Collaboration? Emerging Models for Audiences to Participate in Entertainment Decision-Making.
In an era where fans are lobbying advertisers to keep their favorite shows from being cancelled, advertisers are shunning networks to protest on the fans’ behalf and content creators are launching web ventures in conversation with their audiences, there appears to be more opportunity than ever for closer collaboration between content creators and their most ardent fans. What models are being attempted as a way forward, and what can we learn from them? And what challenges exist in pursuing that participation for fans and for creators alike?
Moderator: Sheila Seles (Advertising Research Foundation)
Panelists: C. Lee Harrington (Miami University), Seung Bak (Dramafever) and Jamin Warren (Kill Screen)
SS: HOw do fans influence corporate decision making. I had done some research on CHuck and how fans worked with Subway, a main sponsor to keep the programme in the air. Is this s new way?
LH: Soap fans have a long history of letter writing campaigns..to keep fans etc…Hoover stepped into the All My Children debate about the cancellation. Chair stepped in to protest cancellation (his Mom was a fan)…it opened up a new door in types of collaborations
SS: content creators are consumers and fans of caonten, but we don’t talk about advertisers and marketers in this terms….the Hoover episode suggested this. Corporate sponsors are human and can be fans
JW: in games, not as much corporate sponsorship…but there is opps to leveage excitement around games, such as those not released yet. Mother2, a japan game, had a fan programme to get it translated and brought to the US market..
SS: this sounds like fan subbing in dramafever
SB: indi produced stuff, foreign content does well…not everyone wants hollywood stuff. Dramafever taps into the need, telenovelas from south america, boolywood etc., Allows content producers to get into different content. We have a interface that taps into the fanbase..the biggest barrier is language, so we tap into fansubbing audience..to subtitle the drams into English to spread out the content. 80% of the content that we have is from a small network of fansubbers. This grassroots energy hitting the producers…they fansubbers are building a demand for content and the overseas producers are seeing this. We curate site based on what fans want, we do deals based on this, we get fansubbed stuff.
SS: Fans building on licenced content to create own works?
JW: the opening of content creation tools is one of the most exciting things..removes barriers to entry. Publishers looks for opportunities…eg COunterstrike became an official release. Publishers look for ways to get creating tools in hand of tools. Little Big Planet…great example..the tools were opened up and active fan community created more than a million levels. Recreation of famous games, levels etc. Now Sony are working with education department to see how model can use.Another example is Minecraft, fans create enormous landscape…this is a shift from top down, to giving peopel tools and giving a sandbox environment
SS: what are some of the challenges, when fans have this much control. QA issues? Artistic integrity?
SB: for episodic dramas, there has been feedback, people calling to get their favourite stories. Now internet provides faster feedback…we looked at a show from Korea..it wasa rating flop in Korea but one of the biggest one on Dramafever…different reasons for interest overseas. We are seeing more of these, a focsed international audience
SS: how do new models for fans, having voices heard, where audiences outside demographic become more valuable..
LH: I look at older audiences, how they can be more valuable. There are many different practices (young old vs old old). The Old old are less likely to think of collaboration as somehting they do but young old are more used to it..the media ear in which they are raised, as the population ages, you’ll get changing attitudes.
SS: Surplus audiences are interesting to you, SB..eg Korean programmes for non-Korean..
SB: in asia the Korean dramas do very well..we launched in US with English subtitles but not sure who would come. The audience is about 30% Aisan, 40% Caucasian…the world is flatter than apreaciated. THe content spreads, travel, widespread friends etc, more exposure, you get more hooked on it. There will be more of this..more prevalent and more available
JW: we spend a lot of time thinking about audience. Games are focused on hardcore gamers (teens, FPS) and recently social games (eg older moms)..but I did not fit into either category. A report recently showed gamers were 30-40s, the ones buying new consoles. YOu have to stop thinking of demographics but of play cycles…don’t look at age but at what they want to do with the title. Some like to explore, others build, others passive…have to change how you think about the games, the audiences and what kind of audience appeals to them
LH: the older views of soap operas were aware they were not in the ‘key demographic’ that they were not being listened to…the actors are keenly aware they need to look the part.
SS: so these models lead to a shift in that? a change in target demographic..
LH: the Hoover campaign got an enormous amount of attention. Fans want an lement of authenticity in what Hoover did, and it was.
SS: BackChannel question..for audiences to participate, there needs to be a large community, How do you build this
SB: went from 0 to 1.4million in 2 years. You can create a viable biz model with price of zero with ad support. Now we are seeing opportunities for communities to contribute to story line, to throw in some money…the production costs not too high…the entry point for getting to fan, to shape where content goes is getting better.
JW: so was thinking about new models when starting mag…as we build audience on editorial biz, we are starting producing content for that audience..we can seed with audience and with partners. They create something for the existing audience.
SS:Sharing creation is a shift, but how will authorship model change?
JW: so Defence of the Ancients…based on StarCraft…was created by fans. But another company wanted to release a sequel to the fan game…so original producer wnated to trademark term., The fans protested, this was a fancreated game.. Look at Scabble..you cannot copyright the gameplay, but only the name and colours. Copyright does not always allow independent creators to protect what they have done
SS:How do curate, for quality…
SB: we have a fulltime team of people assessing the quality…you can easily get 80% there with crowdsourcing..and then finish of the rest. Cost moves from >$1000 an hour to less than $100. We still need human intervention
LW: a question about the professional editor etc, is it still there? still an open question…
JW: with games, there is a real need to ambassadors. There is not a public language yet..we connect game culture with other parts of culture. THere is a place for curation, like us. There is still the fan side commentators..in Korea there is a community of Starcraft commentators to feed out to the public…they can become the gatekeepers. Fan created experts, you trust their opinion.
LW: expertise gets negotiated..it gets worked out through social expertise. Professional experts are different from knowledge experts
SS: UGC gets co-opted into professional content, still questions about this. BUt looking at tools that are opening up particpation..do they still represent a power hold..is there enough tools, how do companies fit in?
JW: it is hard to create all by yourself, you are operating in game world. People fall in love with making things but not syntax..you make games because you like games, not because you can code. The tools need to be accessible, but can’t be so simplistic to hamstring creativity…the first Little Big Planet tools were simple, soo the second version had more tools, more progamming stuff..the next one will probably be more complex. Challenge in finding sweet spot…does it become a gateway drug to actually building games
SS: how can the fans help?
SB: fans are very engaged…the more fan services you provide, the better we do
JW: there is a talk by Brian Reynolds, lead designer for Farmville…they listen to fans, they spend so much time studying what their players do. They really know what their fans want..they want to create maximum happiness. They test all apects of it..But traditionally game design is something they do in a vacuum, creation done without fan feedback..but potentially later patching, as a culture. Farmville is everything about the fans and how they behave. But supermario brothers – other end, no listen to fans at all.
LW: to bring the age question back, industry pay attention to needs in education, adolescent,,,but less thorough in developmental needs in adulthood and what they want. We have stereotype that once adult you stop developing..but there is emotional changes over life…so if we understand how emotions change with age, we can understand how fandom changes with age.
SS: Content creators who can understand the relationship with fans are succeeding well in this space, eg Joss Whedon, Kevin Smith etc..do those skills come from fandom..how can we understand models from being a fan in the creator side
JW: i understand games from a spectator and a broadcaster..I don’t want to make games myself..so how do I love something that I want to enable others to do well. You need to figure out your role in the community. There is legitimacy to be a lurker and you can empower others to do good work…I want to tell people about great work.
SB: our challenge is to grow as business, without alienating core fans. So as we add from other parts of the world, how do we keep the existing. Do we broacden it or keep it focused.
SS: what tangible skills do creators need to engage audiences?
JW: games developers have a hard time talking to people who can spread the message. People spend time making games, not engaging…this is partly the structure of the games industry…there is larger structurally problems that prevents individual creators talking to fans. With independents, there’s no commercial ecosystem that supports you. You can work as an employee, or starve as a independent! Some spend time across both…we work to conenct game devs with clients to dev boutique games..
LW: from soap community…you have to know the genre, appreciate history. there has been a huge change in writing, since last summer. People are having conversations! the return to that, has been great…that was a brave skillful choice to go with that show.
SB: in video world, the barriers are being lowered, to building audience and monetising. The stuff is there..all you need to create and market, the platform provides a lot more.
SS: question from audience..can crowds make art?
JW: yes, it depends on the tools. A johnny Cash video was made by crowds…each person got a frame. Radiacal built a tool that allowed people to build things as a crowd…it is a function of the systems, do they allow people to express themselves creatively
SB: not ness art, but can create visually appealing content…
LW: there was study done about 15 years ago, asking people what kind of people they want on living room…they priduced the ‘national’ version for each country they asked
SS: do people know what they want from entertainment…are they good at being able to influence
LW: most people don’t want the lowest common denominator..
JW: content creation is good, people create things that they know what people don’t want! Then it becomes wanted. The timing of Angry Birds..the 49th game from Rovio, was just right then…when you make things (Ira Glass Quote) you make bad stuff…but your taste is there, so you stop..you need to keep going to make things better. SO how do you keep people invested long enough to develop the skills to create something great…
SS: having audience generated content, being sold as mainstream..is that the model we want or is it more independent?
JW: it’s not ness a binary..one or the others…co-option is not ness a bad thing. The commercial infuence and power of games has moved faster than our cultural literacy around the games…you can;’t just make the ‘next’. People don’t get how games work…it’s not easy to co-opt stuff…
SS: what are the best ways to motivate and reward valuable audience participation?
SB: we are taking our proprietary subtitling out into the public, to get more peopel rewarded..Look at Wikipedia, they are motivated by more than money..so points etc, game mechanism, help us get crowds do what we want.
JW: gamification is popular..but is this taking the lipstick of gamification and putting it on the pig of work. Gamification looks at putting game points etc on something that has no intrinsic value! Just because there are points, does not mean there is value in there…it’s a case by case basis, you have to figure out the core values of the community, audience…
SB: yes, case, by case…magival things don’t happen if you put something out there. Most people are lurkers…
LW: so there’s a question…about psychographic instead of demographic…yes, still lots of opportunities for this. Chronological age does not matter as much now, we need to understand emotional/developmental age, the psychographics…you need to pay more attention to development needs.
JW: there’s a book about casual gaming audience, the perception is about not liking competition, about filling times., but the landscape is very different to this SO middle aged woman playing Angry Birds for 30 hours is similar to her son playing COD for 30 hours…you should think about how they play not just they play
Question…so Hoover, Subway actions…so in 50s, with sponsors around content. what could the consequences be of commercial pressures
LW: there was lot of conversation about motivations..we need to ask them…with Hoover, it was the mother/wife love..so there was credibility
SS: the model we use now to monetise TV is not ness working…the fans could go to the advertisers for chuck…meant they weren’t been valued by rating industry
JW: when brands have tried to infleunce, eg Advergames..the ones that worked well..when the brand stepped back. So Tapper, from Bud, did work. Goldeneye…the studio build a great game, in the JB universe…the game is getting a release..opps if brands let game designers do what they do best
Question: can you speak to responding communities/desires as if there is one requirements…how about multiple requirements
JW: you can’t make things that everyone likes. You can design to make something that many different groups want…Look at Modern Warfare 3 (COD), launched 1 ad, we are all soldiers..all in this game together…recognised the wider audience. They also changed game itself, so multi-player environment, was about kill/death ratio..favoured certain types of players, but now, it’s not a killbased system, a more co-operative system, so if you defuse a bomb, heal someone etc, you get more points…allows multiplicity of interests..
Question: Incentivising behaviour…most put incentives in a few buckets..authorship, or money/gamepoints etc…So Hipster Aerial..there’s no money, or authorships…they are there to make joke with 15 other people. Is collaboration itself an incentive..
SB: fansubbers, we talk to a lot, when you ask, there is people who love meeting others online, share comaderie around the act. Others. you need other reasons…
LW: some forms are not visible, it’s just talking, watching etc, the attachment is there, but can you do anything if not visible?
JW: there are other communities that just use social standing, eg Buzzfeed…it’s not outward reward…but 4chan never gives credit..never identifies people, but they still create.
Question: who takes on responsibility for decisions?
SB: people think they know what they want, but they don’t really. look how apple builds vs HP…focus groups can be about loudest voice.
JW: Press takes a large role in who is blamed for decisions…
SS: what relevance does mass media have – how can the two systems work together.
SB: there is an audience for UGC..but still a tiny fraction from mass content. We are still far away from that becoming main…the NYT still gets more eyeballs than lots of blogs. There is still room for quality..
JW: one of the roles is to use crowd-funding for testing new ideas, or watching what works…so not just attract fans but to get them to invest in them as well. The WSJ was looking at the cost of a like on facebook, questions about actively participating..