatives and professional communicators to discuss how attention works in social media. Our panelists were:

Joanna Walsh (@badaude). Author, editor at 3am Magazine (@3ammagazine), the force behind @read_women and more. Her books include Hotel (2015), Vertigo (2015), Grow a Pair (2015) and Fractals (2013).

Dan Calladine (@dancall). Head of Media Futures, at Carat Global.

Francesco D’Orazio (@abc3d). VP Product & Research at Pulsar (@Pulsar_social), co-founder of the Visual Social Media Lab (@VisSocMedLab).

Colette Henry, Communications Planning Director at Futerra (@futerra), a sustainability-focused creative communications agency.

Steve Cross (@steve_x). Comedian, consultant, trainer, Wellcome Engagement Fellow, honorary fellow in Science and Technology Studies at UCL (@stsucl). Creator of @BrightClubLDN and @ScienceShowoff.

Chair: Gauti Sigthorsson (@conceptbin). Principal Lecturer in Media & Communications, CPDA, University of Greenwich.

“People are the most interesting thing on the internet.”

The chair welcomed the guests and panelists to Greenwich.

Content is endless on the internet, but people’s attention is finite. How do we generate attention in social media? Can you have too much attention? The wrong kind of attention? What do you do with it when you capture people’s attention?

Ultimately these questions are about interaction rather than content. Anyone can put some text, sounds and images out there, but getting a reaction is a different proposition. This evening is about people, because people are the most interesting thing on the internet.

“The labour of accounting for yourself”

Joanna Walsh, the first panelist of the evening, remarked on the relationship between authors and readers over social media, and related it to the popularity of auto-fiction, the blurring of fiction and autobiography by the writers. This puts the figure of the author in the spotlight. Michel Foucault, in his essay “What is an Author?”, defined the author as a function that emerged with the printing press and mass-literacy. This new production and distribution of print gave rise to a demand from the state for someone to be accountable for what was written.

Auto-fiction presents the author as a persona, blurring fiction and autobiography, as in the work of Sheila Heti (How Should a Person Be?), and earlier in Truman Capote’s work, starting with his first novel (Other Voices, Other Rooms) featuring a cover image of the author himself, beautiful and mysterious, a photo which became Capote’s “avatar”. Walsh noted also that both Heti and Capote work at an intimate level. Both these books are about the part love played in their lives. Heti’s work, in particular, reminds us that disclosure is a performance. The moralism of authenticity demands truthful self-disclosure, which can be seen in the social media compulsion to and reward of self-disclosure.

This translates to labour. “The labour of accounting for yourself” in writing. Walsh distinguishes between writers’ output (written work published) and promotion online, while noting that this boundary is becoming ever more blurred.

“Social media is the domain of the shapeshifter”

The next speaker, Dan Calladine, is Head of Future Media at Carat Global. His career at the agency predates most online media (YouTube, Facebook, Twitter), so he’s seen the rise of the “digital native” alongside the new online media that now dominate.

A key teme for Calladine was how quickly novelty becomes ordinary online. He pointed out that the “like” button is only around 5 years old. Sharing, liking, replying – these are behaviours that are fairly recent. [ref. Without their Permission, book]

Anyone can create stuff online. Fake news (and Facebook’s stated inability to differentiate between them and real news) are an example of the proliferation of content like this. In that, they are related to fan sites, which have created mini-celebs in their own right, and social media celebrities like vloggers.

Social media is the domain of the shapeshifter. Personas are different between platforms (i.e., my Twitter persona has a different voice and content than on Facebook, Instagram, etc.). And sometimes we find those differences out by breaking the implicit rules of those platforms. For example, Dan Calladine’s profile picture on LinkedIn, a picture of a kitten, looks pretty unusual for that platform.

Speculating on trends, Calladine noted that Facebook’s “live video” feature is now being heavily pushed. In a few years we’ll wonder what these platforms looked like without that feature.

Some other emerging trends:

VR (FB bought Oculus Rift and its OS), virtual, augmented reality technologies for being “together” over media in a different way from what we now have.

Commerce will become more social, especially with people becoming more comfortable with sharing their shopping and purchase experiences online.

FB and TV (Twitter and TV), closer links between social media and what used to be called television.

Automation and bots will be seen a lot more in interfaces of all kinds, so that chat messaging serves as an interface for services we’ve had to dea with by text until now. With Siri and now Echo, it is becoming usual to speak with digital systems and to get a response.

“Dark social” (email, Snapchat) is also growing more important.

“All of this is about relevance.”

Following this, Francesco D’Orazio stuck to the topic of marketing, audiences and how his company, Pulsar, aims to be nothing less than an oracle for what people tink, using social data.

The key idea for D’Orazio is relevance. This is what is at stake in all monitoring of publicily visible social media. : Discovering audiences, trends, planning insights (targeting), measurement, category mapping, brand health.

Marketers want attention (lat. attendere, “waiting” in Italian). Attention and waiting.

D’Orazio raised the question of incentives for falsity, of content that is aimed purely at capturing attention long enough to persuade people to click on a headline and to share it. What’s the “need” for fake news?

Topicality: Affinities of audiences.
Expression: Language of the audience.
Value: What is of value to the audience, and what values does the content correspond to or serve.
Timeliness: Moments.
Targeting: Communities.
Engagement: Performance of content, what works.

All of this is about relevance – whatever is on social media has to resonate with people in order to be read, viewed, shared…

“Attention is an exchange”

Colette Henry, communications planner at Futerra, opened with a fundamental question on our topic: Why is attention important?

As infants we need attention for our survival. We have a basic human need to “grab” or “take” attention. But it also serves an essential filtering function – we pay attention by deciding what not to pay attention to.

Attention is an exchange, and if you work with social media, you must respect this exchange of attention. And be willing to let go of it: Control of attention is like a spotlight. Social media enables whoever (not just those who pay) to take up the spotlight.

Ignore this at your peril when it comes to communications strategy. Henry shared some examples of how slippery the controls are over who gets to direct the spotlight of attention, even in well-resourced campaigns. Nestle’s “positive cup” campaign, opened up a lot of discussion on social media, with people reacting to the campaign by asking about the recycling and waste generated by the use of aluminium pods. Similarly, Beyonce’s “Who runs the world?” for a large clothing retailer provoked a reaction focusing on sweatshop labour, asking how the clothes were made and at what human cost.

Brands are not able to control attention, people will take note of whatever they like. A brand cannot “own” the attention spotlight.

Henry pointed out that good practice examples of socia media campaigns shows that brands can successfully give up ownership of the campaign itself, generating positive attention and engagement. For Henry, it is essential for social media communications to “recognise that you don’t own it,” and be prepared for others taking it in directions you didn’t foresee at the planning stage.

“Puncture your own filter bubble”

And finally, on the principle that you should never put anyone in front of an audience after a professional comedian, Steve Cross concluded the panel presentations.

He opened by explaining how to make outrage marketing work for you – the Daily Mail model of science communication and comedy. One key point he impressed ont he audience: Fake “facts” get you lots of followers and retweets.

Also, do your best to puncture your own filter bubble. Are you a science communicator? Why not retweet status updates from kids who don’t like science, and complain about having to do it at school? Result: “Boring people” who take things literally unfollowed Steve’s account in droves.

Cross took us on a whirlwind tour of his events (Science Showoff, Books Showoff), and his Twitter feeds. He tweets in a number of guises, adopting a variety of personas and voices, including tweeting as a naked mole rat.

Concluding with a pro tip, Cross advised anyone wanting to build a following on social media: Get a very good camera. Photos get a lot of likes and shares. Take good pictures of people who perform at your events, they’ll make them their profile pictures, share them, etc.

“Pay attention to get attention”

Some shared themes emerged among the panelists in their remarks. One is that if you want to generate attention on social media and sustain it for longer than the few seconds it takes to find the like-button, you need to find something that people care about. To do that, be open to surprising, random-seeming topics (naked mole rats, anyone?) and pay attention to what comes back to you from what you put out initially, because things change along the way.

The panel concluded with a discussion on the many ways in which social media demands of its users that we construct personas through which to perform our presence. It doesn’t mean that these personas are inauthentic (on the contrary), but rather that they are part of what Erving Goffman called the “presentation of self in everyday life”. This presentation is now enabled in a new way by social media which allow us to perform not merely to our intimates and those we meet in person, but to a dispersed, decentered audience.

Another theme that emerged in discussions was the blurred distinction between true and false, fact and fake – fake news being the obvious example of how social media not only enables but rewards behaviours which generate attention, sensation and entertainment. Is this emblematic of our “post-truth” moment in politics, as well, in which unsubstantiated claims can swing elections?

“We live not in the age of news but in the age of fiction” (Joanna Walsh)

For Creative Conversations, many thanks to our panelists, and to Alex Craft, marketing and events coordinator for CPDA.

How does an Audience become a Community?

Our recent panel on ‘Building Reader Communities’ discussed how and why it is important to think about engaging reader communities.

Our starting premise was that writers, publishers and other creative producers need to engage with their audiences in new ways.

While publishers’ main relationship used to be with the retailers who sold their products, digital technologies now facilitate a much more direct engagement with their audience. This is a great opportunity, but it is also a challenge. Marketing departments are expected to be experts in social media and in building communities and there is an increased pressure on writers to have these skills too.

So how to go about it? Here are five key points that came out of the discussion:

1) Perhaps one thing that needs to be taken more into account is that communities usually take time to build. As Co-Director of Greenwich Book Festival, Auriol Bishop anticipates it will take three years to establish a community around the festival. In order to set it up, she and her co-directors, Patricia Nicol and Alex Pheby, drew on the communities of which they were already part. They all belong to the world of publishing. Auriol is Creative Director of Hodder & Stoughton, Alex is a writer and Patricia is a journalist. However they all also belong to the local community and so, while Auriol knew Alex through her publishing contacts, she met Patricia through the school playground network. With Alex also leading the Creative Writing degree programme at the University of Greenwich, the trio were able to bring into play a powerful nexus of local and industry support.

Sci-fi author, Kate Russell, and Alexis Kennedy, Creative Director of Failbetter Games, both recounted similar experiences of drawing on existing communities to build new ones. As a tech journalist and broadcaster, Kate had a large twitter following and Failbetter Games had a loyal community around their game Fallen London. They were both able to launch new projects with the help of crowd funding from these existing communities. In fact Kate’s project was a novel set in the world of the videogame Elite, a community of which she was herself a member. New communities then built around these new projects.

For many writers, publishers and other creative producers, thinking imaginatively about how to draw on existing networks and playing the long game is the best, most realistic approach to building a community.

2) Communities require not only time, but energy, to build and maintain. Meike Ziervogel, Founder of Peirene Press, testified to the fact that it is possible to build a community from scratch, with minimum reliance on existing networks. As a publisher of foreign language books in translation, which are traditionally difficult to sell, she knew she had to establish a strong brand, rather than rely on selling individual titles. Therefore, although Peirene titles are available for sale individually, the subscription model is very important to Peirene, as it facilitates much stronger reader loyalty. In order to attract subscribers, Meike focused on getting out into public spaces – setting up pop up stores at places like supermarkets and farmers’ markets. She also produced a newsletter, which she handed out at the entrance to the tube. The strategy paid off and Peirene still runs about 80 pop up stores a year to attract new subscribers. Meike sees face to face contact as very important, not only to build but to maintain a community. She runs a literary salon from her own house. Since the house can only fit 50 people, the salons tend to sell out very quickly. But for Meike the fact that the salon is in her house epitomizes the nature of a reading community – which is ‘the private and the public sphere colliding’. A community is something more intimate than a public. A community is something that you choose to participate in and belong to.

3) This brings us to our next point, which is that communities are interactive, dynamic and autonomous. Kate pointed out that communities need consistent and regular input, but it is equally important to offer people ways to participate and contribute themselves. Members of a community will not only buy books and attend events, they will crowd fund projects, spread the word and bring in new members. They will provide feedback and give you new ideas. Dedicated communities want this kind of involvement. They interact intensively with each other, discussing experiences, sharing strategies, organizing their own related events and thus deepening and expanding the experience of the game for each other. Publishers work closely with book groups, because they know how powerful and proactive they are in engaging readers with books.

However, communities also have a life far beyond this original engagement. Community members become friends. Sometimes they even get married. When your community is important to its members, it becomes part of their lives and they own it as much as you do. Communities are therefore also unpredictable. They will not always give you the feedback you want or expect and they may not always do things you want them to do. As Kate Russell points out, communities need to be managed. Yet, if communities are powerful and proactive, they will never be fully controllable.

4) Nevertheless, communities are a valuable business asset. Both Meike and Alexis were clear about the fact that their businesses depend on their communities. Alexis recounted vividly how his business struggled to survive financially on their original interactive fiction Fallen London. In a final effort to make the business work, he and his partners launched a crowd funding campaign to produce a videogame, Sunless Sea, which is set in the world of Fallen London. They found the Fallen London community keen not only to fund but to promote the game. Failbetter Games’ business model relies on this community. They operate a freemium model, in which people who participate for free in Fallen London pay for additional content and spin off experiences, such as Sunless Sea. Sunless Sea has also reached a whole new audience and expanded the community. The ability to beta test prototypes through the community is also highly valuable to the company.

For Meike too, it is this loyalty felt by the community to something bigger than a single work, in her case the Peirene brand, which holds the key to her business.

5) At the same time, communities depend on trust and mutual respect. When your community is your business asset, you obviously value it highly. But how do you maintain the balance between the values of the community and the values of the market? As Auriol pointed out, this is sometimes less of a conundrum for small businesses, like Failbetter Games and Peirene Press, or for writers like Kate, who are likely to share the values of their community and engage with them in a very direct way. Although many people who work within mainstream publishing are also passionate about what they do, it may be harder for a large publishing business to get the balance right. As Kate stressed, being authentic is vital to building a successful community. When communities build around a story world, a brand or an individual, it is because people feel it is something they can connect to, which is genuine and which has its own unique identity and integrity.

To hear more from our panel watch video clips here

You may also be interested in our next ‘New Space of Publishing’ panel on ‘The Writer as Catalyst and Collaborator’

How to Build Communities – Speaker highlights

If you missed our Building Reader Communities Panel on 2nd March 2016, or want to revisit the discussion, wise words and valuable insights from our speakers can be found below. (You can also read a short report on the key insights we took from the event here)

Sci-Fi author Kate Russell shares her experience of community building and gives her 5 rules for building a digital presence

‘It takes 3 years to establish a community’:  Auriol Bishop, Creative Director of Hodder & Stoughton, and writer Alex Pheby discuss their experiences in publishing and as co-directors of the Greenwich Book Festival.

‘Community is a tangible business asset’: Alexis Kennedy, Creative Director of Failbetter Games.

‘Reading communities are the public & the private sphere colliding’ Meike Ziervogel on building a community around Peirene Press.

Panel discussion on building communities in publishing, interactive fiction and games

Building Reader Communities 2nd March

Writers and publishers have always needed readers, but is that enough any more? Does future success depend on building reader communities?

Our next New Space of Publishing Panel explores this question, with the help of:

ALEX PHEBY-2

Auriol Bishop & Alex Pheby, co‐directors of Greenwich Book Festival 

As co-directors of Greenwich Book Festival, Auriol and Alex worked with fellow director Patricia Nicol to launch Greenwich Book Festival in May 2015, with the theme of discovery. Strands included history, politics and music (memoirs from Viv Albertine and Tracey Thorn), as well as fiction highlights, such as Jessie Burton, South London author of international bestseller The Miniaturist. The festival also featured a strong focus on childrens’ books, with workshops and other participatory events, and a showcase of new writing from the University of Greenwich’s creative writing students. In addition to their festival experience, Alex and Auriol bring their individual professional experiences to the topic of building reader communities. As Creative Director at Hodder & Stoughton, Auriol is responsible for creative strategy, consumer campaigns, positioning and packaging across Hodder’s publishing output. Alex is himself a novelist and a Lecturer in Creative Writing at the University of Greenwich.

www.alexpheby.co.uk
twitter: @alexpheby

 

MeikeZiervogel_portrait3_rb

Meike Ziervogel, novelist and founder of Peirene Press

Meike has a background as a journalist, working for Reuters in London and Agence France Presse in Paris and is the author of three novels, Magda, Clara’s Daughter and Kauthar. Meike founded boutique publishing house Peirene Press in 2008, to bring contemporary, award winning European literature in translation to English language readers. Peirene Press specializes in novellas and short novels ‘that can be read in the same time it takes to watch a DVD’ and offers its readers an annual subscription option, as well as individual titles for sale. Peirene Press also produces a newspaper and hosts regular events, including literary salons and coffee mornings. Meike will be sharing her particular approach to building the writer-reader and publisher-reader relationship.

www.meikeziervogel.com
Facebook: @PeirenePress
twitter: @MeikeZiervogel

Alexis

Alexis Kennedy, CEO of interactive fiction studio Failbetter Games

Alexis Kennedy is creative director of Failbetter Games, best known for their interactive fiction game Fallen London, which has a large and loyal community. The expansive community and world of Fallen London provided a strong foundation from which to launch the videogame Sunless Sea and was key to its critical and commercial success. Alexis will discuss the relationship between story and community and how it is essential to Failbetter Games’ business model.

http://twitter.com/failbettergames

KateRussell

Kate Russell, tech reporter and author of sci-fi novel ‘Elite: Mostly Harmless’.

Kate is currently writing her second book with her online community, enabled by TWITCH streaming and linking to the Elite: Dangerous games platform (the fourth release of the original Elite video game, which was a British video game phenomenon in the 1980s). Kate’s knowledge of how to build a community and work with social media is encapsulated in her book Working the Cloud. She will be bringing these insights to the panel via a specially commissioned video.

Our panel will be discussing questions such as what distinguishes a community from an audience? and why might writers and publishers need to build such communities? We will also consider the implications for the writer‐reader and publisher‐reader relationship

Join us to explore these and other questions  on the 2nd of March. The evening will begin with welcome drinks at 6pm in the Stephen Lawrence Gallery Project Space which is based within the Stockwell Street Building. The panel will follow at 6.30pm.

The Stockwell Street Building is located at 10 Stockwell Street, Greenwich, London, SE10 9BD

 

Video of this panel event is available here

The hyper-connected audience

It feels as though Henry Jenkins observations on the potential for participatory, collaborative and convergent media has never been truer. The entertainment properties I find interesting have a life beyond any narrowly defined medium, in fact reaching out into the other media to develop a story gives the work nuance and richness and, of course, further emotional investment from me.

‘In the world of media convergence, every important story gets told, every brand gets sold, and every consumer gets courted across multiple media platforms’

Anyone wishing to create or publish anything now has an eye to other media as an outlet. Naturally, as Jenkins suggests, this has led to not just telling stories through a transmedia experience, but to marketing these brands as worlds to be explored. The Blair Witch Project did this, famously, extremely effectively.

The mainstream media industries were always aware that new audiences could be developed by reaching out to them in a comic book for example after a film success.  The decision to develop and fund entirely new  content in order to grow an audience and keep them engaged is relatively recent marketing decision; showing that consumer behaviour analysis and an attempt to understand the deeper motivations behind consumer decision making is being taken more seriously. Jenkins terms this ‘affective economics’.

Ubisoft , no small industry player, released Watch_Dogs, an open world action game, in 2013. The protaganist that we were to identify with was Aiden Pearce, a vigilante who spent his time hacking into the city’s Central Operating System (CTOS). To market this game BETC Paris created Watch Dogs WeareData experiential website revealing a 3D interactive map in which we could explore the cities of London, Paris and Berlin the website through the visualisation of publicly available data, reading people’s live tweets, watching the metro go from station to station, looking through instagram posts. A person could lose themselves for hours in this ground-breaking piece of content that was arguably more interesting than the game it was marketing. And you could join in, adding your own data to this live stream.

More recently Faber & Faber published Capital, by John Lanchester, a story of post-crash London. To market this book Storythings created Pepys Road which  tells the story of the ten years leading up to the world described by Lanchester. Over the course of ten days, they send emails asking questions about your attitudes to various public policies and send you ten new mini-stories written by John Lanchester. These stories reveal a period of public sector cuts and economic upheaval in which we become a part. James Bridle‘s data illustrations position your data within the rest of the accessible live data. Storythings have created ways to tell mini-stories about the decisions both you and the rest of their audience make.

Both marketing activities make use of our own digital shadow, created by our hyper-connected lives, to situate us within these created worlds, these branded worlds. This however doesn’t feel intrusive rather it feels intuitive, captivating and above all interesting. For me the most interesting thing about big data is when it contextualizes our small data, our personal data. We relate to stories and brands when they feel like they have a place in our lives. More and more we are asked to imagine ourselves in these branded worlds, it is a forward-thinking marketing approach, but how much easier is it to do so when we see how we are connected to these worlds and others in them? And how interesting it is when our data is seen through a different lens, one in which we are adventurers, or spies or hackers, or inhabitants of Capital. Media convergence and accessible data streams allow us to inhabit these other worlds easily and convincingly.

We are ourselves and not at the same moment. perfect.

Top 5 trends changing the world of publishing

Guest post by independent marketing consultant, Katrina Hopewell

 Let’s turn the clock back five years. A time when the large publishing houses were controlling the industry. A time when printing presses were regulated. A time when there was no public access to retail distribution. A time when the publishing process was kept a secret and only known by a select few. A time when the books you ‘chose’ to read were actually carefully selected and curated for you.

Fast-forward to today and the lines are now blurred. The conventions and preconceptions that were the ‘norm’ for books have been challenged. Technology has democratised the industry. Self-publishing platforms have arrived giving everyone the creative freedom to publish their own work, on-demand printing giving us an affordable copy of one. How we consume content has changed, we read using our mobiles, eReaders and iPads. Brands now have to compete against everything that demands people’s time and attention. We live in a 24/7 fractured media environment. Content vs. apps vs. gaming vs. video. Constantly choosing and consuming content in bite-size chunks. We now take ownership of what we want to read and are able to fund exciting and diverse stories. Our digital lives have taken over. And publishers are no longer essential to the process.

  1. Technology is still democratising the industry

Self-publishing is now mainstream thanks to the growth of independent digital publishing platforms like Createspace, Lulu and Blurb enabling the creation of eBooks, making the process simple, efficient and affordable. E-readers have got consistently cheaper and better since the first Kindle shipped in 2007, giving customers instant access to millions of titles. And the behemoth that is Amazon has made retailing these titles too easy. The launch of sites like Goodreads, has assisted the industry in becoming more social with over 43 million reviews on the platform to date, helping help people find and share books they love.

  1. Opinion of self-publishing is changing and progressive

Have you heard anyone say, ‘I will only read that book if it’s published by Penguin?’ Thought not. Readers are led by reading commendations and reviews, and they more often than not, will give a new author a go if the price is right, regardless of whether it’s been traditionally published or self-published. This mind-set is also changing for writers too – we’re continually seeing traditionally published authors becoming open to exploring self-publishing – to generate revenue from their ‘out of print’ backlists or to publish work that falls out of their traditional genre. New York Times bestselling author Eileen Goudge self-published Bones and Roses last year after she failed to find a publisher for her novel. And now authors are looking to social media to help them connect with their readers, reach new audiences and promote their work too.

  1. Arrival of content serialisation has revitalised how we consume content

The ‘on-demand’ generation has changed how we consume content. Readers have new expectations about the content they wish to read and how they want to read it. Out go printed books; in come mobiles, eReaders and iPads to suit our lifestyle. Wattpad has carved out an incredible niche for itself in the online reading market and become the world’s largest community of writers and readers, with over 40 million members and an average of 30 minutes reading per visit. 85% of users access the platform via mobile, promoting reading on the go, and writers have adapted to this, releasing their work a chapter at a time to serialise their content, keeping their readers hooked and in turn increasing the revenue they make from fans. Serial, a real-life crime story turned podcast, completely captured the zeitgeist last year, after it was released on a weekly basis and downloaded over 20 million times on iTunes. The Pigeonhole take a different approach, commissioning and serialising fresh digital content and classic novels from authors like Charles Dickens’ Great Expectations through their app. Audible, has a library of over 150,000 audiobooks accessible across multiple devices. We not only read, but also listen and interact socially with the content we consume and this will only increase as we multitask through our day-to-day lives.

  1. Crowdfunding is enabling diverse content to find an audience

We now find ourselves overwhelmed by a massive abundance of content and we have entered a period that is all about content relevancy. The digital revolution is all about finding your niche and capitalizing on it – and publishing your own content enables you to become an influencer in your chosen space. Until recently, books that fell out of the mainstream were rejected because they would only appeal to a niche audience. A traditional publishing house with big overheads would not be able to sell enough copies for that book to pay for the overhead costs they would invest. For those who need funding or want to test an idea out to captive audiences, platforms like Unbound and Indiegogo are available to help surface and fund great books that we wouldn’t ordinarily get the opportunity to read. Love obscure 80s and 90s video games? Check out Stuart Ashen’s synopsis. This book will be a must have on your shelf.

  1. Long live the printed book

The argument over the last few years seems to always be about the proclamation that ‘print is dead.’ It really isn’t. We’re increasingly using different mediums dependent on the content that we read – for fiction, we typically go digital, downloading content onto our eBooks and iPhones to read at home, on the move or away on holiday. We leave print for the content we wish to keep: mementos, memories and personal keepsakes. And brands are increasingly using the medium to create limited editions. My bet is that our bookshelves will increasingly diversify over the coming years and include a wealth of different content, the classic stories we’re unable to tear ourselves away from as well as photo books from major events in our lives, and perhaps even an autobiography of our own life to pass onto future generations too.

Katrina Hopewell, Independent Marketing Consultant

www.katrinahopewell.com

@kat_hopewell

 

Considering the ‘Open Portal’ effect on publishing

May 20th’s New Space of Publishing panel, masterfully chaired by Justine Solomons of Byte the Book, saw some energetic discussion and a really engaged audience. We were encouraged to hear all the panelists urging potential and practicing writers to continue writing; to keep at it, to hone their work and to find their audience. Steve Carsey, Director of Original Programming for Audible, Katrina Hopewell,  marketing consultant in broadcast and digital publishing, and Jeremy  Thompson, MD of independent publisher, Troubadour and its self publishing arm, Matador,  made a clear case for discovering and creating work for your audience. On the other hand Kate Pullinger, award winning novelist and digital storyteller and members of the audience made an equally strong case for letting your audience find you rather than writing for a perceived audience, acknowledging experimental poetry’s online success.

This notion of the author as solely in charge of what they choose to write with the freedom to hope that it resonates with some members of the public is key. Before the panel we asked if the traditional roles of writer, agent, publisher and publicist  have changed  and what was clear is that with advent of the internet, blogging and eplatforms the writer has many more options. Eszter Hargittai noted as far back as 2000 in ‘Open portals or closed gates? Channeling content on the World Wide Web’ that we no longer have to get past ‘gatekeepers’ to a potential audience, that a lack of big budgets and influence needn’t stop creators any more. The panel spoke about the plethera of ways to get content out there,  Katrina espoused the Wattpad model highlighting how that has earned some authors great deals with established publishing houses while creating an audience in the process,  such as Macmillan signing UK writer Nikkei Kelly’s Stylcar Saga trilogy.

But here we have the dichotomy of the modern publishing phenomena. Jeremy brought up, to the amusement of the whole audience, the notion that some books are better left inside their author. While he made the point light-heartedly he exposed the other side of this new found freedom. We are now bombarded with content and trying to find meaningful content is hard. The author is competing for people’s time, not just their click through attention. In 2009 Hat Trick Associates cited technorati estimates of over 200 million blogs worldwide, and blogging is only one form of sharing written content.

So now we have another set of questions, with so much content out there how can we find those newly written gems? Will we rely on crowd sourced reviews to usher us to new finds? Will the older authors potential lack of technical skill prevent them from effectively engaging in the digital revolution? We think that this has opened up the market place for all yet Hargittai and Walejko establish in their 2008 study ‘The Participation Divide: Content Creation and Sharing in the Digital Age’ that there is still inequality in this perceived freedom according to socio-economic class and gender, does this just mean we are getting much more of the same?

view from the back of the gallery

Steve and Katrina

Justine chairing

Kate and Jeremy

the 3 of us
Three of the Creative Conversations team. From left: Miriam Sorrentino, Gauti Sigthorsson, Rosamund Davies wielding the microphone.

Photos: Panagiotis Balalas

Who’s a publisher?

Facebook and Twitter are social publishing platforms. As Adrienne Lafranche points out in The Atlantic (“Facebook is Eating the Internet“) publishers are now putting their content directly on Facebook, rather than attempting to funnel traffic from there to their own sites.

In a sense, these publishers, including the New York Times, are letting go of the fundamental principle that content should always lead to the provider’s domain, preferably in the fewest steps possible. Instead, content publishers are resigning themselves to a share of Facebook-mediated advertising.

This opens the question of what the value is “homesteading” on the social web. For our workshop on self-publishing, we’re looking forward to discussing how social media works as a publishing platform for writers. For example, is the blog still an attractive format if we can get more readers for our content using Medium with Twitter, LinkedIn and the like?

Join the conversation at our upcoming event The New Space of Publishing on 20 May (Register via Eventbrite).