Wednesday, September 10, 2008

The Future of Marketing Is The Future of Storytelling?

Last night at the "Breaking In Again" panel at the Writers Guild, a number of podcasters and webisode writers/producers/directors spoke about the future of what is now called "New Media" but will soon be known, we imagine, merely as "Media."

Mary Feuer, former head writer at lonelygirl15 and currently the writer/director of the "With The Angels" web series, premiering soon on Strike TV, talked about creating content that stretches beyond the video frame. Characters on lonelygirl15 had mySpace pages for their fictional selves. They created a website, rich with layered content, for a pharmaceutical company mentioned in the storyline.

Very recently, it was a groundbreaking idea to create an illusory reality online, reflecting the fictional world inhabited by TV Characters. Now, it's almost de rigeur to at the very least have a Barney's Blog, if not a whole Dunder Mifflin website. (Which I assume exists. Wait a sec.... Yep. It sure does.)

Which does create interesting creative challenges. Who blogs for the characters? Who vets those blogs to make sure they don't violate canon? The Official Network Website for a show I worked on recently had bonus content on it that was written by the PR department, using an old show bible and outdated pilot script -- the material was wildly off base.

Does the potentially infinite nature of this material create a barrier to entry at the same time as it creates an enhanced experience? Ideally, this additional material makes the story richer, and creates an interactive thrill for the participant who follows the trail and finds all the Easter eggs. But are there viewers who feel daunted by the mass of links they'd need to follow to become fully versed in a work of fiction, and back off?

1 comment:

hilinda said...

That's a good question.

I never watched Babylon 5 because so many people said that in order to understand it, you had to see all of it.

So the question is, will all of the "extra" stuff add to the story, or distract from the story? Will it become required in order for the viewer to feel that they are fully participating, and will that participation be too much to maintain? Will the viewers WANT more and more connection between themselves and that fictional universe?

I think it's great that such things, such extensions, are now possible. The internet is more amazing every day, with ever-increasing options for connection and for information sharing.

I wonder how much effect it will have on TV that young adults NOW have different expectations of how much online extension there should be?

Back in the beginnings of the internet, we were all delighted to find people out there at all, and then find others with similar interests, and there were those of us who connected to that very strongly, and spent a lot of time, as fans, bringing TV universes onto the web. I'm sure you recall when online fandom was told over and over how little effect they had on shows, and not to expect all viewers out there to have the same opinions, etc. At the time, it was true- we were the "fringe."

Might not be that way so much NOW. Look at all the webisode things, where online fandom is IT.

And yet.

There are still millions of people out there who don't have much of an online presence- or interest- at all.

I have noticed over the past couple of years, more and more shows that offer extras online, and for a few, I've gone and checked it out. I LIKE having that option. Sometimes, the bug hits, and I'll want as much as I can find. Even better, as this area of possibility expands beyond simple add-ons, like photos and what not, to more and more complex offerings, which is what brought you to your post.

I guess the answer will change as the media changes. Yes, there will be a barrier for some, but at the same time, there will be those who eat it right up. It WILL be a challenge for those creating all this extra goodness, but that's as it should be, I think.

So far, I have not run into anything that made me wish there was less out there, or felt overwhelmed by too many links. I have not always followed all the options, but I also haven't felt like that was a problem for me. It hasn't caused a disconnect.

But do tell me when someone figures out how to make it so exploring the infinite online world doesn't have to take up the finite hours of the day.