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DIGITAL MEDIA FROM THE INSIDE OUT: My focus is digital content -- production, distribution, collaboration, innovation, creativity. Some posts have appeared across the web (HuffPo, Tribeca's Future of Film, The Wrap, MIPblog, etc.). To receive these posts regularly via email, sign up for my newsletter here.

Thursday
May082014

How digital is helping the world’s largest genre publisher to engage fans

By her own telling, Alison Norrington’s transmedia career really took off when she  figured out how to deconstruct her “chicklit” stories beyond the written page onto blogs, social networks and other digital platforms. Her romance novel fans exploded with excitement and engagement. So did Alison’s career.

Before long she was chair of the influential, if short-lived transmedia summit called Story World, where she harnessed an enviable supply of energy and creativity to showcase nearly every soul in the transmedia field.

So it was no surprise when she was hired by Harlequin, the world’s most successful publisher of romantic fiction, to help them create The Chatsfield, which just launched on May 6th at http://www.thechatsfield.com.

This is a ground-breaking digital series that uses multiple video, digital, social and mobile channels and formats alongside traditional publishing to deliver a unique experience for Harlequin’s gazillion fans.

I urge you to explore the site, create an account, and consume the story as it unfolds all over the web in the next three months – and not only because I’ve been deeply involved in this project on behalf of my client Theatrics.com. Don’t take my word for it: check out some of the press coverage here (WIRED), here (The Telegraph), here (The Guardian) and here (USA Today), not to mention the blogs and trade coverage. It's big news.

Even though my own taste in genre fiction runs more towards hard-boiled detectives and spies, I think we all have a lot to learn from this high-wire experiment in story formatting and fan engagement. If it succeeds, we’re likely to see more deployments with other story worlds, especially now that Rupert Murdoch’s News Corporation has announced plans to acquire Harlequin. 

The Chatsfield is a story set within the world of a luxury London hotel. “Harlequin has created a luxury hotel, an executive assistant with a bet to fulfill, a gorgeous barman with a dark past, a chambermaid with a side line that brings her huge amounts of cash, a permanent resident in the penthouse who throws the wildest parties to avoid thinking about a sad event from the past. The characters tell their stories side by side, stitching together the bigger picture like a movie but you, as the user, find all the pieces.”

My involvement with The Chatsfield began a year ago, when I began to spend time with Ms. Norrington on her frequent trips to Los Angeles to spitball ideas about various puzzle pieces might be deployed for this transmedia universe, and how they should connect with each other and with fans.

By winter, I had met Harlequin executives Tim Cooper and Jo Kite, and began to formulate different ways the Theatrics platform could help. The key was user-engagement.

In its earliest format designs, most of The Chatsfield pre-written and pre-produced content was to be found and consumed on sites around the web -- YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, blogs, SMS, and even phone calls. It would be managed via Robert Pratten’s Conducttr product, a sort of command-and-control system for storing, releasing and tracking content and user data across all the different digital venues.

That also meant that user interaction like comments and sharing would occur on sites other than the story world’s central hub, a beautiful faux hotel web site at www.thechatsfield.com designed by boutique agency BTL Brands.

With the addition of a customized version of the Theatrics platform, the site now has a dedicated location (“The Lounge”) where fans (“Chatsfield guests”) can gossip about characters and their stories as they unfold, and along they way perhaps create their own sub-plots and red herrings. They can post video, images and text, follow and respond to each other, and give a “cheer” to the posts they like – all of which earn points in an integrated gamefication scheme.

To achieve his, Theatrics executed a complete integration with the Conducttr user-management system, including single sign-on, global integration of points and badges, and seamless navigation and user experience.

A tip of the hat to the entire team, especially engineers Alexey Ossikine in Boston and Arif Sayyad in Houston (and his team in India), without whom the project would not have launched.

This project represents a new direction for the Theatrics platform – an application we have dubbed ENGAGE. The traditional Theatrics storytelling format, in which fans create their own fictional characters, is being redesigned as Theatrics STORY. And there is more to come.

We look forward to seeing how The Chatsfield experience unfolds, and some other applications of our platform beyond the storytelling paradigm with which we started.

Wednesday
Apr302014

A New Way to See: Shawn Hardin on Glass & Rift

Shawn Hardin is the cofounder and CEO of Mind Pirate, a tech startup delivering an application and cloud platform for the development and distribution of wearable computing apps, called Callisto. The company is focused on making it as easy as possible for OEMs and developers to deploy great apps across, and take full advantage of, a range of wearable devices. You can follow Hardin on Twitter @shawnhardin. I serve on Mind Pirate's Board of Advisors. This post appeared in today's Venture Beat

 As a technology executive since the early ’90s, I’ve enjoyed a front-row seat to the digital revolution. I’ve observed the meteoric rise of the Internet, broadband, social media, and mobile and watched their consumer adoption soar from 9 percent to 90 percent. Today, we’re on the cusp of a similar inflection point for wearable technology and augmented reality.

We all love smartphones. But it’s not realistic to assume the phones we now carry around in our pockets represent the final form factor for mobile.

In fact, the phone is about to explode. It will evolve into many different pieces, with wearable devices for many different parts of the body, including your wrist, ears and eyes. A couple years ago, an episode ofFuturama joked that the “eyePhone” would replace the iPhone. As we know now, that transition is already underway, as devices such as Google Glass and Oculus Rift demonstrate.

Yes, the devices are different. But they’re also quite closely related. And if you view Glass and Rift as steps along the same continuum, you start to see a very clear picture of the wearable-computing future.

Click to read more ...

Wednesday
Apr302014

The Story Cube

Anna Marie Piersimoni has begun teaching undergraduates at the California State University, Northridge, in their film/media program. She asked me to give a talk last week, and I've posted the presentation, which I dubbed "The Story Cube" -- an homage to another mutual colleague from our days at the American Film Institute, namely Suzanne Stefanac, who introduced me to the concept of "story cubed" as a way to encapsulate the multidimensional way we have come to understand stories in the digital era.

 

Thursday
Mar202014

Wearable Apps: Event in SF

I'm excited to share news of an event coming up on March 27 in San Francisco -- a showcase for the latest new apps built expressly for wearable tech devices (such as 'smart glasses'). Wearable tech is the next frontier of mobile media, offering intriguing opportunities to create useful and delightful experiences with entirely new form factors. 

The developers you will meet and the work you will sample has been created within a new business accelerator targeting wearable tech applications, a collaboration between the Canadian Film Center's ideaBOOST program and Bay Area start-up Mind Pirate, two of my clients. 

It would be great to see you at the event  in San Francisco. To RSVP click http://bit.ly/NTx4rP . For further assistance, ping me or Alison Hoy at the CFC <ahoy@cfcmedialab.com> Feel free to forward this invitation to colleagues whom may be interested in wearables, as well.

Wednesday
Mar192014

Quantified ME

I’ve been fat, I’ve been skinny, a roller-coaster of weight gain and loss, more of the former in recent years as I struggled with the impact of colon surgery, a late-stage scoliosis diagnosis. I didn’t seem to be able to control my food intake, and I became convinced that cardio sufficient to lose weight was now impossible for me.

Woe is me, I was thinking, self-pityingly, just as I stumbled across a post by my friend Shelley Palmer, whose blog tracks electronic devices and trends. Indeed, his post did focus on fitness gizmos from Fitbit and Jawbone, which I certainly had heard about given my recent interest in ‘wearable tech.”

I don’t know exactly what grabbed me in Shelly’s post -- dozens of similar stories have appeared across the web as the wearable health industry has taken off. I suspect it was how a person I knew described how he used a calorie counting app and a fitness tracker to lose 58.3 pounds in 189 days, or .3 pounds per day. He elaborates:

It’s not magic; it’s math. 3,500 calories = 1 lb. Every 3,500 calories you eat that you don’t burn, you gain a pound. Every 3,500 calories you burn that you don’t eat, you lose a pound. While this is not strictly true, for reasons that don’t matter here, it is a great baseline to use for changing your lifestyle based upon information you get from monitoring, or quantifying, your calories in and calories out.

Inspired, I ran out to Best Buy that afternoon and left with a Fitbit Flex and a Withings Wifi Scale. I created accounts for both products, as well as MyFitnessPal, an iOS app, and figured out how to link them together.

I’m happy to report that in 51 days I’ve lost 20 pounds, or .4 pounds per day, and along the way I’ve regained control of my food and dramatically increased my exercise, so far without any painful consequences.

This happened, pretty much as Shelly described the quantified self – being able to quantify my calories in and calories burned, and especially knowing in real time when the balance is about to go South. I know if I need to step up my exercise. I know if I need to restrict my food. No, I don’t always obey. But now I have no excuse.

To make this work, I have been diligent about recording calories in the MyFitnessPal app – it syncs between my iPad, iPhone and desktop, so there’s no excuse. The app’s database is immense and fairly accurate, so long as my estimates on portion size are honest.

I’ve also been rigorous about my exercise. I spend at least 40 minutes in the pool, vigorous water aerobics or swimming most weekday mornings. To that, I’ve added a heart-pounding walk each day, seamlessly tracked by my Fitbit, which calculates calories burned, and sends that data to MyFitnessPal. By last weekend I had nearly reached 15,000 steps per day, more than 5 miles. A few months ago, I had trouble with one mile. (Physical therapy with a miracle worker helped me “awaken” specific muscles that had not been firing properly, and that seems to have made all the difference.)

Two days ago I bought a bike, my new bike in more than 20 years, and I’m adding that to the mix.

Final word – music makes all the difference in my energy and motivation to increase my distance. Back when I was a runner, I laboriously programmed audio tape mixes with songs that drove me up hills and poured it on when I needed it. In today’s world, I make custom playlists in Spotify in a fraction of the time using the BPM Database and the All8 BPM tool. Here’s one just made for quick walking called, aptly, 120BPM

I think I’ll go try it, now.