Transmedia Blog

How the Music Business Can Benefit from Narrative Engagement

robert | September 23, 2010  ‐  2 Comments

This is a presentation made to the Music Business School in London, England that discusses narrative engagement as a way to connect with fans and increase revenue.The Music Business School operates a fast-track  industry course for those running or seeking to run independent record labels and developing recording artists.

Some important points made in the presentation are:
(a) why and how storytelling techniques can be used to increase sales
(b) why the audience should be placed at the heart of everything the label does
(c) why a music tax collected via ISPs is a bad idea for independents
(d) how piracy can be embraced and used as a part of a multi-platform business strategy.

View more webinars from Zen Films.

Audience Engagement and Content Strategy for Transmedia Storytellers

robert | August 29, 2010  ‐  7 Comments

This document explains:

  • how to identify your audience
  • what engagement means and how to measure it
  • how to be selective with your content in order to optimize your time and money.

Please enjoy and feel free to share.

Audiences Engagement and Content Strategy for Transmedia Storytellers

The Audience Ecosystem: Ensuring the Longevity of Transmedia Experiences

robert | August 29, 2010  ‐  6 Comments

This post continues from an earlier post here. Hence that’s why the figure numbers don’t start at 1.

Many ARGs and other transmedia experiences run for a set period of time and then become abandoned. It’s fair to say that most have been designed to run while the money’s there to support it. But effectively they become abandoned because they lose their appeal – there’s no new content, no new challenges, no new fun, no new social opportunities.

This applies equally to any community as it does to ARGs. And some experiences fail to gain traction at all.

The problem in all cases is that the worlds haven’t been designed to be self-sustaining. By self-sustaining I mean that the audience is allowed (given the tools and permissions) to create its own entertainment – generating new content or assuming the roles originally assumed by the designers.

To design a self-sustaining world requires that we understand the audience ecosystem of different types of people motivated in different ways. The world needs a mix of these people to make the experience work.

In his excellent book Designing Virtual Worlds Richard Bartle describes his analysis of MUD player types in which he asked the question “what do people want from a multi-user dungeon?” He concluded that there were four player types:

  • Achievers – like to achieve defined goals such as leveling up, gaining points etc
  • Socializers – like hanging out with other people (either as themselves or role-playing a character)
  • Explorers – like discovering new parts of the world
  • Killers (also known as Griefers) – like to dominate and upset others!

Bartle found that each type needed another type in order to sustain their fun and engagement. If you buy his book – which I recommend you do – then you can see how these groups inter-relate to each other.

Bartle also created what he calls a Player Interest Graph, which is shown in Figure 4 .

Figure 4 Player Interest Graph (by Richard Bartle)

I was reminded of this diagram recently when I discovered Jane McGonigal’s paper on the Engagement Economy. In her paper you’ll find a reference to Nick Yee’s document on Motivations of Play in Online Games which has similar findings to Bartle’s work.

Also in McGonigal’s paper is a reference to Nicole Lazzaro’s Emotional Goals of Players. In Lazzaro’s paper she identifies four keys to unlocking emotion in games (illustrated in Figure 5):

  • Hard Fun – players who like the opportunities for challenge, strategy, and problem solving. Their comments focus on the game’s challenge and strategic thinking and problem solving.
  • Easy Fun – players who enjoy intrigue and curiosity. Players become immersed in games when it absorbs their complete attention, or when it takes them on an exciting adventure.
  • Serious Fun – players who get enjoyment from their internal experiences in reaction to the visceral, behavior, cognitive, and social properties.
  • People Fun – players who enjoy using games as mechanisms for social experiences and enjoy the social experiences of competition, teamwork, as well as opportunity for social bonding and personal recognition that comes from playing with others.

Figure 5 Four Keys to Unlock Emotion in Games

Again, it’s possible to see echoes of similar findings to Bartle’s work and I decided to map Yee’s and Lazzaro’s work to Bartle’s Player Interest Graph as shown in Figure 6.

Figure 6 Goals by Audience Interest

If these are the benefits being sought by audiences, then it’s now possible to convert this into a content map that shows what content is most likely to appeal to particular groups of the audience. This is shown in Figure 7.

The importance of this is that we can now check our content to see if we’re pulling too hard in one direction; for example, too much content aimed at Explorers and not enough content for Achievers or Socializers.

Always remember that I think of transmedia content as being recursive – meaning that although the ARG is shown here as fundamentally a game, in designing the ARG you would take a more granular approach and look at the specific content of the ARG and how it appeals to each player type.

To summarize then, in designing your content strategy, look to provide something for each of the four audience types and do so in a way that offers opportunity for attention, evaluation, affection, advocacy and contribution.

Figure 7 Content by Audience Type

Engaging Your Audience

robert | August 29, 2010  ‐  1 Comment

When creative people get in the zone they generate a ton of ideas for content and experiences that could all work with their transmedia world. However, with resources always limited, these ideas have to be whittled down to essentials, nice-to-haves and stuff-for-later. One approach is to optimize the mix of content such that it (a) maximizes audience engagement and (b) the longevity (or likelihood of traction) of the experience. In this context I’m using “content” to mean all the things and tools that the audience has at their disposal – from videos, images and text to forums, chat rooms, leaderboards and so on.

If we are to design transmedia projects that engage audiences then we need to understand what it means to be engaged. Most would agree that it’s more than just “a view” and that there are probably degrees of engagement ranging from “doing something” (like a click) to “creating something” (like remixing a video).

Audience engagement is explained in the next section.

1.1.1        Measuring engagement

In 2006, Ross Mayfield stated in his blog:

“The vast majority of users will not have a high level of engagement with a given group, and most tend to be free riders upon community value.  But patterns have emerged where low threshold participation amounts to collective intelligence and high engagement provides a different form of collaborative intelligence”.

He coined the term “The Power Law of Participation” which is shown in his diagram below (Figure 1).

Figure 1 Power Law of Participation

This participation curve can also be applied to transmedia worlds and will be evident to those who’ve run an ARG. Figure 2 shows the participation law at work in Mike Dicks diagram “Rules of Engagement” in which he expects that only 20% of the audience will engage in the gaming content of a cross-platform experience compared to 75% with the “sit-back” media.

Figure 2 Audience Participation with Content

What this means is that if there’s less effort involved in participating in the storyworld (for example watching a video vs remixing a video) then more of the audience is likely to do it but you can’t say that they’re as engaged with world as those who are expending more effort. More effort on behalf of the audience implies that they must be more engaged, right?  Well, yes and no.

It depends on how the individual audience member derives his or her pleasure from the world. Not everyone wants to or feels able to remix videos or contribute user-generated content yet nevertheless may be a strong advocate for the world – telling friends, family and strangers that they really ought to check out the content. Surely that’s an engaged audience too?

Forrester Research identifies four measures for engagement with media content: involvement, interaction, intimacy and influence. Developing this for our purposes of understanding engagement with a transmedia world, we should measure not only the audience’s interaction and contribution but also their affection and affinity towards the world – that is, what they say and how they feel about it.

Taking this approach, a Facebook “Like”, while taking such little time and effort, ranks pretty well on the engagement scale. It’s more than just any click. It’s a show of affection.

But to get that “Like” or to get a “Share”, you need to provide the mechanism and the content.

Figure 3 shows the three stages of engagement – Discovery, Experience & Exploration – that inform your content choices across my five levels of increasing engagement:

  • Attention
  • Evaluation
  • Affection
  • Advocacy
  • Contribution.

Figure 3 Measuring Engagement

Stages of Engagement Discovery Experience Exploration
Level of Engagement Attention Evaluation Affection Advocacy Contribution
Content Type Teaser Trailer Target Participation Collaboration
Goal for your content Find me.

Fan comes to site and consumes low-involvement free “teaser content

Try me.

Fan increases engagement and consumes free “trailer content

Love me.

Fan spends money and decides that what I offer delivers on the promise, is entertaining and is worthwhile.

Talk about me.

Fan tells friends.

Be me.

Fan creates new content

How Be relevant Be credible Be exceptional Be spreadable Be open
Measurement views, hits, time spent per view, number for content viewed (per channel & content (e.g. emails, blogs, videos, Twitter etc.) clicks, downloads, trials, registrations purchases, ratings, reviews, comments, blog posts, Twitter follows, Likes, community sign-ups, other memberships, subscriptions, repeat purchases

referrals, reTweets, forwards, shares, embeds, satisfaction polls & questionnaires

Offline: focus groups, surveys

uploads, remixes, stories written, collaborations, fan moderators for forum, events held, other UGC

This post continues here.

StoryLabs Launched to Create and Educate the Next Generation of Storytellers

robert | August 25, 2010  ‐  No Comments

I’m delighted to announce that I’m one of the first wave of mentors in the exciting venture, StoryLabs! Here’s the official press release.
The concept is an international network of experts that can help the next generation of storytellers develop and launch successful emerging-platform and cross-platform projects.

While I’m delighted to be helping and advising Community members here for free on an adhoc basis, StoryLabs is a paid gig for me and storytellers/producers get an in-depth hands-on partnering  and training service. Please feel free to join the Community and discuss your transmedia projects here but if you later decide you’d like a more formal arrangement or maybe help from an expert in other fields such as Games, Mobile & Advertising then please make an official submission here.

Please click here for a little more detail on the process of project selection and what happens next.

Twitter Fiction Tool

robert | August 15, 2010  ‐  1 Comment

We’re pleased to present a small gift to the world of twitter fiction writers from us here at Transmedia Storyteller.

Click here to download it.

It’s a Word macro that breaks up your prose into handy 140 character bites.

How it works

  1. write or paste in your text into the document but leave in that first line that starts “CharactersPerTweet”
  2. click Convert button
  3. a new page or pages (depending on the length of your text) will be created with your text broken up into Tweet-sized chunks!
  4. cut and paste your Tweets from the Word document into your Twitter client and send as required.

Note: it’s not the fastest macro in the world… so be patient but it’s faster than doing all the calculations and editing yourself!

You have five variables to play with:

  • CharactersPerTweet – this is the number of characters you want to have per tweet (max is 140 with no hashtag – otherwise it’ll reduce the maximum characters by the length of the hashtag)
  • Hashtag – this will likely be the hashtag for your story. It’s attached to every tweet unless you leave it blank
  • BreakAtParagraph – this forces a new Tweet at the end of every paragraph before max number of characters has been reached
  • BreakAtSentance – this forces a new Tweet at the end of every sentence before max number of characters has been reached

When you click Convert you’ll get a handy pop-up for you to confirm the variables – change them if you need to!


This little macro is provided “as is” and is unsupported. It would be nice to get some feedback in our forum but I can’t promise it’ll ever be updated… or maybe we will 😉 If you like playing with macros – please go ahead and modifying it but why not share it with everyone in the forum?

And of course we take no responsibility for any consequential use of the macro.

You are very welcome to share the document you download from us – and encouraged to share widely –  BUT be careful who you receive it from. If you download from us, it’s totally free of viruses. If you get it from a stranger…well.. it could have been tampered with. Be careful out there.

Newsletter #3

robert | August 12, 2010  ‐  No Comments

Ok, this is the first newsletter on the new site but the third since March when we first went public with our intentions.

So here we are. I want to thank all those who have already signed up for the beta trial and for their kind feedback and input into the Experience Designer we’re building now.

If you haven’t seen them already from Newsletters 1 & 2, the “brochure” we published on the service can be downloaded by clicking this link and the update on what’s in Release 1.0 can  be downloaded here.

Where Are We Now?

We had a few ups and downs and false starts with the coding which set us back a few months but we used the delay to once again redesign the user interface, making it even more easy to navigate, and we moved forward a selection of minor updates we’d planned for a Release 1.1 and put them into this first release.

Release 1.0 is now planned for Fall 2011 but I’ll keep providing updates as I get them.

About Release 1.0

It’s going to be a big leap forward for storytellers who don’t code. You’re going to get Twitter, Email, YouTube, Facebook, Bit.ly and Blog inter-working allowing all kinds of cool interactive fiction and cross-platform storytelling. You’ll be able to publish on scheduled dates or interactively (using “Triggers” in our jargon) – automatically posting a blog post when someone comments on your YouTube video or having two fictional characters talk to each other across Twitter! And loads more.

But it’s only the tip of the iceberg. We know that and we’ve got so much more in the pipeline but there comes a time when you have to say “let’s go with this” and then we’ll follow up with more later.

In the meantime, please feel free to email us questions, propose features and join the Community. In these early days of the market there are many who are going to need help and we can all help and support each other. When you join the Community you’ll use the same log in to access the Experience Designer and the Experience Designer will be accessible from your Community homepage.

Live Long and Prosper.

A Content Strategy for Audience Engagement

robert | August 10, 2010  ‐  3 Comments

Earlier in the month I wrote a piece for Culture Hacker on how to think about how to place content on a timeline of audience engagement. You can read the full article here but below is the abridged version 😉

View more presentations from Zen Films.

Hello Brave New World!

robert | July 23, 2010  ‐  No Comments

Welcome transmedia storytellers one and all!

While cross-platform entertainment may not be so new in all industries and parts of the world, it’s probably fair to say that it’s been the last 18 months that “transmedia” has grown from a glint in a bearded man’s eye to a global desire to connect with audiences and consumers in exciting new ways.

While many already lead naturally multi-platform lives – Facebooking while watching TV, texting while netbooking, YouTubing while writing, Kindling while traveling or checking in while eating – trying to connect these platforms in a directed, entertaining, profitable way remains problematic.

Three core problems for transmedia storytellers:

  • a lack of experience of telling transmedia stories
  • a lack of new models – business models, narrative models and game-based models
  • a lack of tools to manage the complexity.

Our mission is to address these problems. Our Experience Designer most obviously addresses the problem of a lack of tools but  inherent in the design is a desire to fix the problem of a lack of models.

While nobody can yet create a device to give someone instant experience (Joe 90‘s glasses excluded), we hope the Community will become a place for storytellers to hang out and share support and experience.

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