Well I did promise I would write something about making money with transmedia, especially as part of my justification for going to Storyworld was that I would meet people who are working in Transmedia, not ‘just’ researching the topic (like me) and these people would be full of ideas to share on how to make a successful living in an enjoyable and exciting field of practice.
I went primed with a list of questions about business models to ask people, that I planned to write up into a ground-breaking fantastically useful piece of work that would explain business models in Pervasive Media. Then I just had to bite the bullet and find out who to talk to, so I asked Alison Norrington, Storyworld conference chair and generally helpful transmedia expert who knows what most people were up to. The first person she pointed me at was Brian Clark of GMD studios. There I struck gold – talk about hitting the jackpot! Everyone was talking business but Brian had just written a set of five posts for Henry Jenkins blog, on Business Models…… Needless to say his posts are a very interesting and well-thought out explanation of different ways to categorise and/or approach a project. Very useful.
Basically, he looks at the five key challenges to any project:
FUNDING: Where am I going to get the money to make this?
RETURN: What do the funders expect to get back for that funding?
SUSTAINABILITY: How am I going to pay my personal bills as a storyteller?
AUDIENCE: Is there an audience for what I want to make and who are they?
PROMOTION: How will get this work out to this audience?
He then uses these to analyse different approaches e.g. from the no-budgeted to the ticketed event, via the various ways of fan-funding. It’s definitely worth a good read and then use those five headings to think about your own project. It can help you work out where your project sits at the moment, but also, usefully, help you think about which different model you could shift to. There’s a link here to Brian’s first post on the Henry Jenkins blog. Read all five, you will find them useful
As well as meeting Brian, there were other chances to hear people talk about business models and their own approaches to making a living, in fact there was a whole session called New Business Models which took place on the first afternoon.
This panel was made up of Christy Dena, Kevin Franco, Ian Ginn and Mike Knowlton, and was moderated by Tommy Pallotta. All the panellists shared stories of projects they worked on and how they approached funding now and how they had funded past projects.
Key points –
One suggestion was to use 4-6% of company budget to invest in R&D.
Gather info about your audience in advance. You need to move beyond your peer audience to a fan audience to make a living
Break down any transmedia project into discrete chunks that you can sell as different projects – these smaller projects work as proof of concept and proof of audience when selling your idea to people who don’t understand the field.
Your audience won’t necessary go to all parts of the project, they may just go to a few of the sites, so think of an app as a place where you can bundle the experience together. And sell it.
think about getting money from licensing/back end as opposed to front end/audience
release content for free then introduce charging once you have built an audience. Your core audience will spread the word for you, especially if you let them use content, so have a free layer of story content – where viewers can add content, others can agree/disagree, develop conversations
you need to tell two stories – one to the audience and one to investors
funding that used to come from marketing budgets is now moving to production budget for some people – but this means you need to make a ‘product’
you can get10,000 viewers without a marketing budget
problems of permissions access – losing 50% of audience at facebook like button
to make projects replayable and persistent – not only need to ensure you keep the content rights and have enduring file formats, you also need to have control over the back end database & server so that links to content still work in 5 years time
Business models came up again as a topic of conversation in a session on Technical innovation and its effect on the business and nature of storytelling, with Gene Becker, Oren Jacob, Nina Lassam and Brad King as show-stealing moderator. The point was made that new platforms enable shifts to enormous scale, though can still be looking for audience. We are still at the stage that is equivalent to the silent film era, who knows what will develop.
There are no formulas!