Convergence Festival: Be honest, open, and upfront / by Heather Taylor

This morning’s Convergence weekend as part of the New York Film Festival has been driving the point home that people want to see good, relevant content, and most of all people want to work with honest, open and upfront people. Who wouldn’t really?

The two opening sessions we attended were full of interesting tidbits and advice so we thought we’d stick it together on this post to give you a flavor of what we’ve seen so far:

Adult Swim

Adult swim started with bumps (the little bits between cartoons) in 2001 where there was a void that needed to be filled. Ten years ago it was easier to get musicians to give content as there wasn’t an avenue for them to put out their content (YouTube wasn’t really on the scene until 2006 and it took a few years until it was really hot). This gave exposure to artists with 3-4 million viewers at the peak of viewing to 300,000 at 5 am.

The key of the approach is to be totally honest and upfront. For instance, the team at Adult Swim may say the video is being sponsored by Mountain Dew, if the artist is not up for this, then they ask them not to do it.

All the musician needs to do is a create a new song (that they own and it is paid for) and Adult Swim gives it away for a period of time and advertise. There’s no downside to this as if people don’t like it, they won’t complain (too much) as it was free and if it’s loved, then the musician can now be discovered by a huge audience that they may not have reached before.

This strengthens the brand of Adult swim (if you do anything good, it does that), the sponsoring brand gets “cool cred” to Adult Swim’s key demographic of males 18-49 and the music gets exposure.

Location, Location, Location

Though this session had some interesting points, we really wanted to find out as many examples of geo-located storytelling as possible. As it was ran by Moveable Feast, they only showed stories that were done on their platform, and they seemed behind the times really.

HP labs in Bristol were experimenting with the same thing with Mscape since 2007. We were looking at creating stories on it at the beginning of 2009 but as it was only available on a very narrow amount of devices. We think they were ahead of their time and it’s really time they got moving on reestablishing themselves. The Mscapers website seems to have disappeared into the ether, but you can see a great post on Living in a Digital World that goes into more detail of how they were experimenting with Mscape.

If we look beyond practical examples, then some of the points that were presented should be the blueprint of creation in our new portable ecosystem. The session started with the questions: Why is this a watershed moment in storytelling?Smartphones. This is why Twitter took off, why foursquare exists and why we are becoming a society who can’t disconnect. Smartphones are ultra portable, location aware and multimedia capable.

So how do we create for these audiences? There are three things that need to be considered:

  • Immersion (though this doesn’t have to mean physical)
  • Curation: By having “story elements” which are a combination of media elements – video, sound, text, images and map (latitude and longitude), you can layer and curate. By making “share-able stops,” you can empower authors as curators and contributors.
  • Collaboration: This can happen as a combination of collaborative consumption and collaborative creation

But this is still a new world and we’re still looking on how it can be it’s own entity. Look at the evolution of video games or TV. Television, when it was first created, was basically radio on screen but now look at it. So we have to consider the phases of new media platform adoption:

  1. Experimentation
  2. Imitation (like tv imitating radio)
  3. Extrapolation
  4. Innovation

We’re still at the beginning but weekends like this are here to old our minds as storytellers to the possibility of future collaborations. Traditional storytelling means aren’t going to disappear, it’s just that there are going to be new and interesting levels that will be added to engage an audience hungry for more.