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.

Entries in conferences (4)


Curate I must: the week's best posts in disruption, digital biz & new content

A week of travel did not deter my fierce compulsion to curate. Thus, I offer for your consideration the week's best posts, dumped into the very leaky buckets -- namely TV/video distribution; digital business; and digital content. 

If you're in L.A. on Wednesday please drop by the 2nd Screen Summit/TV Goes Social conference in Santa Monica, where I'll be moderating a session on "Curated TV." 


"My Goal is to Kill off Television" joked BitTorrent inventor Bram Cohen as he introduced a new P2P live streaming technology last week. Now THAT's a headline that should get somebody's attention.

Have you heard about TV Anytime, an iOS and Android app that allows capture online video for later, offline viewing. Now the app allows users to rip DVDs from their computer desktops to mobile devices. In some ways, this is what the studio-backed UltraViolet app should permit -- e.g., rewarding people who have already bought a DVD, by allowing them to watch their content anytime, anywhere. One can only wish.

It's the season of mega-TV events, each of which seems to be setting new records for social TV and Twitter usage. First it was the Super Bowl, and now it's the Grammy's, analyzed in this very smart post from ITVT. Next up, of course: The Oscars. 

Will it work? -- "Just the Story" -- is a subscription site for indie web series. For $4 per month, fans get some exclusive content, and ad-free versions of other web series.  

I discovered a post by Eric Spiegelman of The Awl that I quite liked -- his interesting and personal view of "Four Weird Things the Internet is Doing to Our Understanding of Television." Not that I agreed with it all, but props go to thoughtful posts.  

Another day, another "era" declared, this time the "era of social cinema" -- this post is really just a news report about the latest embedded movie debuting on Facebook, brought to us by a company called Milyoni. ("Tim and Eric's Billion Dollar Movie" will not, I repeat, not, go down in history as a milestone of any sort.) On the same topic, Paul Marsden suggests that for Facebook to become a competitive distribution platform on par with Apple and Amazon, it must offer "a differentiated and compelling value proposition" enabled by the social graph.

Aereo (formerly known as Bamboom Labs) is a startup that uses micro-antennae technology to offer broadcast channels over the Internet on a subscription basis. Backed by Barry Diller and others, the business will undoubtedly draw litigation, but the team believes it has its bases covered as it launches New York as the first local market. 


I've written about the "virtual self" and how the massive stream of data we generate within our digital lifestyles creates a market for user control of our own data. Now the NY Times is reporting on the topic, in particular Shane Green's company Personal 

"The Collaboration Curve" is the name given to a new theory that suggests that the "network effect" can be supercharged -- "the more participants--and interactions between those participants--you add to a carefully designed and nurtured environment, the more the rate of performance improvement goes up." Check out this interesting Harvard Business Review piece.

We all love dirty little secrets, and Tom Foremski pulls the cover on one such secret that underlies much of the emerging digital business, namely the vast expanse of fake or empty social media accounts.

Tumblr is a microblogging service with half a billion page views per day, a true phenom. GigaOm offers a summary of a really fascinating technical and business case study of the business. The deeper technical dive is offered by tech site High Scalability. (Geek alert, big time!!)

Check out Gunther Sonnenfeld's super-smart post "5 really, really important shifts (not trends) in media and technology. 

Lists -- we love 'em, we hate 'em -- at least I do, and Fast Company's "50 Most Innovative Companies" is no exception. I do appreciate that the list is displayed on a single page -- even display of links for the top ten by industry. Sooo much better than the slideshow format. Learned about some companies I'd never heard about, but ranking "innovation" is nutty on the merits. I'm just saying….  

It's been a long time since news about initial public offerings of tech stocks has been so constant and varied -- the Godfather of all stories, of course, is the behemoth Facebook offering.  Video platform provider Brightcove had a good week, with shares up 30% on its first day of trading. Will the upcoming Yelp IPO validate user-generated content as a valuable form of wealth creation? 

Amazon created a flurry of noise (both pro and con) with the creation of its Amazon Studios initiative, which is a sort of crowd-sourced script marketplace. Now the online commerce behemoth is hiring more original content production executives, as the competition heats up. 

The Guardian reports on the "vast digital data operation" of the Obama reelection campaign, including integration of supporters' Facebook social graph, which could be a factor in a presidential election for the first time.

In case you hadn't heard, we are in the "Age of Big Data"  -- and if you dig it, you'll be employed for life, according to this article in the NY Times

Underlying most of our digital businesses, of course, is the computer itself. Technology Review published a lovely and informative historical review of how the computer came to life, and why Alan Turing should be given credit for the "Enduring Importance" of his contributions.


Chris Dorr posits a new business model that allows fans to authorize payment of shows they like AFTER they view them, a kind of inverted Kickstarter in a disruptively smart Tribeca post called "What if You Could Tip A Filmmaker?"

Documentarian Chris Kenneally has a new movie called "Side by Side" that examines the evolution of digital cinema, produced by Keanu Reeves (yes, that guy). North American rights have been purchased by Tribeca Film at Berlin, with a summer release on multiple platforms.  

"Web TV's New Lineup" is the headline (somewhat archaic language, eh?) on the Wall St. Journal's gloss on mainstream Hollywood's migration towards the production of web-native series.

Do Movie Review Aggregators Matter? asks The Wrap, reviewing Rotten Tomatoes, MetaCritic and Movie Review Intelligence. 

ARGNet does a fine job of reporting on new transmedia and alternate reality games. This week brought reports on two projects from Canada: "Guidestones" is a web series offering embedded clues, hidden story lines, and other goodies. "Bear 71" -- an interactive film from the National Film Board. The "film" puts the viewer into the Bear's point-of-view and is pretty unique.

"The Five Pillars of Transmedia" is a typically smart post from Simon Staffans.

Have you heard of Cowbird? It's a "small community of storytellers focused on a deeper, longer-lasting, more personal kind of storytelling" -- call it the "anti-update" or maybe even the not-Facebook. You must request an invitation to begin posting on your own, but anyone can read. Check it out.

Over at Facebook, the transition to the "Timeline" format continues -- I made the switch this week: Of course, the company's goal is not just a different method of displaying member content, but to generate stickiness by enabling third-party companies to produce "Timeline Apps" which in turn allow users to embed content into their timeline. Here's how FB itself puts it on the FB blog

Linden Lab acquires text-based game studio LittleTextPeople to extend its universe beyond the bounds of Second Life. 

Henry Jenkins' interviews Jared Gardner, author of "Projections: Comics and the History of 21st Century Storytelling." 


Future of Television (restated)

My remarks about the “Future of Television” at Georgia Tech’s Future Media Fest this week included the following points.

  • I hate the future: It’s always wrong.
  • Content is always shaped by business model.
  • Business models are defined by technology trends that create opportunity.
  • Opportunity is another word for disruption.
  • In the age of the Internet, if you are not disrupting, you are disrupted.
  • The evidence is in consumer behavior.
  • The future of the Internet is television, or to be more precise, video, some of which comes from traditional TV suppliers, and much of which no longer does.
  • Tech trends are enabling new business models, which in turn empower new content models, such as:
  • It costs less to capture and process video
  • Broadband connectivity is widespread, even more so outside the U.S.
  • Video compression makes mobile content possible
  • IP massively distributes networks for both programs and ads & creates new models.
  • Content is costing less, not only because of cheap tools and broader distribution of producers, but also because fees are going down (just look at reality TV trend).
  • Most importantly, consumer behavior has changed.
  • Three current buckets can help us understand the immediate future:
    • CONNECTED TV…(track consumer electronics companies like Samsung, LG, Sony, Panasonic, Philips and new box providers including Apple, Google, Roku, Boxee and over-the-top superstars like Netflix, Amazon, Vudu, and others.
    • SOCIAL TV… Check-in sites like Miso, GetGlue, IntoNow, Tunerfish, Beyond TV are being joined by next-gen apps likeZeebox, Watchpoints, Frequency,
    • EXPANDED TV… is my name for companion apps to individual shows or networks. Companies in this space include Media Sync (Nielsen), Shazam, Sidebar, Facebook, YouTube, Android/ioS/Siri, cable’sTV Everywhere initiative, (HBO Go), and Ultraviolet/Flixster.

• OF STORIES & WORLDS: What the Transmedia Movement has to Teach ... (And to Learn)  

If nothing else, last week's Story World Conference in San Francisco affirmed the reality of a new creative movement devoted to transmedia storytelling.

After years of building connections via online sharing and various ad-hoc collaborations, this gathering of the tribes of transmedia will certainly accelerate the movement by invigorating a cadre of practitioners and theorists, and generating buzz among content creators of many ilks. 

It's a very big tent that has been pitched, sheltering artists, theorists, academics, service providers, vendors and allies, many with contradictory values and beliefs. Don't expect a manifesto any time soon. 

And yet, listening to three days worth of panels, speeches, workshops, and networking (and 2000+ tweets), it's possible to extract some core beliefs of this movement that distinguish transmedia from "monomedia" -- the world of stories told in a single medium -- followed by some advice gleaned from more than 30 years in the indie film world.

Story World attendees on Day 3 at #occupytransmedia workshop

-- Story Worlds are not stories. This emphasis on worlds transcends the story and its traditional elements (character, setting, theme, plot, etc.) even while incorporating them. Because transmedia requires the audience to move from one medium to another, the emphasis in on "experience design," a job which is more typical in a game studio than on a movie set. 

-- Audience engagement drives everything. To transmedia activists, the audience is an engaged, participatory, and demanding collaborator. Storytellers must invite audiences to "co-create," not just as fodder for marketing or promotion.The release of narrative control opens the floodgates for new definitions of story, script, narrative. This frightens old-school story folks.

-- Stories live outside the silo. Media are produced and funded inside a single silo, so it takes a lot of passion and will to spend the extra time and money to build a multi-platform story vision from the outset. Finance loathes split rights, as Zak Kadison, Chairman, President and CEO, Blacklight Transmedia noted: "Ever since George Lucas, studios don't want to give up any rights."

Perhaps that is changing, said David Tochterman, Head of Digital Media, Innovative Artists"Transmedia is great because it gives me multiple ways to get a buyer to say yes," It also creates value for the filmmaker, according "conversation agent" Miles Maker who sees the emergence of "the attention economy." The story, themes, characters, and actors can generate content and audience engagement well before a film opens, though he admits, "filmmakers don't want to let the cat out of the bag."  

-- Software is the bottleneck. "The biggest challenge to physically distributed narratives was the bottleneck of the gatekeepers," said transmedia pioneer Jordan Weisman. "With the onset of interactivity modes, the bottleneck is software engineering," which has a much more limited pool of talent. The emergence of new production tools and platforms will help the non-techies, including Coincident TV and Conductrr. Lance Weiler thinks of his transmedia projects like software, labeling versions 1.0, 2.0, etc. Indeed, his DIY Days, which preceded Story World, sponsored a hackathon

-- Data is the new oil, metrics is the new gasoline. Most transmedia projects converge on the Internet, and most incorporate audience interactivity --  generating floods of very targeted user data which can be measured and can drive the revenue model and the story form itself. For the first time, audience becomes a strategic advantage for the content creator, not just the distributor.

-- Business models are a bitch. Whenever indies gather, they talk about money, and Story World was no exception. Virtually all successful models for transmedia to date have been financed as either patronage or commissions, as noted by Brian Clark of GMD Studios.  Clark believes that "the next wave of innovation in transmedia storytelling is going to be about business models rather than storytelling forms."  A popular tweet during the conference referenced the patronage model: "If you want to do transmedia, move to Canada." The emergence of an app market (for iPhones, android, TV and desktop) offers new avenues to test the willingness of the audience to pay for original and indie transmedia story experiences.

This movement is young and still in what one observer calls the "us versus them" phase, exemplified by a slogan I saw during one workshop: "After the big boys fuck it up completely, feel free to give us a call"  So as a veteran of the indie video and film movement of the 70s, 80s and 90s, I offer a few observations as encouragement for this one. 

Click to read more ...


• The Gathering of the Tribes – Interactivists Meet Up

Virtual relationships are rarely enough to propel a movement upwards, even in this era of highly engaged social networking. Face time is better.

Which is why I’m kind of jazzed about the pace of live events that will bring together leading multi-platform storytellers, the so-called “transmedia” movement.

So, get ready for a deep dive into the transmedia storytelling communities as I participate and then think about two upcoming events, DIY Days and Story World.

DIY Days is the brainchild of Lance Weiler, and has been around for a few years. Twice a year he gathers like-minded folk from content and tech communities with a decidedly grassroots bent, this edition on the campus of UCLA. 

Several hackathons are underway right now that focus upon actually building projects that have been in planning for months, leading up to a series of presentations, case studies, and demos on Friday. Check out the schedule. Friday night will also include a party for the wonderful DIY indie film book, Selling Your Film without Selling Your Soul, which I wrote about in September. 

Story World is a new conference next week in San Fransisco from FW Media, a publishing enterprise that has run the Digital Book World event. The company tapped Alison Norrington as program chair, who’s done a bang-up job of assembling a line-up of presenters in virtually every category of cross-media production and strategy. This thing has the feel of a "summit" without the hubris of calling itself that.

I’ll be thrilled to hang with the many folks I already know at these two events, more more interested in diving into new work I haven’t yet experienced, and understanding the creative minds behind this revolution in storytelling. (Like these projects, added just yesterday to the Story World line-up of presentations.)

I've already interviewed Alison, and will learn much more on site at both events. So: watch this space (and a few other websites) for my analysis of what these events hold for the future of storytelling.