Digital4C – a reflection

140212_logo-D4C_logo_apaisat_fonsblancI was invited earlier this week to hold a keynote presentation at the Digital4C conference in Barcelona, Spain. The conference brought together a diverse crowd of content creators, scholars, government officials, students, music industry people, game designers… you name it. I held my talk on the subject “Talking Transmedia: Content Development and Monetization” (which I think you will agree is a title that can fit quite a lot under it :) ).

I’m happy to say that the talk was well received and sparked a number of interesting conversations. Here are a couple of observations that I made from talking to people over the two-day event:

It doesn’t matter where we are – we’re all facing the exact same challenges. It’s about daring to think outside boxes. It’s about having the ability, knowledge and/or experience to decide which course of action and which development direction is the right one. It’s about finding the right people and the right companies to collaborate with to maximize output quality and minimize risk of failing. And it’s about finding new ways to monetize what you’re doing – something that in some cases can be about creating new currencies (audience engagement figures, “loyalty” etc) to determine the value of what you’re creating.

While some are forging ahead, some are stuck in the past. While almost everyone I talked to acknowledged a change in audience behavior and engagement, not everyone saw this as a need to change their modus operandi. Most often it’s a case of “why fix it if it isn’t broken?” as some areas are still making relatively healthy profits. In my opinion, this misses the point. The companies and producers who properly research and connect with their audience on genuine and engaging levels – often with the help of advanced storytelling methods – will have a much better chance of staying connected and making the right choices in the long run. Yes, glitches and hickups can definitely occur, but it’s all about maintaining an upward trajectory for the long term.

Long term is the new short term. If we’re creating content, we need to move away from the quarterly way of doing affairs that the stock market, for instance, is used to. We now know that no matter what kind of initial OOMPH! we can create, maintaining interest and engagement in the long run is what counts. It could be argued that the bigger the initial impact is, the more well-thought out the plans for long term engagement need to be. YouTube super-sensations Spy or Ylvis make good cases in point – the key would be to have a narrative stronger than the successes of their respective videos, a narrative where the videos – even though extremely successful – become cogs in the storytelling machinery. It’s a big ask, but the rewards are potentially vast.

All in all Barcelona and Digital4C was a very enjoyable experience. There were many interesting discussions, on everything from how to make the real world as appealing as the non-stop action it is possible to experience online to the need to start thinking beyond screens, already in the development process. And having Montecarlo and Eva as discussion partners and Barcelona-mentors made it all even better :). I hope to be back sooner rather than later!

Simon Staffans is a content and format developer and media strategist, employed by MediaCity Finland. He works with multiplatform storytelling, media strategies, content development and great stories. Contact him at simon.staffans(at)gmail.com or follow him on @simon.staffans.

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