"The Era of Fan-Powered Media" was a talk I gave last week at the Broadband TV Conference (formerly OTTCon) in L.A. -- a riff I've been developing for a long time, and sharpened over the past year as I've worked Theatrics.com, a really interesting platform for participation and collaboration. We were required to use a PPT template and focus on a theme, not a company sales pitch.
My premise is simple: the actual TV show itself is the hub of interaction, participation and content-creation by fans who now have both the desire and the means to step into the story. The smart showrunners and networks generate many opportunities for fan involvement -- but, whether they do or not, today's fans are going to engage & create in dozens of ways across the Internet. Oftentimes, over the life of a TV property, these fan-engagement engines generate more views than the original content, although this is difficult to measure by traditional means because the fan-centric experiences are so fragmented. Work needs to be done to expand "engagement metrics" beyond a handful of the most obvious social networks.
Theatrics and other platforms that focus on fan-generated content offer some fascinating pointers to how the future might look as "shows" become authentically co-created. I've included some examples towards the end of my presentation, but for more, please see the presentation I gave for StoryCode in September.
In this presentation, I decided to dive deeply into one property -- AMC's The Walking Dead. What resulted was a parade of examples of both official and unauthorized fan content production across the web in text, graphics, and video. The choice of the AMC hit was, in one sense, low-hanging fruit. It's a mature property with ten years of the underlying IP (comic book) and five seasons on television. It's a sizzlingly hot genre, e.g., zombies. And it is, arguably, the most successful cable show ever, in terms of the growth and maintenance of the audience.
One would also have to give kudos to TWD's creative and marketing team for their consistent and inventive brand extensions and deep understanding of the social media ecosystem. They keep feeding the hunger of their fans (pun intended) and recognize that mash-ups and remixing and other unauthorized expropriation of their copyrighted materials (video, images, gameplay, etc.) only serve to generate a virtuous spiral of excitement and commitment by other fans.
These Super Fan are the target for certain kinds of popular culture, not just because they may be the sort of "influencers" that marketers covet, but because they are collectors, curators, makers and sharers. When a Super Fan makes a mark inside her story world of choice, they feel that they are a part of that story.
Put another way: The TV show of the future includes its fans.
Note: Huge hat-tips to Henry Jenkins, whose understanding of fan culture is unrivalled; and Kris Longfield, who calls herself a "fanthropologist" and proves it in the work she does to leverage fan culture for content and brand innovators.