Ah…the good old days. All you needed was TV Guide or a single page of listings in the daily newspaper to know what was on television. There were three national networks, and depending upon the size of the city you lived in, three or four additional local channels – six choices plus Public Television. In those days, Nielson counted 100 million television households. Ratings were the percentage of television households that had sets on. Share was the percentage of the households with sets tuned to a specific program. A hit network program like Mash, All In The Family, or Happy Days could have as many as 40 to 50% percent of those 100-million households watching all at the same time.
A closer look at how leisure time (non-working, non-sleeping time) was spent reveals that those 100-million television households in the 1970s (pre-cable and before video cassette recorders) represented more than 95% of the total households. Television dominated not only all media, but every other activity as well, including bowling and bridge. Half of the population of the United States watched the Bill Cosby Show on Thursday night on NBC.
Technology is a Game Changer
Enter cable, VCRs, DVDs, computers, the Internet, PVRs, Pay-Per-View movies and sports. Suddenly television’s monopoly on leisure time was shattered. Liberated television viewers could now decide what they wanted to watch when they wanted to watch, which meant they could also DO what they wanted to do (bowl, play bridge, go for a drive) when they wanted to do it. Audiences were fragmented over hundreds of media options. Appointment viewing was over.
Today, the young and the restless can multi-task – have the TV on, update their profiles on Facebook, and Tweet away the hours. But each media platform lives in its own silo. It is discreet and separate from the others. Occasionally a sports enthusiast watches a game, Google’s some related stats, and the two media platforms flirt with each other. Movies open in movie theaters and, mostly unedited and uncensored, move through sequential distribution channels: DVD, Pay-Per-View, pay cable and so on through the food chain. Different delivery platforms – same content – and all of it consumed passively.
Authoring happens one media platform at a time, but may get adapted. Books can become movies, movies can become television series, television series can become plays or musicals, or any combination of the above. There is cross-media promotion, marketing and merchandising – Transformer toys, cartoons, movies, and Xbox games. The DNA of the underlying IP goes multi-media and is re-imagined for each discreet media platform and/or category. Properties like Transformers make the Cosby Show or Seinfeld television series into tiny financial successes by comparison.
What’s On? We Don’t Know and Does It Matter?
How do you find out what’s on? Finding what you want to consume and where it is located is haphazard and accidental. Eyeballs that once sat looking at the same program at the same time are now distributed across hundreds and thousands of choices. All media competes against all other media. Household leisure time has been sliced and diced. Each slice, each shard, is its own complete unit, with its own beginning, middle and end. Most are also discreet and separate stories, unconnected and unrelated.
Using virtuality as a hub, social media platforms are uniquely suited to interconnect with each other, to feed each other so that a single story, or narrative can be produced, published, distributed and consumed on several platforms at once. Consumption and co-creation become a give and take between authors and audiences in digital as well as in physical spaces. Collectively, this is what is currently being described as “Transmedia.”
“…22 percent of Internet time is social, messaging, commenting, blogging, sharing and ‘liking’ now fill up 22 percent of all time spent online each month…”
“…people spend one in every four and a half minutes of their online time on a social network or blog. In the aggregate, Web users spend a total of 110 billion minutes on social Web sites and blogs each month…”
“…this is the first time social networks or blogs are ‘visited by three-quarters of global consumers who go online.’ This number has also increased 24 percent since the same time last year. In addition, Web users spent almost six hours during the month of April on social sites, versus three hours, 30 minutes during April of last year…”
So extrapolate these numbers, adjust for how many of households have high speed Internet service, and you find that people are spending 22% of their social/leisure time with Transmedia – telling their own stories, listening to one another’s stories, sharing, commenting – one hundred million narrative threads, one hundred million networks.
Paramount, Universal, and Warner Bros. produce for one media platform at a time. Startled Cat Studio will use Narrative Architecture™ to tell stories on top of and across many media platforms simultaneously – stories for humans not robots; stories with characters, story arcs, humor, drama, tragedy; stories that create an emotional response, empathy, and passion. Stories that matter!
The driver for Startled Cat projects will be story, not phrases and key words targeted to spiders. People, not bots, are our audience, and it is people who are on the Internet hungry for things that live and breathe, for “aha” moments that have facets and nuance…story, story and story.