On transmedia and funding

Andrea Phillips wrote a passionate and very good post some days ago on why transmedia is not marketing. I can’t but agree with the points she makes in her post, as I am not a marketing person by trade, nor a born seller (although I’m getting better at it). On the other hand, I do believe that I will look at a couple of the points Andrea makes from a slightly different angle. She wrote:

For one thing, [marketing transmedia projects] are a lot more likely to be able to pay the team a living wage, which means the creators can afford to spend more time and care instead of working on it in off hours and weekends. And more money means a higher production value; dollars spent translates pretty well into better-looking video, better-sounding audio, and sleeker, glossier websites. Audiences like that.
And even more important than improved production values, money lets you promote the story. This is crucial — you need to pull people into your project.

Now, in my book this is not a bad thing (and no, I don’t believe Andrea thinks it’s bad either, in itself). In fact, I feel it is a necessary thing, for any project, transmedia or not. Yes, I am a storyteller. Yes, I create transmedia projects. Yes, I want to get a living wage and pay the ones I work with a living wage as well. And yes, I want it to look as good as possible, give the best experience possible and attract as large an audience as possible.

To do this (unless you happen to film your kid getting his finger bitten by his brother and generate a gazillion views off of that), the project needs funding. To get funding, you need someone willing to pay for the project. To find those willing to pay for the project, you need to make it worthwhile for them. Therefore, as I’ve mentioned before, the crafting of a viable business plan that fits your transmedia narrative superstructure, but at the same time give sponsors and advertisers value for their money, is in many ways as great a challenge as creating the transmedia content itself. And these things are interconnected – your content, with your stories, your mythology, your theme, will point you in the right direction when it comes to finding possible sponsors and partners that will fit into your story and your storyworld without disturbing them and taking away from the experience of them. This in turn will give both you and your sponsors better value for the money.

The reason I started writing this post was an article from A Think Lab, written by Bonnie Buckner and Dr Pamela Rutledge about “The Power of Transmedia Storytelling – using the technique for effective marketing campaigns”. It has a number of good points that any transmedia producer, no matter how small-key or artsy, can take to heart and use to good advantage. No matter how small a producer you are, you still want a great number of people to take part of your content. Says A Think Lab re: the great possibilities a transmedia approach gives anyone who is in the marketing business:

A story invites rather than sells. […] Today’s consumer lives in a world where a genuine brand dialogue, not “marketing message,” is expected.

I feel we have an obligation, as early-wave transmedia producers and creators, to create not only great projects but financially viable projects that can be used when explaining the term transmedia to a business and media world that hasn’t really opened their eyes to the possibilities a transmedia approach provides yet. I would dearly like to point to a dozen great transmedia projects with a stable financial plan as a part of the project structure the next time I go pitch a new project to potential financiers 🙂

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2 thoughts on “On transmedia and funding

  1. I don't think that being able to make money from a transmedia project gives it any more or less merit. I've played guitar and recorded by own compositions for years without any expectation of earning a living from it and yet it has greatly enriched my life. I also don't feel that being paid to create something for a purpose other than self-satisfaction in anyway denigrates the art.So, my view is just to be clear what the objectives are from the beginning – self-expression or work-for-hire? commercial work or R&D?I don't think that we'll just stumble on a business model without some applied thought to the problem but I also feel that with a wider range of creative expression in this area possible ways forward will become clearer.

  2. Robert,thanks for your comment. I am not suggesting that a project that does not have a clear cut financial viability should not be produced, far from it. A lot of stunningly great content will always be made for the love of making and for love of the subject or the method at hand, which is as it should be.I do stand by my point though – I believe we need to look at the financial part of the project with care, the same care we give the content itself. As I have found, I learn a whole lot of new things I hadn't thought of before, things that impact -in a good way! – how I approach a project.Also, regarding the "obligation" I spoke of; most people I try to pitch transmedia to are not at all familiar with the term or the concept. To be able to show good transmedia projects with a clear model of – if not revenue, then at least financial viability – helps no end. Agree fully on being clear with the objectives. This is true whatever you decide to do in life, right? Even if it's not always the case…

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