Yesterday, Brian Clark of GMD Studios spoke at Dr. Henry Jenkins‘ transmedia course at USC. He’s promised to post a detailed account of his talk, but he encouraged me to share this summary post for now.
The topic of his talk was the business of transmedia. Literally.
Perhaps keying off Mike Monello’s recent admonition for independent creatives to talk less and create more when it comes to transmedia, Brian proposed a couple of frameworks for both dissecting the current typical business model for transmedia experiences and constructing some new ones.
First, Brian outlined the five challenges he sees for current transmedia experiences:
- Funds – where will you get the money to pay for the expenses of your transmedia experience?
- Return – what do your funders expect in exchange for their money?
- Sustainability – how much money will you need over what time period?
- Audience – does it exist / how big is it?
- Promotion – how will you reach your audience?
Next, Brian laid out what he saw as the biggest problem with the current approach for transmedia experiences: almost without exception, they use the same model, whether they are produced by media companies, consumer brand companies or what Brian calls “issue” organizations (social cause, non-profit, etc.).
In the current transmedia business model:
- Funds come from someone else
- The expected return is impressions / ratings / awareness (not money)
- Sustainability for the experiences come from charging a fee (consulting, production, etc.)
- The funders will tell you how big the audience is (and who they are)
- Promotion comes from what are referred to as owned, earned, and paid media
Brian then proposed looking at examples from the independent media space for new transmedia business models. Brian identified the following (8) types of independent models:
- No-budget aesthetic
- Grass-roots / DIY / “some budget”
- R&D (learn as you; project X funds a solution that can be used on future project Y)
- Fan Incubation
- Fan Funded (think pre-sale)
- Arbitrage plays
- Audience Product
- Infrastructure Play (re-usable tool/service/process)
Brian explained that for each of these models, the response to each of the five challenges changes. For example, the no-budget aesthetic model doesn’t require funds, while the fan-funded model secures funds from existing fans. Brian didn’t explore each challenge for each independent model in detail, so I’ll leave it to him to go into more details about the subtleties between these models.
The final comment I want to make from Brian’s chat is his plea to avoid falling prey to two common but destructive concepts when it comes to experience design.
The first is the desire to maximize the “reach” of an experience. 50,000 page hits mean nothing if only 250 are likely to purchase your product/service. Reach without context makes for a poor design.
Concurrent with this is understanding the fallacy of the average. If your website has an average time onsite of 1:24, that means nothing. The better question is finding out who is spending 3 minutes, 5 minutes, 10 minutes on your site. Those are the customers you should be designing for.
Big thanks for Brian to calling attention to the nuts and bolts of building new business models for transmedia experiences – looking forward to hearing more details from him about this!