One of the most interesting pieces I’ve read as of late has been The Reading Brain in the Digital Age: The Science of Paper versus Screens in Scientific American. The whole idea has been top of mind as of late, as I’ve noticed myself fighting – with myself, mind you – over just how to read.
Does it make a difference? Am I going to go blind at age 53 if I don’t split my time between my laptop or my iPad or my Nook Simple Touch or just plain…old…paper?
I know I’ve been a bad blogger lately. On all fronts.
But that’s about to change — with Advertising Week Europe all the way live in London, you’re about to hear a lot from me. And while nothing’s firmed up yet, I might have some exciting news to share soon on the contributions front.
Speaking of exciting news.
Since the last time we talked, I’ve been accepted into the VCU Brandcenter Communication Strategy program AND I’ve accepted a position as a summer strategy intern at Butler, Shine, Stern & Partners in San Francisco!
Suffice it to say, I’ve been busy. And I’m SO excited to share all of my future learnings and such with you.
Now, let’s get back to business. I meant this for an AWSC post, but with the backlog that is #AWEurope, I figured I’d share here first.
Here we go:
I’m the biggest proponent of digital culture out there. I believe staunchly in non-traditional media. I cringe when that, excuse my language, asshat of a codger Tom Hammerschmidt tells Zoe Barnes, “Twitter, blogs, rich media, they are all fads. They aren’t the foundation this paper was built on.” But if you asked me whether Netflix’s $100 million gamble was itself one big flimsy house of cards, I would’ve said absolutely.
7 hours deep (upon writing, I was 7 hours deep. update: binge complete) into a Kevin
Spacey-fueled binge and kicking myself for doubting the online giant’s strategy.
Sure, this isn’t Netflix’s first foray into original programming (that distinction belongs to Lilyhammer); but it is the first time the company has taken a hands-on approach to production, tapping big names like David Fincher, who directed the series’ first two episodes.
Pre-release, consumers and pundits alike questioned the streaming service’s ability to succeed – and what’s more, to not lose money – by dropping an entire season at once. Blasphemy, said traditional media.
HBO, the reigning king of original programming, fails all the time. How could this “fledgling” hope to win by going all-in on the first try? They simply couldn’t, right?
Well I’ll be damned. This show is good. It’s really, really good. The acting is top-notch, the plot line is full of intrigue and beautifully developed characters, and the production quality is second to none.
And to those who questioned how “dumping” the entire first season of HOC out in the market at one time could possibly be the right move?
Don’t pull a Hammerschmidt.
This is the way of new media. We’ve grown up with DVD seasons, Netflix and Hulu binges, and the reliability of our DVR. Of course this would work. Appointment viewing has gone the way of paper-only reporting: it’s a relic. Sure, it’s still there, but it’s in no position to not take its newfangled “fad” competitors seriously.
Spacey’s Frank Underwood tells Zoe regarding Slugline (the series’ Politico 2.0), “If freedom and exposure are what they’re offering, I would say that is a meeting worth taking.” This same argument is valid for Netflix, who noted, “For viewers, Internet TV is a better experience because of the freedom and flexibility it provides.”
Steven Rosenbaum wrote for Forbes, “This is a series that deserves to be savored – not ‘binged’ on;” but he couldn’t have been more wrong. This is a 13-hour movie that people are dying to see, not to mention, a 13-hour movie that might just change the landscape of traditional television.
With House of Cards experiencing enviable success, and similar treatment coming for cult-favorite Arrested Development in May, Netflix is paving the way for an internet-TV revolution.
Netflix CEO Reed Hastings explained to investors, “In baseball terms, linear TV only scores with home runs. We score with home runs, too, but also with singles, doubles, and triples.”
Well, Reed, you certainly knocked it out of the park with this one. And I, for one, can’t wait to see what’s next.
“In the olden days, a reader might pick up a book because the cover was exciting, intriguing, maybe even beautiful. But in the brave new world of e-books and e-readers, the days when (artists) could make us reach for a book may be gone.”
That’s what NPR thinks, but I disagree.
Chip Kidd, an associate art director at publisher Alfred A. Knopf, says, “People don’t buy a book on the Web because of the cover. They’ll buy a book on the Web because they’ve read a review or it’s word of mouth or some combination of the two.”
I’ve had an e-reader since mid-March. Since then, I’ve read about 50 books. So while I may be new to the e-reader scene, I’ve had a bit of practice.
When you surf sites like Barnes & Noble, Amazon, or even Good Reads, what makes you click through and read the review? For me, that’s the cover art. It’s just a digital version of the bricks-and-mortar store. In the book store, you wander around; and when a book’s cover or title catches your eye, you flip it over and read the description and reviews. Then you make your decision.
For me, the digital process is exactly the same. I read the descriptions of books that catch my eye on Barnes & Noble or iTunes, and then I might head over to Good Reads and check out the reviews.
I can’t help but assume this process is similar for other e-reader owners. I’m not sure I would’ve picked up Haruki Murakami’s 1Q84 if the cover wasn’t so intriguing, or Hilary Mantel’s Bring Up the Bodies if the artwork didn’t conjure up images of my beloved Downton Abbey. Sure, the descriptions and reviews ultimately lead to the decision, but if you expect readers to get to that point, you have to catch their eye.
So please, Chip Kidd et. al, don’t believe you’re obsolete. Our books may lack pages, but we still care what’s up front.
While we’re on the subject, here’s a few books I probably wouldn’t have picked up with an “ugly” cover – and I’m happy I did.
An excerpt from “Everything in Writing and Life is Fiction,” The New Yorker:
So I try to embrace the fiction of all things.
And I mean that—everything is fiction. When you tell yourself the story of your life, the story of your day, you edit and rewrite and weave a narrative out of a collection of random experiences and events. Your conversations are fiction. Your friends and loved ones—they are characters you have created. And your arguments with them are like meetings with an editor—please, they beseech you, you beseech them, rewrite me. You have a perception of the way things are, and you impose it on your memory, and in this way you think, in the same way that I think, that you are living something that is describable. When of course, what we actually live, what we actually experience—with our senses and our nerves—is a vast, absurd, beautiful, ridiculous chaos.
So I love hearing from people who have no time for fiction. Who read only biographies and popular science. I love hearing about the death of the novel. I love getting lectures about the triviality of fiction, the triviality of making things up. As if that wasn’t what all of us do, all day long, all life long. Fiction gives us everything. It gives us our memories, our understanding, our insight, our lives. We use it to invent ourselves and others. We use it to feel change and sadness and hope and love and to tell each other about ourselves. And we all, it turns out, know how to do it.
This couldn’t be more true. Just awesome, Keith Ridgway. And his book that’s coming out, Hawthorn & Child, sounds like a good read. Can’t wait to check it out!
Transmedia storytelling isn’t a new phenomenon. Movie studios, book publishers, and video game franchises have been taking advantage for quite a few years. The premise is simple: create mechanisms by which the content will permeate consumer’s everyday life. To do this, a story is developed across multiple platforms of media, delivering unique content that exists within the narrative.
Two common examples are The Blair Witch Project and Pokémon. The Blair Witch Project debuted at the Sundance film festival in 1999. Later released nationwide, a viral marketing campaign developed on the Internet drove popularity. The website quite realistically posed the question, “is it a film or a real documentary?”
This question is a perfect example of creating an integral component of transmedia narratives: “negative capability,” or strategic gaps in storytelling that entice consumers to participate, speculate on unanswered questions, and even create their own content.
Pokémon is an even better example. An imagined world of powerful creatures, Pokémon’s creators created need. The narrative was inherently multi-faceted and encouraged children to buy countless trading cards, video games, comic books, movies, and television series so that they could “fill the gaps” in the story.
A good “story world” is key to success – it can sustain multiple characters, and their stories, and thus successfully launch a transmedia franchise.
In what may be the most visible example and significant development to date, J.K. Rowling’s Pottermore, a virtual Harry Potter wonderland, is leveraging a gigantic worldwide audience, introducing a new way for fans to come together and engage with the Harry Potter world. Starlight CEO Jeff Gomez told Forbes why he sees Pottermore as so important:
“It exists not just to sell ebooks, but to nurture and ultimately expand the canon of Harry Potter itself. That’s historic in many ways…They’ll be doing what most movie studios have yet failed to do, which is to officialize and galvanize a massive fanbase into a single location, and then service their wildest dreams.”
There are, however, examples that exist outside of traditional media. A new project called “The Numinous Place,” which is currently seeking funding through Kickstarter, has the backing of actor Russell Crowe (along with his $25,000).
The brainchild of his longtime friend and screenwriter, Mark Staufer, The Numinous Place will use “video, audio, fake security camera footage, fake newspapers – all of (which) will have more of a visceral impact than words on a page.” A self-proclaimed “cosmic detective story,” it will center around a multi-platform ebook app containing audio and visual components, as well as elements to assist lucid dreaming, or the ability to control your own dreams. The Numinous Place website describes the project as “the world’s first truly multidimensional work of fiction.”
I look forward to The Numinous Place, if only because I think it will be interesting to see how they develop a world from the ground up. When you’re talking Harry Potter, you’ve got an audience – and a huge one, at that – built in; but The Numinous Project will seek its audience, just as it is seeking its funding, digitally – and truly from scratch.