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Simon Staffans (editor), Yvonne Backholm-Nyberg, Michaela Esch, Annika Wiklund-Engblom

Developing and producing multiplatform content in Finland – what, why and how? Writers: Simon Staffans (editor) Yvonne Backholm-Nyberg Michaela Esch Annika Wiklund-Engblom Infographics: Anders Wik Annika Wiklund-Engblom Photo: Tage Rönnqvist Hasse Eriksson Layout: Hasse Eriksson

MediaCity, Åbo Akademi University 2012

Developing and producing multiplatform content in Finland - what, why and how?



It seems almost a cliché to talk about the ever-changing media landscape of today. Without any doubt though, it is a more accurate description than ever. The media industry and the audience are facing a new world, where everything is increasingly fragmented, yet at the same time increasingly possible to knit together into a coherent, logical and compelling whole. In this report we will be looking at the media vistas opening up. We will discuss the similarities and differences between different types of overlapping multiplatform-based storytell-

Developing and producing multiplatform content in Finland - what, why and how?

ing. As the focal point for the report serves MediaCity’s multiplatform music project “The Mill Sessions”, built with transmedia storytelling methods and featuring advanced strategies for audience engagement and social media incorporation. Conclusions drawn include the importance of building strong partnerships with collaborators, the need to always work with the audience in mind and a strong emphasis on not using technology for technology’s sake, instead applying media platforms, services and technical solutions when they make sense in the whole of the project.



1. Introdution


2. Content 360, multiplatform content, crossmedia and transmedia – definitions and discussions


3. Examples of transmedia storytelling


4. Case: The Mill Sessions – music on many platforms


5. The role of the audience and the art of taking them into account


6. The role of the team - getting the right people to work together


Developing and producing multiplatform content in Finland - what, why and how?


Developing and producing multiplatform content in Finland - what, why and how?


1. Introduction “It took TV 13 years to reach 50 million people, but it took Facebook just two years […] In the old days it was all about distribution. If you didn’t have distribution, you were dead. Nowadays it’s all about conversation.” - Gerd Leonhard, media futurist, at MIPTV2010 The quote from Gerd Leonard hints at the challenges facing content producers today. Content development has been subject to a vast amount of changes throughout history, but new elements have lately given this change a more fundamental and rapid character. The emerging social media scene, the new technologies and the role of the audience all call for new ways of thinking regarding media content development, production and distribution. The industry is increasingly aware of the demands from an audience that require all content on all platforms at all times – and preferably without paying for it. The search for new ways of developing and producing content and for new business models hence becomes a challenge of high priority for the entire industry.

content, the story if you like, moves between all these platforms with constant regard to the active users, the audience, that play a crucial role in choosing what, when and where to consume the content. These also often act as producers of content themselves through different forms of interactivity. Successful innovations in this new environment have to be able to navigate these waters from several perspectives; storytelling, technology, distribution platforms, construction of efficient teams, audience engagement, marketing, development and production processes and last, but not least, business models. It is a brave new world for content producers. Successful innovations in this new environment have to be able to navigate these waters from several perspectives; storytelling, technology, distribution platforms, construction of efficient teams, audience engagement, marketing, development and production processes and last, but not least, business models. It is a brave new world for content producers. The aim of the project

As part of the national center of excellence in digital media, Digibusiness, MediaCity has been given the task Image 1. Model for content 360 development and distribution of exploring and analyzing This new working enthe new scene for content vironment goes by many names: content 360, cross media, development and production in Finland and disseminating multiplatform content, transmedia... It consists of traditional the knowledge to relevant parties. The national innovation media, ie. print, radio, television as well as new media, ie. strategy for the creative industries in Finland acknowledges web, mobile, social media, and all combinations of these. The this field as a crucial part for the Finnish knowledge-based Developing and producing multiplatform content in Finland - what, why and how?


economy of the future. But, maybe most importantly, the content business (as outlined in Image 1 above) itself needs examples, models and cases to look at and learn from in their everyday business. Thanks to a grant by the Ministry of Education and Culture in Finland, this project aims at creating a model for developing and producing multiplatform content and to identify best

practices that can be used by interested parties. This will be done through a case study and the analysis and documentation of said case. The case is a multiplatform music concept called The Mill Sessions (TMS). This project has been developed and produced by MediaCity starting in early 2010 and at the time of this report a first season has been produced for the Finnish market. Alongside the development and pro-

Image 2. The world map of multiplatform cultures & Transmedia rituals. Gary P Hayes 2010, available at http://www.flickr.com/photos/garyhayes/5549075049/

duction processes an analyzing and documentation process has taken place. As a result the production of this first report has been made possible. The project was developed and produced in cooperation with the Swedish Cultural Fund, Elisa Oyj, Atlantic Films Finland, Warner Music Finland, Sony Music Finland, EMI Finland and The Voice. The aim of this report The project will be documented and given the form of reports in three steps starting with defining the new scene and the new terminology used in content development, production and distribution. We will subsequently, provided adequate Developing and producing multiplatform content in Finland - what, why and how?

funding is obtained, move on to describing the characteristics for the processes involved by using the case study and – as a third step – the distribution and the business model. The ultimate aim is to be able to identify best practices in this field. In this first report we will focus on defining and discussing the new content scene and the way it changes the storytelling. We will describe the case the Mill Sessions and use that for a discussion on the role of the audience and the role of the team. This report is to be seen as a part of the ongoing worldwide discussion, but also as assistance and advice for Finnish content producers seeking to enter into this field.


Developing and producing multiplatform content in Finland - what, why and how?


Developing and producing multiplatform content in Finland - what, why and how?


2. Content 360, multiplatform content, cross media and transmedia – definitions and discussions ”My ideal transmedia project tells a story that is striking and resonant with its audience, fostering their participation and creative expression within the context of the story world, but also sparking dialog between us all outside of the story world. The power of this technique is that it triggers action, whether that is the action of “liking” something on Facebook or the action of taking an insight from the story and your dialog with the story world and applying it toward improving your life in the real world.” - Jeff Gomez, Starlight Runner CEO (“One Year In Transmedia”, 2011) As the world of media becomes increasingly complex and the borders between different types of media platforms becomes increasingly blurred, new terms and definitions arise to try to explain these phenomena. Most of them are overlapping to a certain degree, while trying to address the challenges of defining definitions from angles slightly diverging from each other. Below we will examine some of the most common terms in relation to each other, and discuss MediaCity’s take on them. A background Storytelling has always evolved, from the earliest stories told around campfires to the most massive Hollywood-campaigns of today. With the advent of mass media, this process has gained speed. As we have entered into the age of the Internet, the acceleration is even more pronounced. There are now many ways to tell stories; over different platforms, using different techniques, targeting different audiences, using the audience as collaborative storytellers themselves… the list is long. Naturally, new terms have sprung up to deal with these different possibilities; terms not so much necessary from a creative or an audience point of view, but rather from a market”My ideal transmedia ing and a sponsor- and fundproject tells a story that raising view.

is striking and resonant with its audience...”

Developing and producing multiplatform content in Finland - what, why and how?

Cross Media As the term states, a cross media project is one that crosses over between different types of media. It can be a television show that is also available online or it can be a radio show that is available as a pod cast. It can also be more complex variations of cross media, that involve different storylines traveling from one medium to another. Cross media is the term born out of the need to have a term to explain projects that, as the Internet and mobile tech has become more and more viable platforms for content distribution, travel across media platforms to reach as many consumers as possible. Content 360 This is a term which is perhaps most used within the advertising and marketing industries. As the name states, it is a question of looking at distributing in a full circle, platformwise. ”Content 360” is a term less connected to stories and storytelling and more connected towards maximizing the amount of platforms used in order to reach as many people and customers as possible. To this extent, the content itself can be the same, only edited to fit the platform in question. Multiplatform content The term Multiplatform content overlaps to a fairly high degree with the term Cross media. Multiplatform content is content spread out over a multitude of media platforms. It is, however, even more concentrated on the content on comparison with Cross media, and less with the tech involved in spreading the content on different platforms. Multiplatform content is also a bit shy of transmedia storytelling, as there is no demand on multiplatform content to develop or evolve the content or the story/stories themselves to logically and inevitably spread out over different media, as is the case when using transmedia methods. Multiplatform content is still quite concerned with the technical aspects of telling stories over more than one platform – more so than with the actual content and stories themselves.


Transmedia Transmedia has become one of the buzzwords of 2011, being preached by storytellers, tech people and marketing people alike. Transmedia storytelling and transmedia methods are more focused than Multiplatform content or Cross media on the story or stories themselves, using whatever media platforms that make sense in the context of the project. In short, transmedia is about creating one story or multiple stories that act as entry points into a greater narrative, a story world. These multiple stories are interconnected via the story world to a higher or lesser degree, and keep the consistency of the

story world throughout their different narratives. Transmedia also often, when it makes sense in the context of the project, offers the audience the chance to become collaborators and co-creators in the project on different levels. Some transmedia projects are used for marketing purposes, while others are focused on telling a unique story through multiple media, connected storywise but not replicas of each other. Discussions There has been a great deal of discussions on transmedia and other types of multiplatform storytelling over the course of

the last few years. Professor Henry Jenkins has been credited tracking and so on have taken place at conferences, meetwith bringing the term ”transmedia” to the genups and online. Many discussions concern the eral consciousness, in his article for Technology “... be it a novel, a definitions of the term transmedia, as these are Review dating back to 2003 entitled ”Transmedia series, a movie or a seen as core to establishing an industry in and Storytelling”. documentary, will of itself. Other discussions concern marketing, enhance the value financing and development issues. One thing Cross media, on the other hand, has been disof the brand a lot, if they all have in common is the acceptance that cussed by, amongst other, Australian innovator transmedia is a new and evolving field, and most executed well.” and scholar Gary P. Hayes, notably in his 2006 cases are to a high extent unique. These discuspost ”Social Cross Media – What Audiences sions are certain to continue, as best practices Want”, where he discusses the four different kinds of Cross have not yet been established and new models, storytellingmedia; Pushed, Extras, Bridges and Experiences. wise and financial-wise, appear frequently. Lately a great number of discussion regarding definitions, overlapping tendencies, best practices, financial models, development and design issues, audience interaction, progress

Developing and producing multiplatform content in Finland - what, why and how?

Our take ”[A great number of examples] show the possibilities that a trans-


media approach to a property gives the creators and the marketing people. It’s not that the sky is suddenly the limit – we’re still very much talking about telling stories, much as before – it’s just that looking at expanding your brand [to another media], be it a novel, a series, a movie or a documentary, will enhance the value of the brand a lot, if executed well.” - Simon Staffans, ”Examples of transmedia”, MIPBlog 2010 At MediaCity we are convinced that focus must be placed first and foremost on the audience. People taking part of media content increasingly expect additional content to be available and/or interaction with the content or the creators of the content to be instantly possible. Using transmedia storytelling methods, this can be addressed in ways that bring the most gain possible to everyone involved, from content creators via distributors through to the audience. We also believe strongly in financial sustainability, and see that using multiple platforms should not be a hindrance when it comes to creating viable business models to exploit content

Developing and producing multiplatform content in Finland - what, why and how?

and revenue streams in a meaningful way, that does not interfere with the narrative. Furthermore, we believe that platforms should be used as necessary, when they make sense in the context of the project. If the project itself should be branded cross media, multiplatform or transmedia is of lesser importance; the important thing is to correctly evaluate the project, its goals and its audience, and create content to respond to these, on the correct media platforms. Lastly, we see that viable partnerships are a core concern in this new way of producing and distributing media content. As the content is produced for and rolled out on several platforms, as the audience engagement is planned for and harnessed and as the demands on technical, financial and storytelling abilities become greater, partnerships are crucial to handle these challenges with the greatest skill possible.


Developing and producing multiplatform content in Finland - what, why and how?


3. Examples of transmedia storytelling Since employing transmedia storytelling and using transmedia storytelling methods in the development, production and distribution phase of media content are, in our opinion, the most viable ways to harness the possibilities the new media landscape gives us as creators and producers, a recapitulation of examples from the transmedia field would be prompt. Below we will discuss a few examples that can shed a light on different aspects on the field of transmedia storytelling. A greater number of examples and links to relevant reports can be found via the links in the appendixes of this report. Before delving into the examples below, however, we would encourage any reader to familiarize themselves with professor Henry Jenkins debunking of seven myths around transmedia, a post which was published in the spring as an answer to the growing buzz around the term transmedia. It is a good background from which to view the examples below. In it, professor Jenkins takes issue with myths such as “Transmedia is basically a new promotional strategy”, “Transmedia means games” and “Everything should go transmedia”. The early days

regarded as a sort of blueprint for how to create transmedia ARGs, games that give the audience a number of entry points into the world and mythology of a greater story. Transmedia storytelling as marketing During the last few years the term transmedia has increasingly become a household term in marketing, as ad agencies and marketing professionals look for new ways to interact with and engage possible customers. This is especially true in the entertainment business, where transmedia methods are seen as a great way to build expectations before the launch of a show or a movie and to keep the momentum going, for instance in the space between television series. An example is the ”Why So Serious?” campaign that served as the lead up to the Batman movie ”The Dark Knight”. Engaging the audience in a series of web related mysteries, real world hunts for clues and solutions, mysterious phone calls, real life objects, scavenger hunts and a lot more, the campaign racked up a total of over 10 million unique participators worldwide. It has been acknowledged as one of the best marketing campaigns using transmedia storytelling methods to date.

The first instance of transmedia emerging as a term was in the early 1990s, through Marsha Kinder, professor at the USC University. It was not until several years later, however, that emerging technologies made it possible to actually create true transmedia projects. One of the first instances of deliberate transmedia storytelling in the mainstream was the film ”The Blair Witch Project”. The project emerged in 1999 as one of the first film projects to use transmedia methods to give the audience entry points into the story world of the project through blogs, videos and articles, leading up to the theatrical release.

Other examples include ”The Art of the Heist”, where Audi in a bid to market their new A3-car created a mystery where the car had been stolen from the car fair in the US. The audience could engage in the story and through online clues and live events solve the mystery of the stolen car.

Another early example is the Alternate Reality Game (ARG) ”The Beast”, which appeared in 2001 and served as a marketing tool for Steven Spielberg’s movie ”A.I.: Artificial Intelligence”. Players of the ARG had to use e-mail, websites, phone conversations and live interaction with actors to play the game and solve the puzzles created for them. ”The Beast” is still

An inherent trait of transmedia is that it needs to have some sort of background story to build on. For example, television shows that have no background story, such as quiz shows or talk shows, are difficult to employ transmedia methods on. This stems from the need to build a so called mythology or story

Developing and producing multiplatform content in Finland - what, why and how?

More examples exist, of which some are included in the links at the end of the report. Transmedia fiction


world to be able to use transmedia methods. These terms are described at greater length later in this report. Suffice to say, fictional stories – drama, if you like – are in that aspect considerably easier when it comes to applying transmedia storytelling methods. One example is the transmedia novel ”One Child” that played out online with the story connected to real world events for one month last year, feeding the audience with chapters of the novels, the chance to interact with the characters in the story and the background provided by what was happening in the real world. The novel is now available as a soft cover book and as an online experience. Another example which perhaps is the most pointed-to of them all is the Star Wars Universe. Originally simply a trilogy of movies, it has since spawned numerous offsprings as tv-series, games, novels, comics, Lego – all offering their own entry points into the mythology that is Star Wars, while still more or less interconnected. If we turn our gaze to television, many producers and broadcasters are increasingly aware that the audience expects additional material to be available in connection to a popular show. Producers like HBO have excelled in this area, with the online presence of the characters on their hit vampire series ”True Blood” a prime example, keeping the interest in the series up and the storylines going between series. There are many more examples, many of whom are not tied to major broadcasters or studios at all. Some are linked later in the report.

Mythology, story world and narrative superstructure The three terms above are central to the concept of transmedia storytelling. They form the basis of all the parts of a transmedia campaign. We will here strive to give them each a brief definition, starting with story world. The story world is where all the stories that form part of the transmedia project take place. It is directly comparable to our real world, although it may be a totally fictional world in the context of the project. It is a carefully crafted world with its own rules, its own history and its own reasons for behaving the way it does. It works intimately together with the mythology to create a logical basis for all stories being told, in order for them to convey the same feeling, lock together logically if needs be, and not distract from each other. The story world and the mythology are the glue that keep a transmedia project together. The narrative superstructure is also tightly connected to the two other terms. It is the grand plan for the stories being told, placing them on timelines and on story lines that make them fit together with each other without causing discrepancies. It is very much rooted in the mythology and in the story world, but has a more direct impact on the way the stories are being told.

Transmedia non-fiction Even though transmedia storytelling methods lend themselves more readily to projects with a fictional base, that is not to say that transmedia methods cannot be used to enhance non-fiction projects as well. The basic principles are the same – create a common story world and create different stories which through different media platforms offer different entry points into the storyworld. One very recent example is the project ”18 Days in Egypt”, a collaborative documentary aiming to tell the story of the Egyptan uprisind during the Arab Spring, achieving this through videos, photographs, e-mails and tweets, and rooting all these in the mythology of the revolution. Another example is the documentary ”Awra Amba” by Finnish filmmaker Pauliina Tervo, that tells the story of a very peculiar secular and egalitarian village in the Amhara region of Ethiopia. The story is told through a documentary film and through an interactive web version, where the viewers can actually communicate with the people residing in the village. More examples can be found in the links later in the report.

Developing and producing multiplatform content in Finland - what, why and how?


Developing and producing multiplatform content in Finland - what, why and how?


Developing and producing multiplatform content in Finland - what, why and how?


4. Case Study: The Mill Sessions – music on many platforms “I think we’re going to see tremendous shifts happening in television [over the next few years]. It’s the medium best-suited to anchor an interactive transmedia narrative right now. It’s episodic, very often entire communities consume the work at the same time, and it’s fairly nimble compared to feature films and print publishing. I think we’ll see -- not even innovation over the next few years, but such a volume of work that the transmedia element of a TV show will become a no-brainer. It won’t be special; it’ll be expected, and a show that doesn’t do anything will feel like it’s missing a beat.” - Andrea Phillips, award-winning transmedia writer, game designer and author (“One Year In Transmedia”, 2011) The impact of transmedia methods on the development process

The Mill Sessions (TMS) is a multiplatform concept which has been designed, developed and produced in adherence with transmedia storytelling methods. One part – the so called ”A Plot” – is the tv / iptv show which is about one artist or one band coming to The Mill Studio to play three songs – two of their own and one cover – that mean the most to them, and to talk intimately about themselves and music. Another part, the ”B Plot”, is the background and behind-the-scenes story, which is told over Facebook, Twitter, Vimeo, web portal etc, using Facebook Pages, videoblogs, and so on. This part tells the story of the project and the people working on the project, through half-fictional characters – the ones who work on the show, but only the facet of them that does work on the show.

Using transmedia methods as a developer and designer has The show is distributed over IPTV via the telecom operator both pros and cons. The cons are that a much greater amount Elisa, on free-to-air tv on the music channel The Voice, on of groundwork and background work needs to YouTube (partly), on Vimeo (partly) and on be done on each project. Many things that per“I think we’re going to the web portal at themillsessions.com. haps will never materialize in the stories that see tremendous shifts The business plan is also elaborate, combining the audience takes part of must still be develhappening in televi- funding from telcos for IPTV rights with tv oped and in sync with all other aspects, or the sion over the next few money, sponsors, record companies and DVD/ story world will start to feel flimsy, the mythol- years...” Blueray distribution, giving everyone a piece ogy a bit shaky and the narrative superstructure of the content in return for contributing to illogical and untrue. the project. The pros still heavily outweigh the cons. Not only will the use of transmedia storytelling methods ensure that the audience gets a fuller, richer experience in the context of your project, it will also provide inspiration when it comes to developing new stories and story archs, it will show ways to logically and, keeping with the stories, engage with the audience and it will enhance the possibilities to find new revenue possibilities within the context of the project. All in all we advocate the use of transmedia storytelling methods for most, if not all, projects where a multiplatform strategy is an integral part.

The vision statement of The Mill Sessions reads as follows: There’s a lot of great music out there. There are a lot of exciting artists we all love to listen to, and a lot of artists yet to be discovered. We believe the best way to experience music is by giving it space. Here, at the Mill Studios, we’ve built a set where we can get close to the persons who create this fantastic music. Now we’ve invited some of the most exciting artists in Finland to our studio. We want to give them the chance to play the music that means the most to them, and to share it all with you.

General description

Developing and producing multiplatform content in Finland - what, why and how?


Format development – the design process TMS started out as a project on the basis of an analysis of the music industry – and more specifically the music video industry – of Finland. The results of the analysis showed that the audiovisual production of music-related content in Finland was an under-nourished area with a great need of fresh approaches. With that in mind, the development team at MediaCity set out to create a multiplatform concept, using transmedia storytelling methods. The design process consisted of several parts. First, the format itself called for development. We decided to draw on the fact that the show was recorded in an old steam mill. Its’ 160 year history was the foundation on which to build the feeling and the content of the show, to start building a story world and a mythology and to decide which approach would be best when engaging and exciting the audience. We decidedly wanted The Mill Sessions to be an intimate feelgood concept. With that in mind, we consciously opened up to the public and started drawing plans for how the interaction would play out on social media and on our web portal. These interactive parts of the concept needed to have the same tone (or ’feel’) to them as the show that would be shown on IPTV and television, so as not to cause illogical discrepancies. The term The Mill Sessions Collective became one of the cornerstones of the development process, as we wanted to create a show where artists and musicians and band could, as guests,

Developing and producing multiplatform content in Finland - what, why and how?

for one day become part of a bigger whole where they could feel secure enough to be themselves. The concept of the Collective ranged from the roles of everyone in the production to the schedules and to how artists and bands should be treated – who should greet them and take care of them when they arrived, how everyone on the team should make an effort to approach the artists and bands and so on. This also influenced the planning of the social media strategy, as we wanted the viewer/consumer to feel that they were welcome to join the collective, should they so desire. As a parallell to this, the look and feel of the show needed to be designed to fit the desired overall output. Many strategic choices were made, such as ”no audience” (to facilitate the close contact between the viewer and the artist) and the use of a RED Camera on dolly (a small vehicle on a rail, on which you mount a camera) for instance. A third parallell was the business model, where we, thanks to our use of the transmedia storytelling methods, were in a position to be able to offer different content to different partners; the record labels received some content, the IPTV provider some, the television channel some etc. This also diversified the revenue stream in an appropriate way. The production process The production process was streamlined to a large extent. The first season was shot in under a week. At the same time the television show was recorded, the dedicated photographer


took stills, to be used as promotional material for social media and for the artists themselves to use for promoting themselves and the show. The photographer also acted as a behindthe-scenes cameraman, filming in the make-up, in the green room, everywhere backstage, for material for the behind-thescenes cuts that would be used to promote the show and add extra material to the webb portal, enhancing the traffic. One crucial part was the very elaborate publishing and distribution schedule after the production, as there was very little spare time to correct mistakes or re-edit material. The schedule incorporated which social media updates should be published when and with what material, it incorporated who should say what on which social media (the artists’ Facebook pages, for instance), also what exclusive clips should be released on the web portal and when should new videos with the artists be released on YouTube. All of this was planned in detail in order to keep the fire of interest burning within the audience, to keep them coming back for more and to engage them in the content and in the interaction we had created (for instance lively discussions on the Facebook page, under the headline ”Suggest an artist for the next season of TMS!”). This planned schedule ran alongside the release of new episodes on IPTV and free-to-air television, boosting the interest in the show and keeping the engagement going during the days without broadcast. Lessons learned •

more you need to keep on schedule, allow less and less leeway, motivate the crew to work towards a common goal and have contingency plans in place. Fail often, learn fast. There is nothing wrong with failing, as long as you learn quickly from your mistakes and do not make them again. In fact, a speedy fail-remake-fail process facilitates the creation and development of new ideas in a much better way than a slower process. Partnerships are crucial. In a multiplatform, transmedia world, less and less people and organizations have the muscle and/or know how to pull off projects themselves, instead they need partners. The key is to find the right ones to work with. Keep the audience engaged. We are exiting the Age of the Broadcast and entering the Age of Communal Storytelling. The audience expects there to be the possibility to interact, and this is something that needs to be taken into account very early in the development process and remain as one of the focal points throughout the project and the campaign. Strive to evolve. This goes for the business models as well as for the engagement on social media and the content itself. Looking at these three variables one can conclude that change in one often means new opportunities in the context of another; new ways of engaging in social media can open up for new revenue models, changes in the content will give rise to new ways of interacting with fans, and so on.

Keep a tight ship. The more platforms you have in use and the more narrative threads you are combining, the

Developing and producing multiplatform content in Finland - what, why and how?


Developing and producing multiplatform content in Finland - what, why and how?


5. The role of the audience and the art of taking them into account “The most important thing in the television business is to reach an audience. That brings fame and fortune, sponsors and collaborators. That will give you the ratings you need to sell ad space, to convince a broadcaster to renew for two seasons more, to see ancillary revenue rise and merchandise being sold. Audience research has been a staple of any serious-minded developer, producer and distributor of content for many decades, from questionnaires to ratings analysis to focus group studies. Right now, however, research into the audience is moving beyond these more superficial alternatives and into your very feelings. Two key components have helped audience research reach this stage, often walking hand in hand; the evolution of tech and the evolution of methodology.” - Simon Staffans, ”Knowing your audience… and their thoughts”, MIPBlog, 2011 The audience is the single most important piece of a transmedia content puzzle. Without an audience there is no one to take part of your content, there is no way to generate revenue and there is no way to create traction for a prolonged run, a next season or a new instalment. In the light of this, it is of utmost importance to know your audience. From the point of view of a content developer, knowing who you are addressing the content to is crucial. Target groups need to be identified correctly. Furthermore one needs to know as much as possible about these target groups, especially in areas that directly touch on the content they ideally should want to take part of. To gain this knowledge, research is the only reliable and statistically sound way. In an age of Communal Storytelling the audience expects the possibility to interact, to engage, to create or produce within the frameworks of the content or story. The use of transmedia storytelling methods helps a developer (and a producer and a distributor) to facilitate such interaction and such creative work in a way that makes it logical and relevant for the audience, while still keeping it in line with the general tone and rules of the story world that the transmedia content is grounded in.

Developing and producing multiplatform content in Finland - what, why and how?

Case: The Mill Sessions During the development process of the TMS format a close cooperation between the format development unit and the content testing unit was upheld. Integrating the design and development process with research and testing is a way of working towards a design solution that sums up to something greater than its separate parts (Staffans, Wiklund-Engblom, Hassenzahl, & Sperring, 2009). The iterative design process is cyclic, i.e. repeated rounds of prototyping, testing and analyzing are done during the developing of the product. Within the design process the participation of the end-users, the audience, is the key factor. In the following the cooperation process will be presented. A description of the test process and a presentation of examples of test results will then be followed of a brief discussion on the challenges of combining research and development in this type of context. Figure 1 illustrates the cooperation between research and development during the phases of the TMS project. The format development represents the creative process, while the research represents the confirmative process. The backbone of the cooperation is the on-going discussion between these two groups illustrated by the center white field of the figure. This communication is the key in the iterative design process, which involves a cyclical repetition of studies to confirm both concepts and concrete design steps through targeted research studies. In the figure, the first six phases representing the first confirmative cycle is emphasized. Although research studies carried out may vary as they are conducted based on the needs of the developers, the first cycle of the iterative design process that we have used involves: Concept – Study – Feedback – Confirmation – Production. The idea behind this first cycle was to provide a bottom-up design perspective, i.e. using a specific experience as the aim for the final product as a guide for the creative process. The experience aimed at by the designers was one of a great live music experience, which was to set the basis for the whole design – and research project. The presence of a strong belief in an idea or a concept is a condition for any project to pick 21

Confirming Values  

x       x    


Production ”Pilot    1”  

  x       x  



x       x    

Background Study  


X     x      

Selecting Theories  

Fundamental Needs  


Aimed Product  &     User  Experience  


Mediating Values  

12. 11.   10.   9.   8.   7.  

















Figure 1. A perspective on the cyclical design process illustrating the cooperation between research and development.

up speed. In our cooperation model (figure 1) this constituted Phase 1.

without having a concrete product, i.e. by using only the concept of a future product.

Phase 2 involved the research team as well as the format development team, where the latter mediated the values of the concept and the former tried to see how research could contribute in confirming the concept. How could the right questions be asked in order to frame the concept of the developers? What kind of theories could be used as a reflecting mirror in order to provide the developers with confirmatory research data?

The rest of the iterative design process (Phase 7 and beyond) run according to a more standard cycle of Prototyping – Testing – Redesigning – Testing, until the product gained a shape that was perceived to be one that assuredly could deliver the aimed user experience to the aimed audience, as well as provide an aesthetic expression agreed upon by the production team and the developers. Four separate tests which will be presented in the following were conducted and analyzed during this phase.

Phase 3 was the execution of a background study, A Great Music Experience, in order to gain more knowledge in the area. In this case a theory of fundamental needs (Sheldon, Elliot, Kim & Kasser, 2001) was used as a theoretical background for designing the research study. The study showed e.g. that the ultimate music experience is a live one, that it is important to be able to “experience your experience” with others and that the three most significant needs related to the live music experience are pleasure-stimulation, relatedness and physical well-being (Esch, Wiklund-Engblom & Staffans, 2011). In Phase 4, a prior analysis and categorization of music experiences was used in order to understand the data better (Karlsen, 2007). In this phase the data was also used by the developers as a source of inspiration. The assumption was that the creativity is an aesthetic process that needs to be open to inspiration by the material in details as well as on a whole, in contrast to trying to design something based on a generalized mean of experiences.

The TMS test process The test methods used in the TMS case in Phase 7 (see figure 1) and beyond were based on the standardized procedure for investigating both user experience and usability developed at MediaCity. In order to target the in-depth qualities of subjective experiences semi-structured instant recall (SIR) interviews were used. More information on methods on www. mediacity.fi

Phase 5 was the process of discussing the data and how it confirmed the concept and the value system targeted within the project. How should the data be understood in relation to what the developers were aiming at creating? How could the researchers communicate the results in a valuable way to the developers?

Test #1 was a user experience test done on the first pilot version of a TMS episode. This pilot was not all together in its final and completed form, but it was decided that a test at this stage would serve as a confirmation on both the test set-up as well as provide useful information to the designers. Test #1 was conducted in Vasa and Helsinki on 3 focus groups with 3 members in each group. The mean age was 30,6 years. The test persons were chosen according to criteria valid for the desired TMS target group. After viewing the program, the test persons filled out a user experience questionnaire and were asked to distribute markers on the different sequences of the program as attempt to visualize their conception of the length of each sequence. A group interview gave the test persons the opportunity to comment on the different sequences, elements and the TMS program as whole. 9 test persons participated.

Based on this on-going discussion, a pilot was finally produced, which in this model constitutes Phase 6. So far, the research team had tried to generate useful data and analyses

In the user experience questionnaire AttrakDiff2 (Hassenzahl, Burmester, & Koller, 2003) was applied as an instrument of measurement of the attractiveness of the program. The

Developing and producing multiplatform content in Finland - what, why and how?


instrument is in the format of semantic differentials and it consists of 23 seven-step items whose poles are opposite adjectives (e.g. “confusing - clear”, “unusual - ordinary”, “good - bad”). Each set of adjective items is ordered into a scale of intensity. Each of the middle values of an item group creates a scale value for pragmatic quality (PQ), hedonic Quality (HQ) and attractiveness (ATT). Test #2 was a user experience test done on a second pilot version of a TMS episode. The test set-up was similar to test #1. Prior to test #2 a TMS VIP-group of test persons was created in an attempt to minimize the number of unanswered and uncompleted questions and in addition to find test persons that were verbal and outspoken. Criteria for becoming a VIP tester was set in a cooperation between the researchers and the designers, the main ones being willingness to participate in several tests, interest in music, knowledge of online music services and social media and belonging to the desired age group(25-35). For the purpose of finding suitable VIP-testers a questionnaire using Surveymonkey was created and distributed online. Both Swedish speaking as well as Finnish speaking test persons was equally desired. 7 persons from the VIP test group participated in the actual test. Test #3 and #4 were targeted to the TMS web site (www.themillsessions.com). Test #3 was a usability test that was done internally among the MediaCity staff. The staff was asked to explore the web pages connected to TMS and express problems and obscurities found using different web browsers and –versions. In test #4 the VIP test group was presented with a user experience test of the web site. This test was focused on exploring if the desired experiences and feelings connected to the web pages were perceived. PANAS (Positive and Negative Affect Schedule) (Watson and Clark, 1994) was used to measure the emotional experience combined with task-oriented observations and group interviews. 7 persons from the VIP test group participated. Testing for confirmation The testing of TMS was done with the format developer´s perspective in focus. The user experience questionnaire and interviews gave information on the general perception of a TMS episode, as well as on specific questions the designers were focusing on. The type of question could for example concern whether the program hit the intended target group or not, how well the look and feel of the program fulfilled the intended goals, the experience the users had of a specific sequence etc. The testing also made it possible to discover “small issues”, which could disturb the general perception of the program. After a test had been conducted, the answers were analyzed and presented to the developers in the form of a written report. Answers to specific urgent questions could be presented Developing and producing multiplatform content in Finland - what, why and how?

orally within a day of a test. The results showed that TMS was viewed in a very positive fashion. The AttrakDiff2 used in test #1 and #2 revealed the tested TMS episodes perceived as stylish, professional, attractive, appealing, human, good and motivating. Words that scored the highest belonged to the dimensions concerning the products attractiveness, a global value based on the test persons’ quality perception, and hedonic quality – identity, which indicates to what extent the TV-pilot allowed the user to identify with it. The results were similar in both tests and acted as a confirmation for the designers in their work on creating the overall TMS feel. However, the most useful and insightful information on content experience came from the group interviews. The interviews were crucial in confirming the various design decisions and gave information that helped the designers choose between design options. From the interviews could also be extracted information on desired changes that could enhance the experience of the program. Examples of this types of information were for instance that Test #1 reveled that more information about the program and the artist performing were desired in the program and that there were a lack of connection to the physical place were the program was set, i.e. it was not obvious that the program was set in an old mill, hence “The Mill Sessions”. The “call to action” i.e. calls for the audience to visit the web portal, Facebook, twitter etc., were difficult to register and needed to be altered. The interviews confirmed the choice of hostess, who was perceived as warm, natural and inviting. The test persons were asked if they would choose to see another episode, had this been a “real life”-situation, and the answer was yes, they would. In Test #2 some alternations and changes had been done to the TMS episode being tested, based on the results from test #1. The test set up was similar to test # 1, however with another artist performing in the episode. In test #2 the VIP test group earlier described participated. Test #2 gave a further confirmation on issues addressed in test #1. The VIP group proved, as desired, to be more verbal and outspoken and provided many insightful comments on the content. Test #3 and #4 dealt with the TMS web site, test #3 being a usability test which will not be further discussed here. With Test #4 the ambition was to explore if the web site conveyed the desired experiences and feeling the designers were aiming at. The designers wanted the web site to be experienced as attractive, of good quality, aesthetically appealing and that it should be enjoyable to visit it. The results (PANAS ) showed that the web site was experienced as very appealing, beautiful, inviting, premium, professional, captivating, young and intimate, indeed on this part a confirmation of the design. The web site was to some extent exhausting to use, but using the web site also roused very positive feelings.


Discussion In developing the TMS transmedia format the design and research team worked close together. The research results functioned as both a confirmatory of concepts and design decisions and for pin-pointing possible directions during development. For the researchers this was an opportunity to adapt various research methods in new flexible ways and gain more insight to a more or less new topic (transmedia) as well as to implement a new way of work method. This way of working has, however, its challenges.

It is important for the researcher to understand this when designing tests and presenting test results, i.e. the designer can choose to relay on his experience, even though a test result might go in an opposite direction. The testing is done for the benefit of the designers, not the researchers. In order for the tests to be of maximal use for the designers it is very important that the communication is open and clear and that there is an understanding and knowledge of the conditions of media production amongst the researchers involved but also that there is an understanding of the researcher´s conditions amongst the designers.

Designing and developing transmedia content is a highly creative process and the skills required often build on knowledge and experience from traditional media production. Design decisions are made based on prior experience and gut feeling.

There is a challenge of combining research and development looking at it from a time line point-of view. The research needs to ask the right questions of the target group, which provides information that guides the creativity process. Set-

ting up tests, analysing and presenting test results might not always be done in overnight and since the concrete production has its own time line it is not easily done merging these together. It should also be clear that there are limitations to which extent or/and at which point in time test results can be taken into consideration and thus have an impact on the design all due to the reality of the production process and the costs of producing content on a professional level.

tested on the intended target group is not obvious to every producer. This should get easier as new business models for producing (transmedia) evolves and new dynamic partnership are made. It is however important that costs for testing is taken into account from the start of the project, incorporating costs at later stage in the production process can be difficult.

Testing in itself can seldom be done without costs. Almost every project has to work with a limited budget and motivating expenditure for testing might still need a clear line of argumentation at a time when the benefit of having a product

Developing and producing multiplatform content in Finland - what, why and how?


Developing and producing multiplatform content in Finland - what, why and how?


Developing and producing multiplatform content in Finland - what, why and how?


6. The role of the team - getting the right people to work together Working with multiplatform content requires a proficient team and expertise from many fields. This goes for traditional media production as well, but in the case of transmedia it is of utmost importance to bring the right people together.

means partnership. Every team member, from creator to distributor, should be involved at an early stage in order to fully grasp the project and to be able to contribute to and benefit from the project as much as possible. Project management is pivotal.

”A complex project will require the key roles of transmedia producer/s, writer/s, designer/s, technical lead, system architect, programmers, business managers, marketing and so on to a maximum of say ten project leads. ”

Last, but not least, a very high level of communicative skills is required from every team member and partner. This is to be taken into consideration when choosing partners and team members. In short: a good multiplatform team has • highly skilled experts from all fields necessary for your project, who • share your creative philosophies and • understand your mythology, story world and narrative superstructure, and • are involved from a very early stage and • have very good communicative skills, all backed up with • stringent project management.

Screen Australia, How to write a transmedia production bible

”A well compiled, bespoke team can bring their specific skillsets to the transmedia storytelling table – skills that dial in to experience design, user interaction, social media, game-play, narrative design and will also touch on traditional storytelling platforms such as theatre, novels, console games, TV and film.” Alison Norrington

These quotes illustrate the broad scope of experts that need to work together when producing content for multiple platforms. Choosing your team is a key issue for a successful multiplatform project. The complexity of skills needed in most cases means that you are not likely to find team-members with the adequate skill set within your own organization. This goes for most organizations; major broadcasters or multinational media conglomerates might be exceptions. All in all, finding the right partners is key. When looking for partners for a transmedia project, there are certain criteria that have to be met. First of all you have to find the right knowledge on the right level for your production and your budget. Easy as this may sound, in practice it involves a deep level of communication from the developers of the story about the mythology, the story world and the narrative superstructure of the concept (see chapter 3) in order for the partners to fully understand the core ideas and needs of the project. Your partners need to share your creative philosophies and visions. Secondly, in these kinds of complex projects, partnership really Developing and producing multiplatform content in Finland - what, why and how?

Creative goals and business realities One of the most crucial challenges of any multiplatform and/ or transmedia project is to find a balance between the creative goals and the realities of the business surrounding the project. It is not a given that funding will be possible to access in the amounts required to meet creative goals unless a thorough development of the business plan of the project is also implemented. Even if this is the case, any development team needs to be prepared to compromise on final creative goals as financial realities come to the fore. Utilizing transmedia storytelling methods can, however, offer new and different possibilities to access funding, through different platforms, new entry points, new possibilities to include sponsors and brands, etc. This line of reason will be developed further in the next report connected to this project. It is also crucial to take into consideration the cooperation network that is needed to execute and distribute a multiplatform transmedia project, and the challenges that arise when it comes to communicating the multiplatform strategies to partners, sponsors, subcontractors etc. These strategies need to be clearly formed and even more clearly communicated in order for the 27

project to benefit fully from the possibilities they offer. This becomes increasingly true when taking into consideration that all new partners bring their own needs to the table, needs that must be incorporated into the project without affecting the overall strategies in a negative way.

was produced in MediaCity´s studio.

Case: The Mill Sessions

After the pilot was shot and edited other record labels were contacted which resulted in three major labels partnering the project for the first season.

Below is a dissection of the project group involved in The Mill Sessions, from the development phase through the sales and production phase to the distribution phase. Included is the reasoning behind how and why the team was built and maintained as it was, and also some brief notes on lessons learned with regards to this. These are thoughts and lines of reasoning that will be expanded on in the next reports in this series. As The Mill Sessions was seen as an important development project for MediaCity it was very clear from the beginning that there was a need to involve almost every staff member of MediaCity in different capacities. A project manager for the entire project was chosen among the staff members. Naturally, the format developers, or creators if you like, came up with the idea of a multiplatform music project with a transmedia storytelling approach and started to develop the concept. At the same time, sales people at MediaCity started the process of finding partners. The Mill Sessions being a music format, artists and record labels were very crucial partners to get onboard. This work resulted in a cooperation with one of the major record labels for shooting a pilot of the tv-show. This

During this time distributors were negotiated with; an IPTV service, a free-to-air channel and a DVD-distributor. None of these partners were, through their own choice, actively involved in the development process.

When starting up the development work on The Mill Sessions it was abundantly clear that there was a great need not only to develop the show itself, the language, tone and feel, but also the foundations on which is was built. To be able to create a coherent vision of The Mill Sessions, not only to the public and the participating artists but also among the people involved in the production, a considerable amount of time was spent on developing and finalizing the roles of the production crew and how these would connect with the artists and musicians and the audience. A background story and something nearing a mythology was developed alongside specific instructions for how to treat artists before, during and after a Mill Session. An important part of this was the social media strategy, where we decided on creating Facebook characters, partly fictional, partly real, for certain members of the production and development crew. These were seen to feature in the television show, to give added credibility to their presence on Facebook. The characters were based on real production members, but featured only the facet of the persons that were directly involved in the

Image 3. The timeline for “The Mill Sessions”

show and the project itself. This conscious decision was agreed on in order for the team to be able to keep the output from the project 100% in line with the mythology and story world of The Mill Sessions, without other personal engagements, ties and opinions interfering with it.

ity to share all the content on the portal onward. This could be done via Facebook or Twitter or linked to directly. Several news items and videos urged the users to contribute, to discuss and to share, something which was, in the end, a fairly infrequent occurrence.

In the same vein, the web portal for The Mill Session was developed inhouse and created in participation with the Finnish web agency Bilbao. The goal was to offer a very intimate experience to the user, bringing them close to the artists and close to The Mill Sessions as a whole. Technically speaking the decision fell on HTML5 as the solution for the portal. This brought challenges as well as possibilities, but also the certainty that the portal would run on almost any device, including iPhones and iPads, which a Flash-based portal would not have done. The focus was also on providing the users with the possibil-

Audience engagement is vital to any multiplatform project and therefore the content testing and audience research staff at MediaCity were linked to the project from the very beginning and conducted audience research alongside the development process.

Developing and producing multiplatform content in Finland - what, why and how?

The MediaCity project group for the Mill Sessions included: MediaCity staff • 2 format developers, creators


• • • • • • • • •

2 audience research and testing staff web-development project group, 3 people 1 graphic designer 2 tv-production staff 1 salesperson 2 executive producers 1 director 1 transmedia/social media director 1 project manager

Some of the staff members held several positions, which gave us a project group of total 10 people. However, due to other engagements few of the personnel listed above were dedicated to the project on a full-time basis.

• • • • •

1 web agency 3 record labels 1 IPTV-service 1 free-to-air TV-channel 1 DVD-distributor

Among the partners the web agency and one of the record labels had substantial creative input into the project. The project group at MediaCity had weekly meetings with a set agenda and with the partners discussions were held when necessary. The Transmedia Director


For the pre-production and production phase, there was a need

to dedicate one person to the implementation of the transmedia storytelling methods and sync them to the production of the more traditional content. The responsibility of the transmedia director was to keep track of the script for the content on other platforms and keep it in line with the script for the television show. During the production of the television show, the transmedia director was responsible for the production of the material needed to fulfil the transmedia demands the project entailed. This included extra voice-overs, extra talks with the artists and the show host, extra behind-the-scenes material etc. The resulting content could not be in conflict in any way with the tone and feel and rules of the television show, a distinction and a requirement that was the transmedia director’s to enforce. During the post-production phase the transmedia director saw to it, together with the producer and the director and the editing staff, that the production of material for other platforms

was streamlined to go hand in hand with the production of the television show and the music videos. The distribution was also crucial schedule-wise, as the right material needed to be used in accordance with the timeline in the social media strategy documents. The transmedia director furthermore was partly responsible for the the interaction on social media, in order to keep the right tone and feel to all postings, so as to build on the major television show and not detract from it.

Developing and producing multiplatform content in Finland - what, why and how?

Lessons learned There is no arguing that the role of the team is emphasized in multiplatform projects, simply because of the scope of the knowledge needed for all different platforms. Funding a multiplatform project doesn´t follow the logics of traditional production and therefore partnerships are very important. In a


way, it involves a rethinking of the development and production processes with a strong influence on timetables, schedules, strategies and implementation. These issues will be analyzed further in coming reports in this series. Lessons learned from The Mill Sessions: 1. Find the right partners at an early stage, listen to them and let them contribute to your project. This will let them integrate themselves into the project and the results of the project into their own output in a logical and engaging way. 2. Treat all the platforms as equally important- don´t let e.g. the production of the tv-show swallow all your personnel resources. In the case of the first season of TMS, too few resources were allocated to community management and social media output. 3. Knowing your audience IS important – give time for research and feedback. It is sometimes difficult for creative development to go hand in hand with audience research, as schedules and deadlines seldom match. 4. Make sure that every team member sees the project in the same way. Communicate, communicate, communicate.

Developing and producing multiplatform content in Finland - what, why and how?


Examples Reports, papers and discussions

“Creating Transmedia Narrative: The Structure & Design of Stories Told Across Multiple Media,” Peter von Stackelberg, December 2011 “Transmedia Rising”; JWT Intelligence 2011 “Reclaiming the Transmedia Storyteller”, Brian Clark et al, 2011 (Facebook login necessary) “One Year In Transmedia”, Simon Staffans et al, 2011

Five Examples of Transmedia “Pandemic”, by Lance Weiler is the fictional story of a virus outbreak during the 2011 Sundance festival. The project used film, mobile, online, print and live. “Why So Serious?” was the marketing campaign for the Batman movie “The Dark Knight”, released in 2008, involving treasure hunts and live events. “Biophilia” by Björk is the latest release from the Icelandic artist, spanning over apps, installations, CDs and live shows. “Clockwork Watch” is a crowdfunded steampunk adventure set in 19th century England, spanning over online content to books and live events. “Prison Valley” from ARTE is a web documentary, a TV documentary, an iPhone app, a book and a photo exhibition, encouraging debate and discussions.

Developing and producing multiplatform content in Finland - what, why and how?


Profile for MediaCity Finland

Developing and producing multiplatform content in Finland – what, why and how?  

A commissioned report on multiplatform development and production in Finland, based on a case study of the multiplatform project "The Mill S...

Developing and producing multiplatform content in Finland – what, why and how?  

A commissioned report on multiplatform development and production in Finland, based on a case study of the multiplatform project "The Mill S...