Pausing For A Moment

Not many people read this blog and there will certainly be thousands and thousands of more important people commenting on today’s tragedy in Aurora, but I had something I had to say.  If nobody reads this, so be it.  At least I have thrown it out to the universe and sometimes that is all you can do.

I woke up this morning around 6am and, as I do every morning, turned on my ipad, cleared it of its nightly spam build up, and turned on Safari to read the news.  The first page I usually go to varies between, Yahoo News, and Facebook.  This morning it happened to be Facebook.  I was immediately drawn to several posts about something that had happened 5-6 hours before in Colorado.  Clicking on a few links led me to the full story, complete with a video from a phone of people fleeing the tragedy as it happens.

I’m going to let a lot smarter, more appropriate people comment on the acts that occurred in that theater.  All I can say is my heart goes out to those people and their families.  Senseless murder with no seeming purpose is the hardest kind for us to process, I think.  I’m very far removed from it on a personal level, but even I can’t really wrap my brain around it.

What I really wanted to chat about here, being a media guy, is what is happening right now as I type this at 10:25am, roughly ten hours after the tragedy occurred.  After learning as much as I could online, I turned on CNN.  I stomached that for about an hour and a half before turning to MSNBC and Fox (for a few seconds).  I saw the president talk about how today shouldn’t be about politics and politely cut short a campaign speech.  What followed was everyone else turning it into politics.  MSNBC has just spent the last half hour debating gun regulation laws.

I have my own opinions about gun laws, but I am going to keep those to myself for now.  What I really can’t keep to myself is my intense disgust about how we, as a society, react in situations like this.  And make no mistake, the media does what we tell them to and we tell them through our viewership.  We ultimately bear absolute responsibility for how news reacts because they wouldn’t do it that way unless we watched.

As technology grows and we become more and more engrossed with our various devices, our connections to and the resulting humanization of our fellow man is rapidly disappearing.  We’re staring at numbers, debating the connections to the content of the movie we were watching, and talking about the political implications, anything that takes us away from 12 people being senselessly slaughtered by a clearly disturbed individual.  Are we, as a society, so incredibly disconnected from the people around us that we can’t connect with the humanity of the moment?

We’re all going to react in our own way and there’s really no wrong way to react to tragedy.  Well, no wrong way as long as it doesn’t involve hurting someone else.  I’m really disgusted and saddened by how and when we turn it into something that suits our own personal needs or agenda.  Today’s tragedy has nothing to do with the upcoming election.  It has nothing to do with gun laws or political agendas of one party or the other.  It has to do with a very disturbed young man committing a heinous act upon a group of people who deserved better.  And they still deserve better FROM US in the days to come.  The minute we think it is about Obama or Romney or ratings or page views, we have lost our way on a personal and a sociological level.  We have failed in one of the primary tasks we have to accomplish on a daily basis: creating meaningful and lasting connections with the people around us.

Take, for example, the young gentleman taking the movie of people fleeing the theater that has been playing incessantly all morning.  In the video, which I refuse to link to, he is standing by the door, filming people running from the theater or staggering out, covered in blood.  Why did that young man not put his phone down and help the injured people get out of the theater?  Did he call 911 before he started recording?  Did he even think about going IN to try and stop this man?  Or was “how many views I’m going to get on YouTube” going through his head?  It was uploaded about an hour after it was taken, so I can guess.  You make your own decision.

I’d really like to think I would have done something differently, but I’m really no better.  My wife was leaving for work this morning and I was too busy watching this unfold to grab her, kiss her and tell her that I love her.  If there is anything we are to take from this, it should be that moments to grab someone you love and kiss them are limited and we really should take advantage of them while they are here.

Right now, I’m going to turn off my computer, my television and say a prayer to whatever god or gods I believe in that my wife, my family, and my friends get to be in my life for another day.  Hopefully, in a few hours, my wife will walk through the door and I will get a chance to wrap my arms around her and tell her how much she means to me.


The End of The World As We Know It, And You Should Feel Fine, Part 2

In 1995, a friend of mine told me I needed to listen to the Batman Forever soundtrack.  (There’s a point to this story, so stick with me for a bit.)  I should throw it out there, too, that I’m really not a music guy.  A little more so these days, but still not the kind of person who has a wall of vinyl records and a rack of rare import CDs.  I was dubious of this friend’s insistence, but, as she was a great music aficionado I gave it a listen.  On it was a track called “There Is A Light” by a guy I had never heard of called Nick Cave and it blew me away.  Actually, the whole album was pretty outstanding.  Much better, in my opinion, than the movie it came from.  This started what is now a 17-year long love affair with Nick Cave, Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds, The Birthday Party and pretty much anything else Nick puts out.  (Don’t worry, we’re getting to the relevant part really quickly.)  In 2006, Nick formed a band called Grinderman with Warren Ellis (Not the comic book Warren Ellis.) and some other folks.  Suffice to say, in the far off days of 1995, there wasn’t a chance in hell of me laying my hands on an album by Grinderman at the local Wherehouse or Sam Goody.  Today,  in 30 seconds, I can purchase every album they have put out and have it on my Ipod in about 5 minutes.  Or I can sample the songs and buy them individually, avoiding the need for cassette singles that never got played on the second side.

All of this is because in the early 2000’s the music industry underwent a drastic re-inventing of itself.  Perhaps re-inventing is the wrong word.  A “re-distribution” of itself is probably more accurate.  The hands that usually collected all of our dollars went from being the hands behind the counter at Wherehouse or Musicland (who eventually handed it over to the likes of BMG, UMG, Casablanca and others) and became the virtual hands of iTunes, Pandora and others.  I could go on forever about that particular change and there are many people who know a whole lot more about it than I do and have done so, but what its relevance is here is that the film industry is in the midst of their own re-distribution.  Money is starting to flow directly to the same places it used to flow and people are getting scared.  Hulu, youtube and others are changing the flow and making us re-imagine where we can get our content.  And, probably most importantly, what we are willing to pay for it. (We’ll get a little more into that in the next post.)

I, and I think most other people in the world, still have a certain amount of money and time we are willing to give for our entertainment needs.  Where we are choosing to spend that is changing and it’s an exciting and terrifying time for the BMGs of the movie world.  It’s not a real mystery that the BMG of the music world was eventually absorbed by a little tech company called Sony.

Next post, we’ll get into what exactly that means for the future of entertainment.

The End of The World As We Know It, And You Should Feel Fine, Part 1

Everyone on every level of the established media world is terrified at the moment.  They’re terrified because their world is ending and they don’t know what to do.  I put that very specifically as “their world”, too.  The world of entertainment is not ending.  You will still get your movies and entertainment, you will just be paying for it in a different way than you currently do.  These days, you pay your $11-$15 ticket, buy a $5 diet coke and a $6 popcorn and sit in the dark and consume your two hours of content that is preceded by ten minutes of commercials.  In the future (and Nostradamas I am not) you will be paying for it in video prerolls and kickstarter-like campaigns where you get to be the producer and decide what will be created.

I’ll precede what I’m about to say by going on record to note that I really don’t have an opinion as to which is “right” or “better”.  What I DO have an opinion about is people characterizing this shift in the way the world works as the end of the world or a path to lawlessness where pirates reign.  Money will still be spent.  Probably the same amount that was being paid 5 years ago on entertainment, it just won’t be flowing into the usual pockets.

You only have to look at the music industry as our “Ghost of Christmas Future” to see the way things are going.  More on that tomorrow.

User Levels in Participatory Media, part 2

So last week, I laid out a prevailing theory about different levels of readership these days.  Again, not my theory/observation and I wish I knew exactly who to credit for it, but I’m afraid that I don’t.  Whoever laid it out like that was much smarter than me and I owe a debt.  :-)

What I will talk about and credit as my own is exactly how you can use this way of thinking to generate income.  Yes, income.  It can be done in transmedia, you just have to rearrange your thinking.

First of all, your Super Users are both your most and least important audience members and you have to treat them as such.  “Most” in that their opinions will trickle all the way down your pyramid and be picked up by every other level, even that invisible fourth level that I didn’t mention before, the “don’t know and don’t care about your project” level.  Especially should you turn those fans against you.  They’re the least important in that they will not be your main body of viewers/viewsers.  Sure they will light fireworks and get everyone to look up and see what you’re doing, but at the end of the day they will make up a very small percentage of your audience.

The real people you have to cater to are the casual users and, more importantly REALLY, the “DKDCAYP” people who you need to let know about your project and need to get to care about it.  I made up a word that I like to use to encapsulate these people: CONSUMERS.  This word doesn’t seemed to be much used or much liked by most transmedia projects I have seen or been a part of, but I think it’s really important.  Of course, in order for them to be consumers, you have to have something for them to consume.  You need PRODUCT.

And this, I think, is where most transmedia projects fall flat in terms of becoming sustainable and where marketing firms have actually been doing this sort of work more successfully for decades.  They have a product.  Something you can get your casual users to spend money on at the end of the day and can justify all the work and effort you put into your project.

Let me interject here and say that if your transmedia project is a hobby and you don’t care about turning a profit, that’s perfectly valid and fine and I wish you nothing but the best.  That’s awesome and I applaud you and will be incredibly happy to see you become the biggest thing on the web and beyond.

But if you want to turn this into a sustainable business, do yourself a favor and decide from the onset what your product is going to be.  Sure, that may change along the way and you have to remain nimble enough to let that change, but put something from the onset.  If your goal is movie tickets, let that inform your choices.  It can be toys, books, virtual goods, whatever.

Maybe some of you will look at this and say how simple it is and I’m a moron for even suggesting one needs to focus on this, but I see lots and lots of existing projects and projects in the works that don’t see to have a clear product designed into them.  Projects where the goal is simply to get eyeballs and viewsers.  If it is going to be a sustainable business, you need to design it so that those casual users will plop down a dime for a virtual good or a dollar for a pdf or a five dollar CPM or twelve dollars for a movie ticket or $100,000 for commercial time.  Design that from the beginning, don’t trust that if you build it, money will come.  That only works for Kevin Costner, I’m afraid.

User Levels in Participatory Media, part 1

This isn’t exactly a new concept but in case you’re not familiar with it, I thought I should explain it a bit before launching into a diatribe about it.  Modern thinking breaks down users in participatory media into three levels.  There are different names for each level, but I’ll use Super, Moderate and Casual.  Imagine a pyramid.

At the top of the pyramid are your Super Users.  These are the people who will scour the web, attend live events and generally spend hours and hours a day devoted to your content.  They’re the people who spent days breaking the code that appears before each commercial.  They’re the ones who applied countless numerology theories on the numbers 4, 8, 15, 16, 23 and 42.  The Super Users are usually fairly small in number.  Mostly because not many people have the time it takes to write pages and pages about the intricacies of midi-chlorions.

Just below them, you have your moderate users.  They are the ones that read about the intricacies of midi-chlorions and perhaps even post an article about it on Facebook.  They are invested enough to care about your project and spend time consuming pieces of it, but not enough to actually add to the mythos on their own. A bigger group than your moderate users, but still not where the biggest part of your views are coming from.

Eventually, you have the base with your Casual Users.  They’re the ones that will read that post on Facebook, watch your show and maybe look at your website, but won’t take a real active part in your project.

How these three levels interact and, more importantly, how they translate into income, will be in part two of this.



Transmedia Review – Conspiracy for Good

It’s over a year old, so if you’re involved with the transmedia world at all, you’ve doubtless seen it.  If you haven’t yet, do yourself a favor and at least read the synopsis by Wired found here.  This is hands down one of the best examples of building transmedia stories that I have ever seen.  Mr. Kring not only builds a narrative that is compelling and crosses multiple mediums, he does it in a way that actually has a wonderful effect on the world.

Interesting to note that he had Nokia’s bank accountant backing him, which makes it that much more doable.  But no matter how many billion dollar companies you have backing you up, you need a brilliant visionary to make it into something.  I really believe Mr. Kring is just such a man.

This is the kind of thing we should all be aspiring to.  Hope you enjoy it as much as I did.  I just wish I could have been there to participate in the live sections.



New World Commerce and Transmedia

So, some thoughts that came out of my attending DIY Days last Friday.  In case you don’t know what DIY Days is check it out here.  Congrats to Lance and everyone else who put it together.  It was a great day.

Something that has been stewing in my brain, though, and I apologize if I am paraphrasing or outright stealing from anyone there.  There were so many great speakers that I’m not sure if I picked it up directly from someone or not.  But here it goes (my vain attempt of the day to appear intelligent):

In the old day, even before the internet, cell phones, cars, or, say, the wheel, we existed in a barter system.  I have something you want, you have something I want, let’s trade.  Then somebody came up with the bright idea that instead of hauling everything I want to trade around on my back until I find someone to trade it to, how about we make little pieces of metal or paper and trade those instead.  These little pieces of paper or metal were now the basis of all exchange of goods.  You saw something you wanted, you gave someone a stack of paper and some coins and then you received that thing you wanted.  Those actual pieces of paper were eventually replaced with little pieces of plastic but the concept was the same.

The whole concept was pretty simple, though, no matter what the actual pieces were.  I give you something you want and you give me something that now belongs to me. (And I’m sure that there are thousands of people out there with a ton more knowledge and savvy in talking about economic theory than I do, so please don’t crucify me for my simplistic view here.)

In the 21st century, that dynamic has changed for the first time in the history of man and music and film are leading the way.  Now, the dynamic is changing to you give me something for free and if I like it, I can decide to pay for it.  Piracy has made it so easy to gather media for free and the width and breadth of the amount of media available for free is so huge, that now you have to earn my dollar by being good enough for it (even if that dollar is in the form of my time spent in front of a video pre-roll or side banners).

The pressure has never been higher to produce quality content because just shoveling marketing dollars on something no longer leads to the result (purchase) that you want.  You have to be good enough for me to pay for it in retrospect.  But what is that “good enough” or “quality” thing?  By who’s standard?

By the standard of a growing generation raised in an interactive media landscape.  When X-Factor posts your tweets in real-time on the show and the MTV music awards has live celebrity coverage of what Jane Smith in Idaho thinks of Nicki Minaj’s dress on facebook, you cannot deny that people are used to interacting with their entertainment.

So you’ve got a growing generation of people who are raised to believe their voice will be heard and ample content that they really don’t HAVE to pay for unless they want to.  That’s the gap where this concept called transmedia will step in and, I believe, will flourish.  Activate people, give them good stories and let them show you how they appreciate it.  Holding on to antiquated philosophies that date back to the barter system will leave you wondering why no one wants to trade for your mule.


Dan Forcey



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