I thoroughly enjoyed reading the debate in the comments on Simon Pulman’s post commenting on the presentation of the ARG Perplex City at the NYC Transmedia meetup a couple of days ago. Andrea Phillips presented the work they had been doing on the ARG, which in itself is an impressive and inspiring talk. The live stream is still up here.
Now, if you read the discussion, you can see two slightly conflicting points – the need to create great content and thus gain a loyal following that will interact, and the need to have someone stump up the money to pay for all that great content and the work you put into it. I think this is more and more the case now; back in the days a tv show could be bought straight up by a television channel, who paid what it cost to produce it. Nowadays you can’t make much of anything without a sound business plan as the foundation.
This is how it should be, I think. Yes, there should be creative freedom. Yes, there should NOT be intrusive ads that interfere with the story being told. But creating a viable business plan is as challenging creatively as creating the content itself, in many cases. It just juggles other parts of your brain, which can only be a good thing.
I also find that there is a shift going on in how people experience brands connecting to content they are attracted to. It is not about making people realize that they have to pay for great content, it’s simply about making people realize that great content can’t be made for free. The currency that your audience is paying you with for access to the great content (be it tv, ARGs, comics, webisodes, whatever) is not €€ or $$, it’s their time. This time of theirs, willingly given to you as the creator as payment for your work (strangely enough, even though their time is the only currency they can’t get more of in any way. Your content must be great!) is something that you can then sell onwards, to get the necessary funding in to make your project a financially viable one.
The trick is, of course, to do it with taste. I find for instance the writings on Propagation Planning quite interesting in this aspect, resonating well on a number of points with the workings of a transmedia producer. I also think a near-brutal honesty will work in many cases. Openly state that ”hey, we’re doing this, but we’ve only got funds up until three weeks from now. We’re working to bring in a brand, so don’t be startled if you see everyone changing to Toyotas all of a sudden, ok?”. If they like what you make – and they will, right? – then they’ll like you making more of it as well.