There’s a great article up on Reforge that looks at the demise of Quibi, the “Quick Bites, Big Stories” platform that launched with an eye-watering backing of 1,75 billion US$ in April this year. While it hasn’t shut up shop yet, viewer numbers aren’t what they should be and the app itself is nowhere to be found on the top lists after their initial push.
The article talks about the need to look at platforms according to their place on the Entertainment Value Curve, i.e. see to it that the characteristics of any given platform are the correct ones, correlating with where they ought to find themselves on said curve.
If you’re Netflix, HBO, Prime or a TV broadcaster, you’re at the high-quality, low-sociability end of the curve. This is a good place to be, if you feel you have what it takes to compete with the Netflixes of the world (something broadcasters are finding increasingly difficult). If you’re TikTok or Snapchat, you’re at the other end of the curve, with high-sociability and low-quality your characteristics. As the article points out, the makers of Quibi have done themselves no favours by not including features that would help them increase their chances of finding a profitable and enticing place on the curve (not allowing screenshots, for instance).
If we for a moment look away from the world of platforms, however, and instead put on our creator/producer hats, this Entertainment Value Curve can be immensely useful to mirror our projects against as we’re developing them. One key aspect of the development of many projects along transmedia storytelling lines is the need to engage audiences, giving up a bit of control of the overall narrative in order to gain loyalty, engagement and interactions (and in the long run, increased chance of viral and social spread).
If we agree on the basic principles of the Entertainment Value Curve, we need to create our projects to have aspects of them feel at home at the low-quality, high-sociability end of the curve, no matter how high-quality our core content is. While some actions are obvious, like allowing your audience to screenshot content so they can share it onwards as they please, other actions might take a bit more planning. Here are three thoughts:
Map the storyworld with the audience in mind. When drawing up the first iterations of the storyworld you grow around your project, keep the active audience at the forefront of your mind. Try to creatively plan where the lowest threshold for them to activate themselves is, in connection with what story and in what way, that would allow them to express themselves as easily as possible, while allowing you to highlight and validate their engagement as logically and openly as possible.
Keep playfulness front and center. No matter your project, be it a serious drama or a quirky factual or something else, and no matter what the storyworld you create looks like, make sure you don’t hamper the entertainment value and likability with (too much) strict and serious limitations. Make sure you maintain a healthy distance to what you create, as that will allow you to let audiences in to play with your creations and enjoying it yourself.
Borrow, steal and be inspired. A great way to not experience a restricting feeling of ownership of your idea, your project, is to allow yourself to “be inspired” by other projects, other pieces of content. This will also allow you to find common ground with your audience, as this is the position most of them will be in as they borrow your content, your characters and your stories to create content and narratives of their own. Imitation is the highest form of flattery, it’s said. I believe it’s time to flatter each other no end.
To conclude – the Entertainment Value Curve can be a great tool and checkpoint for your project. Finding the right place on the curve can mean the difference between success and failure for an entertainment brand. Furthermore, it can add significantly to the longevity of a project, a narrative or a storyworld. A welcome addition to any creator’s toolbox!