In the contemporary media environment, it has become increasingly commonplace—and commonsense—to refer to successful, long-running intellectual properties as “franchises.” In May 2010, for example, Advertising Age made sense of the sale of Snoopy, Woodstock, and the rest of Charles Shultz’s Peanuts gang to the Iconix Brand Group in these terms, valuating the history of the property and its continuing potential in the global media marketplace by exclaiming “It’s a Great Franchise, Charlie Brown” (Bulik 2010). This metaphor for making sense of media properties extends beyond trade discourse, with popular blogs also participating in the franchise conversation. In a recent post later picked up by Yahoo! News, Life’s Little Mysteries blogger Mike Avila meditates on the media franchise by trying to determine “the most successful movie franchise of all time.” Having decided to make box office revenue the deciding factor, Avila awards the crown to the Harry Potter series and its $5.4 billion in ticket sales—but with the caveat that Star Wars would gain an advantage if merchandising were to be considered, while the James Bond films exceed both in terms of overall longevity.
Such posts contribute to an overall popular understanding of the media franchise as the result of ongoing management of a property across time and various markets, corroborating the perceptions of industry insiders like Disney’s Robert Iger, who similarly defines franchise as “something that creates value across multiple businesses and across multiple territories over a long period of time” (Siklos 2009). The economic meanings carried by this metaphor, however, have also been negotiated by those working creatively with these properties, whose individual interests and energies must be asserted in the face of all this successful brand maintenance. Reflecting on the conclusion of the TV series Lost in 2010, producer Carlton Cuse notes: “We certainly understand and absolutely respect that ABC and Disney has an incredibly valuable franchise and they want to do more things with Lost, but the story we're telling ends in May” (Chozick 2010). Because Lost is understood in this way as one of the most successful television franchises of the early twenty-first century, Cuse finds it necessary as a stakeholder to reassert the role of creative individuality within the perpetual corporate management of the shared property.
This notion of media franchising, therefore, shapes how analysts, executives, creators, and popular audiences each imagine the media industries of the contemporary moment. And as Cuse’s attempt to position his work outside perceptions of franchising demonstrates, this metaphor is a particularly loaded one, often negatively connoting corporate control and exploitation of a cash cow at the expense of independence and artistry. Without a doubt, many of these connotations come from the wider cultural history of franchising. Prior to the industrial revolution, a franchise was conceived primarily in the political terms of enfranchisement. Derived from the French franchir (to free), the word “franchise” conveyed one’s right to participate and pursue one’s interests free of constraint. Within a collective system such as electoral politics, the franchise was, by and large, a freely determined individual vote. However, as historians of marketing such as Harry Kursh argue, this free right to participate took on more economic—and more sinister—connotations by the nineteenth century, as emerging tycoons “slit each other’s corporate throats” in fierce competition to be awarded “franchise” rights over utilities, railroads, and other elements of public infrastructure (1968: 194). According to scholar T.S. Dicke, the term acquired an additional use around 1959, newly deployed to describe business systems in which corporate franchisors operating on a national level develop a trademarked system of doing business enter into contractual relations with franchisees who pay a fee to independently operate outlets on the local level (1992: 2).
It is from this usage that most consumers understand global business operations such as McDonald’s restaurants, Meineke auto shops, or Best Western hotels. Thus, as industry analysts in Variety, Hollywood Reporter, and other sites of trade discourse began in the early 1990s to make sense of media content and its production as “franchising” (moving the term beyond existing usage to describe the assignment of broadcasting licenses and municipal cable monopolies as franchise rights to infrastructure), the term brought with it a great deal of historical and cultural baggage. To think about media culture as franchise is to think about it in the same terms that make sense of fast food. And in the same way that critics like George Ritzer (2000) have lamented the increasing standardization and rationalized control of culture as what he calls the “McDonaldization” of society, the articulation of media to fast food reflects allows the latter to act as cultural shorthand for the inadequacies of the former.
So while media franchising has been frequently invoked in industrial, popular, and scholarly discourse, perceptions of its economic determinism and its lack of cultural value have at least partially sidelined specific attempts to understand what the franchising of media culture actually means. In most accounts, the media franchise is a rather simple effect, figured most often as a product of increasing corporate power and conglomeration or as the endgame for intellectual property management strategies. Even as Henry Jenkins (2006), for one potentially divergent example, considers the franchised intellectual property more productively as a site where new forms of narrative practice and cultural collaboration have emerged, the media franchise is positioned and understood in relation to the larger patterns of convergence culture and transmedia storytelling. Nevertheless, media franchising is a phenomenon in its own right, not confined to specifically transmedia considerations, as properties like Law & Order and CSI have become understood as franchises for their multiplication within the single medium of television. Similarly, in The Frodo Franchise, scholar Kristin Thompson (2007) offers a detailed picture of the Lord of the Rings franchise, but in arguing about its exceptional character, her book offers only a limited perspective on the phenomenon of media franchising at large.
But what can we learn from the logic of franchising itself? What does it tell us about how cultural production and creative collaboration might work? How can we make use of this understanding? With much of this phenomenon remaining to be explored by media researchers, this project aims to directly confront and deconstruct the cultural logics of franchising in order to understand it not as the effected product of other issues and forces, but as a process and set of relationships that have historically produced culture. Though the notion of the franchise carries with it much cultural baggage, those entrenched meanings and values accompany a very specific logic for organizing and making sense of cultural production sustained over time and across multiple market sectors. By developing a detailed, historical portrait of what franchising is and how it has worked, we will deepen our understanding of how culture has been collaboratively produced and consumed across decentralized networks of “enfranchised” stakeholders. To that end, this inquiry combines current research trajectories in media and cultural studies with conceptual models drawn from the fields of marketing and organizational communication to make sense of media franchising as a social practice. This approach demands we consider franchising not solely in terms of texts, products, brands, or properties, but also through power-laden, networked relationships between franchisors and franchisees with distinct interests in the shared cultural resources of the franchise. By combining analysis of trade press with archival research and original interviews with media professionals, this project examines how these shared resources have been deployed, managed, and sustained in specific historical instances by media institutions, creative personnel, and even consumers invested in them.
Ultimately, this study recognizes that any attempt to define the media franchise once and for all is an exercise in futility, as its slippery cultural meanings are perhaps what make it such a versatile means of understanding a wide variety of media practices. Nonetheless, by arguing that franchising offers a cultural structure through which media content, media institutions, and media audiences have been put into productive relations, this study helps point to the relational, collaborative logic that defines a franchised culture. From this perspective, five key findings will be delivered to demonstrate the value of comprehending franchising as a structure for organizing collaborative cultural production:
The Cultural Logic of Franchising is Relational: franchising must be understood as relational given its dependence on sustained, strategic relationships between stakeholders with unequal interest in shared cultural resources; franchises are not reflective of intellectual property monopolies, but instead negotiation of imperfectly aligned interests.
Franchising Drives Institutional Relationships: the cultural networks constituted by franchising have not merely bolstered the power of “big media” institutions, but rather, in driving institutional relationships, have created tensions, cleavages and challenges to be negotiated by conglomerates and upstarts alike. The franchise strategies of companies like Marvel Comics, when most successful, have depended upon institutional partnerships.
Franchising Supports Creative Relationships: franchising must also be understood with respect to creative relationships, in that it has enabled co-creation and collaboration through decentralized, emergent uses of shared story worlds. Users of properties like Battlestar Galactica must negotiate not only the structure of a shared set of narrative resources, but also hierarchies of creative power that encourage and constrain creative uses of them.
Franchising Generates Consumer-Constituent Relationships: as shared cultural resources, franchised worlds have supported what can be described as consumer-constituent relationships. Invited to invest at a variety of productive, affective, and even civic levels, consumers act as defacto franchisees, pursuing their own economic and political interests in the institutional and creative management of programs like 24.
Franchising Extends Transnational and Transgenerational Relationships: franchises support transnational and transgenerational relations through ongoing exchange, transformation, and reinvestment. Franchises like Transformers can be most productively understood not as globally traded products, but as cultural processes in which local innovations feed cross-cultural networks of production over long periods of time.
From these findings, this project theorizes the culture of media franchising to uncover an established tradition of collaborative production in the entertainment industries. As a cultural logic structuring production in relational terms, the media franchise might therefore be considered, despite its more historical, less cutting-edge character, a crucial corollary to any attempt to understand emerging “social media.”
By reflecting on the heterogeneous interests in a shared set of resources implied by the term “franchise,” we gain a much clearer insight into the social, institutional, and creative relationships by which culture has been produced and reproduced in the media industries. To be sure, media franchises are not reducible to the franchise relationships that have structured the retail and service industries over the past sixty to seventy years. Relationships geared toward the expansion of distribution channels and marketing reach function much differently from those aimed at multiplying the production of media culture.
Moreover, the degree to which the cultural logic of franchises (as it has been described in this white paper) is consciously and strategically recognized in the media industries remains to be seen. Many of the executives and creative professionals interviewed for this project disavowed or distanced themselves from the very notion of franchising, claiming ignorance of the term or explaining that such considerations were outside their job description. This likely means that relatively few producers are actually thinking in any real depth about media franchises. While the practices and relationships described here may be in place, a firm structural and strategic logic may not actually underlie them in practice.
Thinking more strategically in terms of franchising—and the cultural logic it implies—has some distinct advantages, and it is here that some initial recommendations can be synthesized:
1. Practitioners should consider franchising in terms of its instructive potential as a historical precedent.
2. The relational logic of media franchising challenges industry insiders to reconsider any strategic logics structured around singular control over the use of intellectual properties.
3. In contrast to prohibitive top-down controls, open and heterogeneous creative experimentation can be relied upon to renew and regenerate existing intellectual property production resources.
4. In developing collaborative productive models, industry professionals should develop greater appreciation of contributions that emerge from outside the top echelons of power. By thinking of licensed creators and fans alike as “franchisees,” license holders can recognize vital stakeholders in the ongoing production of media properties.
Derek Johnson is an Assistant Professor, University of North Texas, Department of Radio, Television, and Film. His dissertation examined the historical development of the media "franchise" as a form based on shared intellectual property networks, as a specific set of production and consumption practices, and as a discourse used to make sense of media culture. Interested in the organization of culture across media platforms, his research spans a wide range of industries (including film, television, video games, comics, and licensed merchandising) and encompasses issues of narrative theory, audience reception, public sphere discourse, as well as media economics and policy. His recent publications include "Inviting Audiences In: The Spatial Reorganization of Production and Consumption in 'TVIII'" (New Review of Film and Television, 2007), "Fan-tagonism: Factions, Institutions, and Constitutive Hegemonies of Fandom" (Fandom: Identities and Communities in Mediated Culture, edited by Gray, Harrington, and Sandvoss, 2007), and "Will the Real Wolverine Please Stand Up?: Marvel's Mutation from Monthlies to Movies" (Film and Comic Books, edited by Gordon, Jancovich, and McAllister, 2007).
Derek can be reached directly at Derek.Johnson@unt.edu.
Also this spring, Nancy contributed one of the first C3 Research Memos distributed to C3 Consortium Members. This C3 Research will be made publicly available via the C3 blog in late November of this year.
While here in Cambridge, Nancy was asked to speak at the Berkman Center at Harvard Law School. Her talk (in the embedded video below) entitled "Changing Relationships, Changing Industries" addresses her thinking on notions of exchange (economic and social) between fans, audiences, the music industry and the independent music scene - specifically in the case of independent Swedish artists and music labels.
Nancy's insights into how the independent music scene by necessity has embraced new media distribution channels and the audience embrace of these new channels, as well as her insights and metrics on the major label music industry as an inadvertent 'loss leader' in the swift dismantling of the top down corporate music hierarchy (which we are now seeing manifest in film and television) were an early influence on what became 2008 - 2009 C3 research on new consumption patterns, new patterns of value exchange, along with innovative ideas surrounding value and worth - specifically the 2008 C3 White Paper on Spreadability, Xiaochang Li's 2009 C3 White Paper More Than Money Can Buy: Locating Value in Spreadable Media, Ana Domb's 2009 White Paper Tacky and Proud: Exploring Technobrega's Value Network and the CMS C3 FOE4 Panel, Moderated by Prof. Jenkins entitled "Consumption, Value and Worth" (panel video here, liveblogging archive here).
What Prof. Jenkins Did This Summer (Comic-Con and Transmedia Brazil)
Both the MIT and USC 2010-2011 academic year are now well underway, allowing the C3 founders, consulting researchers and practitioners (as well the CMS C3 team here @ MIT) time to finally get back to the C3 blog (after our usual summer hiatus).
Our last entry was on May 14, 2010, so let's get right to our first blog entry of this academic year.
In a variation on the traditional "What I Did This Summer" essay schoolchildren are usually asked to write on their first day of school, we feature a video assemblage of what Prof. Jenkins did this summer.
To start: a panel he moderated at Comic-Con in July of this year.
The panel, entitled Red Faction Armageddon: How to Build a Transmedia Universe features Prof. Jenkins moderating, with panelists Danny Bilson (EVP Core Games, THQ), Lenny Brown (director IP development, THQ), Hollywood's leading Transmedia producer Jeff Gomez (Avatar, Transformers, Tron Legacy, Men In Black 3D), Alan Seiffert (SVP, Syfy Ventures), and Erika Kennair (director, development, Syfy).
A written recap of the panel can also be found here.
(NOTE: the sound recording on this video is a bit faint, but turn up the volume and it should be fine).
In May, Prof. Jenkins was the guest of The Alchemists, a C3 sponsor company, at a series of events and speaking engagements in Rio de Janeiro. Below you will find a series of interviews with Prof. Jenkins (in English with Portuguese subtitles) which were first posted at the Brazilian site Rede Globo (Prof. Jenkins also provided his own blog entry on his time in Brazil entitled My Brazilian Adventure which we will cross post here at the C3 site in the weeks ahead, but if you are anxious to read it can be found here at Prof. Jenkins blog).
Several years ago, I met a remarkable young man named Lucifer Chu in Shanghai. Chu had been the person who first translated the works of J.R.R. Tolkien into Chinese, after a considerable push to convince publishers that there was a market for fantasy and science fiction in China. He took the proceeds from the sales of the Lord of the Rings to launch a fantasy foundation, which promoted fantastical literature in Taiwan and mainland China, and he translated more than 30 fantasy novels for the Chinese market. As of a few years ago, almost all of the fantasy novels and role playing games available in Taiwan were translated by Chu and he was making in roads into getting these same works published for the mainland. He argued that the fantastic played crucial roles in Chinese folk and literary traditions but the genre had largely been eradicated there as a consequence of Maoist policies during the Cultural Revolution which promoted socialist realism and saw fantasy as western and decadent. Chu argued that bringing fantasy literature back into China was a way of helping his people rediscover their dreams and reimagine their future.
As I have been speaking with my USC student Lifang He about her work on the fan cultures which have quickly grown up around Avatar in China, I've wondered what connections, if any, exist between these two efforts to promote the fantastical imagination in that country. Are the young men and women we read about here the offspring of Chu's efforts? Are they connecting with western fan culture on line? This piece offers us some tantalizing glimpses into the many different ways Chinese fans have mobilized around and fantasized about James Cameron's blockbuster.
The American press has been following the commercial success of Avatar in China primarily as a business issue -- exploring what it might tell us about other opportunities for selling media in this country, using it to shadow Google's turmoil in the country, and marginally exploring why China was pushing the film from many of the nation's movie theaters. Yet, this piece takes us inside the world of Chinese Avatar fans, helping us to better understand what the film looks like from their perspective.
C3 White Paper: More Than Money Can Buy: Locating Value in Spreadable Media
The next installment of our 2009 C3 white paper releases.
My white paper extends the work I began with If It Doesn't Spread, it's Dead in 2008. It digs deeper into how the social principles that shape the flow "free" goods and services online shape concepts of value.
Through theoretical analysis and practical case studies, the paper:
Explains why "free" things aren't really free, and the social contracts that regulate these exchanges
Outlines the key differences between socially-driven exchanges and market-driven ones, with an eye towards how to develop online monetization models that can bridge the two systems.
Breaks down examples of best (and worst) practices
Proposes general principles for understanding online communities and socially-motivated content creators, and how to build business models around their activities.
Zuckerberg's Privacy Dispute: A Need for Comparative Social Network Analysis
If the Google v. China incident didn't steal all of your attention, you may have come across a short interview by Michael Arrington with Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg (8 January), a few minutes of which deals with privacy on Facebook and across the social Web.
Watch the interview above, but the relevant content begins at 2:30 and ends at 4:00.
People have really gotten comfortable not only sharing more information and different kinds, but more openly and with more people. That social norm is just something that has evolved over time.
As a general statement, we might declare 2000-2009 the decade of the social Web, in which a large sum of the general population entered the online space (versus the '90s and previous, which catered more toward computer scientists, specialized academics, and niche early adopters). With a new generation of users, then, the social Web defined the progress of the evolution of Internet culture: that is, how people interact with and are mediated by the technological infrastructure to produce or consume culture.
But the problem here is not a conflict over data for research. Nor is it a battle over keeping information away from companies. Rather it is a basic issue of providing the user with the ability to shape the platform according to his or her own preferences. It just so happens that the idea of social network produsage is commencing with the issue of privacy.
While the comfort level of general Internet users sharing information certainly has increased since 2000 (remember when most people were worrisome about using their credits cards on Amazon?), I am hesitant to agree with Zuckerberg's statement that users wish to share personal information more freely (in terms of volume and number of recipients). Certainly it's easy to see that the concept of spreading information across various networks has become a frequent practice. However, I would argue that users are currently more conscious about which information they share than at the beginning of the decade.
However, I will also argue that a user's understanding of and relationship to information depends heavily on how the user understands and relates to the platform which he or she uses. On one side of the spectrum, Facebook operates with user profiles which are interconnected with other profiles to create networks of "friends." Information can be "shared" when accounts intersect across friend networks. On the opposite end, a website like Craigslist.org thrives in user anonymity, where no user networks exist and where no personal information is shared between users (on the website, in theory, of course). In fact, it's positively "old-fashioned," as a Wired article puts it (Why Craigslist Is Such a Mess). "It relies on email and the telephone in an era of SMS and social networks. It sticks to traceless transactions in an industry that makes its living collecting data from every touch."
Of course, these two websites flourish based on the assumed necessity of sharing information. Contrastingly, OKCupid, the popular web-savvy dating site, allows users to set privacy preferences from account creation. As a dating website, users are probably more in-tuned to exactly what details they share about themselves. But OKCupid's matching algorithm -- which suggests other users to contact or avoid -- specifically utilizes shared information to make the matches (ie. the more questions you answer about yourself, the better the match).
Ultimately, the difficulty in debating about privacy is that each platform requires its own analysis. To understand the larger picture, therefore, more studies of cross-network analysis are sorely needed. The Web Ecology Project had attempted a study in the past, but we hit a wall: it was confusing to compare social networks without creating equivalency between different features on each network. danah boyd has written a few analyses, but they tend to share similar traits (eg., her study of status updates focuses on the two most similar networks, Facebook and Twitter: Some thoughts on Twitter vs. Facebook Status Updates).
In the end, we also have to remain conscious of the evolution of the social Web. When Facebook was only available to college students, users tended to share a lot of information and friend arbitrary people. But as Facebook has opened up to all users, these trends have significantly decreased, and it is common to even delete information before going to a job interview or censoring your profile before friending a family member. If Facebook's ultimate direction is toward open information practices on all ends, users will adapt to share less information, or at least similar amounts with smarter strategies in mind.
Convergence of Industry and Fandom: The Japanese Musical Character as Production Platform
Once per month, the Comparative Media Studies department holds a general staff meeting, after which one member from the department gives a presentation. For November's assembly, Philip Tan from GAMBIT gave a presentation entitled "Hatsune Miku & Nico Nico Douga: Remixes, Media Production, and File Sharing."
Hatsune Miku (her name means "first sound / future") is a 16-year-old character from Vocaloid, "a singing synthesizer application software developed by the Yamaha Corporation that enables users to synthesize singing by typing in lyrics and melody" (Wikipedia). The software allows anyone to create a song with synthetic vocals, allowing for creative new melodies, recreations of old harmonies, and the imagination of improbable or impossible music.
Hatsune Miku Live Concert, Japan
In commercial terms, Miku-chan met wild success, finding a strong fanbase in the otaku subculture of Japan. These fans have created thousands of permutations of original videos, fan comics (doujinshi), mashups, fan art, and cosplay. Even in America, Miku has spread across the online American anime fandom like wildfire, and her image is noticeable to even young fans.
Below, I've embedded a video recording (excuse me for the not-so-great audio quality) of Phil's 15-minute presentation on the progress Hatsune Miku has made for fan production in Japan. It's the perfect example of an industry-produced piece of media that has been utilized by audiences in ways unimaginable to its producers. Amazingly, as Phil will explain, the industry actually celebrates the fan production and honors it in new productions.
Philip Tan is the executive director for the US operations of the Singapore-MIT GAMBIT Game Lab, a game research initiative hosted at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He is concurrently a project manager for the Media Development Authority (MDA) of Singapore.
He has served as a member of the steering committee of the Singapore chapter of the International Game Developers Association (IGDA) and worked closely with Singapore game developers to launch industry-wide initiatives and administer content development grants as an assistant manager in the Animation & Games Industry Development section of MDA. He has produced and designed PC online games at The Education Arcade, a research group at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology that studied and created educational games. He complements a Master's degree in Comparative Media Studies with work in Boston's School of Museum of Fine Arts, the MIT Media Lab, WMBR 88.1FM and the MIT Assassins' Guild, the latter awarding him the title of "Master Assassin" for his live-action roleplaying game designs. He also founded a DJ crew at MIT.
Specialties: digital, live-action and tabletop game design, production and management
Selling Out on YouTube: vloggers weigh in on brand integration online
Recently, a string of prominent vloggers on YouTube have been having a conversation about advertising, product promotion, and the notion of 'selling out'. This was triggered by their experiences with various companies who courted them to help promote their products amongst their viewers and community and generated a lot of great conversation around how to intergrate brands into their videos.
The first video was one by UK vlogger Alex Day (nerimon), who called on vloggers to discuss the topic of "selling out" after turning down an offer from Sanyo for a free camera and 1000GBP (~1700 USD) in exchange for sticking a 15-second spot in one of his videos:
I've been thinking a lot recently on audiences and audienceship, and what it means for media audiences and the communities they form when being part of an audience can increasingly involve collaborating on the (re)production, distribution, and curation of content.
One of the sites that for me really begins to touch upon the participatory potential of new media audienceship is Viikii.net, a collaborative translation and subtitling platform for streaming video that distributes that tasks of translating television shows and other media from around the world across an entire community of users.
IP or Censorship: DMCA take-downs of racism protest
Recently, in one of the "routine sweeps" of DMCA take-downs we've all become accustomed to throughout a variety of user-generated content platforms, the contents of the racebending.com store were removed from on-demand retail platform zazzle.com.
Racebending.com was a non-profit effort that sold t-shirts to protest the all-white casting of non-white leads in the Avatar: the Last Airbender live-action film (more details on that particular controversy here http://io9.com/5111680/avatar-casting-makes-fans-see-white and here http://aang-aint-white.livejournal.com/1007.html). The store sold shirts with original art and designs, mostly slogans such as "Aang ain't white," and none of the products on the site contained any images from the series (check out the designs) -- the only thing "in violation of Viacom's intellectual property rights" were words used to talk about the Viacom property. (In an update, a counter-claim was filed and the store was restored, with both Zazzle.com and Viacom refusing responsibility and laying the blame with the other party).
We are, by now, long accustomed to epic failure on the part of DMCA takedowns initiated by major media conglomerates. Viacom, in particular, has been a visible and often hilariously illogical offender, with its memorable removal of a clip Christopher Knight put up on youtube from the show WebJunk 2.0, which had featured none other than Knight's own campaign commercial (presumably aired without permission).
As we head into the weekend, we here at C3 will be diving into the Media in Transition 6 conference. The full conference spans three days with dozens of panels on a wide array of media topics from Youtube to poetry machines of the early modern period to issues around the archival and transport of media in the digital age.
C3 will be in full representation at the conference. I will be speaking ontransnational audiences and fan-driven circulation of East Asian television dramas on Saturday while Josh will be giving a
A funny thing happened on my way to check out the new Skittles homepage-as-social-media-experiment that's been generating all sorts of attention over my twitter feed. I went to the homepage, and in my sleep deprived idiocy, entered today's date in their terms of service agreement instead of my birthdate.
And since Skittles decided to take my word for it that I was born today, it deemed me underage and thus not the appropriate audience for it's free-for-all social media aggregation scheme.
While it was indeed my own oversight that got me blocked from their page, the block speaks to the underlying problem with this stunt, which is that while the idea seems interesting, the execution and practical application might fall somewhat short of potential.
There is, of course, the technical side in which their terms didn't manage to catch that I'd entered an impossible birth date. But beyond that, there are other practical issues, such as the overlarge navigation console pointed out by Stan Schroeder at Mashable. Moreover, as Christopher Carfi astutely observes in his blog, with no way to regulate the signal/noise ratio, the site runs the risk of people loosing interest because of the sheer volume of content.
However, what interests me is that my mistake this morning presents a dilemma that has yet to be discussed in the first flush of interest and excitement over Skittles.com's new strategy. For all intents and purposes, in aggregating this content through their site, and thereby putting it under their terms of service, they are effectively taking content that is otherwise open to and created by the public -- what is essentially public discourse -- and branding it, then resetting the parameters for access.
On Tuesday, the Participatory Culture Foundation launched version 2.0 of their non-profit, open-source internet video player, Miro. A detailed features list can be found at the getmiro.com site and Ars Technica has a fairly thorough breakdown of the pros and cons of the interface.
What is immediately striking about Miro is the ability to aggregate, and share if desired, a library of videos from a variety of sites, platforms, and formats. Users have the freedom to create channels and libraries where broadcast content pulled from NBC.com can co-exist with the lasted vlogs taken from youtube.
As an Australian, my experience of the US political system has always been a mediated one. As such, this is the first US election I've ever experienced 'live', and what an election it has been; Regardless of the outcome, this has been a unique and significant campaign season for a number of reasons. As we've pointed out previously in discussions about election monitoring, campaigns and fandom, Facebook and campaign building, and politics in the age of YouTube, the 2008 campaign has seen unique, interesting and savvy uses new media tools, particularly social media and online video publishing for grassroots campaigning, campaign financing and connecting with constituencies.
These will be some of the things I'll reflect on this afternoon, when I participate in a live chat over at PBS' MediaShift site. At 4 pm EST/1 pm PT I'll be chatting about the election coverage and online media specifically with PBS blogger Mark Glaser and my old friend Alice Robison, Assistant Professor of English at ASU. Come on over if you'd like to join in. They've got a whole afternoon of discussion lined up.
Oh, and whichever way you fall, please do vote. And for the junkies out there, Twitter's election feed makes for interesting reading throughout the day.
Supernatural and Looking at Fanvids as Media Texts
One of the current shows of focus for understanding fandom within fan studies is Supernatural on The CW. When I go to academic conferences, I probably don't hear about it quite as often as Lost, but it ranks high up on the list (and usually comes from a different set of media scholars). In particular, it is the active fan creation around the show that has driven such scholarly interest in Supernatural along the way, particularly in terms of fanvids.
I've written about one of the fan organizations that has done interesting work around Supernatural in a different context; see my interview last September with the founders of Fandom Rocks, a fan organization built around Supernatural that raises funds for non-profits.
But I spent part of the afternoon reading an interesting piece from Louisa Stein based on her recent Console-ing Passions presentation on fanvids about Supernatural, and I wanted to post a few notes on that work while it's fresh on my mind.
From Production to Produsage: Interview with Axel Bruns (IV of IV)
This is the final portion of the interview I recently ran on my blog with Queensland University of Technology's Axel Bruns.
Is it appropriate to apply the same concepts to talk about our new roles as consumers/producers of culture and our shifting roles as citizens?
I think so, yes. It's not far to go from active cultural to active political participation, and we're seeing more examples of using the tools of produsage for political effect every day. Building in part on Pierre Levy's discussion of "molecular politics" in his Collective Intelligence, I've tried to develop a first rough sketch of this produsage politics - or perhaps produsage of politics - in my paper at the MiT5 conference last year, and extended this further for one of the later chapters in the book.
One thing, I think, is certain in this context: a produsage-based approach to politics would look significantly different from the current mass media-driven and ultimately industrial model of politics as it exists in the US, Australia, and many other developed nations. To bear any resemblance to produsage as it exists in other domains, to begin with, it would have to operate on a much more deliberative, open, and inclusive basis than political processes have operated during the height of the mass media age - and groups such as MoveOn in the US, and a href="http://getup.org.au/">GetUp in Australia may be early indications that such shifts are now being attempted by interested parties, if haltingly and uneasily.
One of the major obstacles to moving further along that road, however, are the mainstream media, who have oversimplified our understanding of politics to an eternal contest between left and right - this is politics as a sport, scored in opinion polls and delegate counts, and analysed from the sidelines by pundits and commentators. This leaves little room for nuance, for broad, constructive, and open-ended deliberation; such deliberation may take place (we hope) in parliamentary committees and party rooms, and (we know) in grassroots political communities from MoveOn to the central hubs of the political blogosphere, but the media play a very effective spoiler role that prevents these two sides from connecting successfully.
From Production to Produsage: Interview with Axel Bruns (III of IV)
Earlier today, I ran the first two installments of this interview with Queensland University of Technology's Axel Bruns, who discussed his core thesis about the blurring of the role of consumer and producer in the new cultural economy. In the final two posts, he extends this concept of "produsage" to explore its implications for knowledge production, citizenship, and learning, as well as provides us a glimpse into the innovative academic community which has informed his work. This interview originally ran in two parts over on my blog.
What are the implications of the produsage model for understanding how knowledge gets produced and circulated? You clearly are interested in this book in Wikipedia. What core insights can we take from Wikipedia that might be applied to other collaborative enterprises?
In the first place, perhaps, I think it would be great if Wikipedians themselves could draw some further insights from the way Wikipedia has developed so far, and better understand the drivers of its success. Its very success is a threat to its future survival, if it means that there is a growing disconnect between middle and upper levels of Wikipedia's administration and everyday users and contributors. The project has been remarkably resilient to internal and external threats, of course, but that doesn't mean that it will continue to weather any storm that comes its way. In particular, I would argue that Wikipedia should work to enshrine the prerequisites for produsage as absolutely fundamental, inalienable principles of the project, and protect them even against well-meaning suggestions for change. (That doesn't mean locking down its present modus operandi for all eternity, of course - but whatever changes are made must be made very carefully and with due consultation.)
The crucial question for Wikipedia and other produsage projects concerned with building and growing repositories of community knowledge is that of how to engage with those who are regarded as experts in their field, of course. Both sides of this debate have valid arguments in their favour, of course - people like Wikipedia dissident and Citizendium founder Larry Sanger point to the fact that clearly, different people do have different levels of knowledge about any given topic, while others believe that any a priori elevation of the contributor level of such experts (or ultimately, exclusion of non-experts) is unnecessary: if these people have superior knowledge and the sources to back it up, that knowledge should come through collective evaluation processes unscathed.
From Production to Produsage: Interview with Axel Bruns (II of IV)
This is the second part of an interview I conducted recently with QUT's Axel Bruns on my blog.
Your analysis emphasizes the value of "unfinished artifacts" and an ongoing production process. Can you point to some examples of where these principles have been consciously applied to the development of cultural goods?
My earlier work (my book Gatewatching: Collaborative Online News Production, and various related publications) has focussed mainly on what we've now come to call 'citizen journalism' - and (perhaps somewhat unusually, given that so much of the philosophy of produsage ultimately traces back its lineage to open source) it's in this context that I first started to think about the need for a new concept of produsage as an alternative to 'production'.
From Production to Produsage: Interview with Axel Bruns (I of IV)
I have long regarded the Creative Industries folks at Queensland University of Technology to be an important sister program to what we are doing in Comparative Media Studies at MIT. Like us, they are pursuing media and cultural studies in the context of a leading technological institution. Like us, they are adopting a cross-disciplinary approach which includes the possibility of productive exchange between the Humanities and the business sector. Like us, they are trying to make sense of the changing media landscape with a particular focus on issues of participatory culture, civic media, media literacy, and collective intelligence. The work which emerges there is distinctive -- reflecting the different cultural and economic context of Australia -- but it complements in many ways what we are producing through our program. I will be traveling to Queensland in June to continue to conversation.
Since this blog has launched, I have shared with you the reflections of three people currently or formerly affiliated with the QUT program -- Alan McKee; Jean Burgess ; and Joshua Green, who currently leads our Convergence Culture Consortium team. Today, I want to introduce you to a fourth member of the QUT group -- Axel Bruns. I presented this interview recently on my blog, but I wanted to share it here in a series of posts as well.
Thanks to my ties to the QUT community, I got a chance to read an early draft of Bruns's magisterial new book, Blogs, Wikipedia, Second Life, and Beyond: From Production to Produsage (New York: Peter Lang, 2008), and I've wanted for some time to be able to introduce this project to my readers. Bruns tackles so many of the topics which I write about on the blog on a regular basis -- his early work dealt extensively on issues of blogging and citizen journalism and he has important observations, here and in the book, about the future of civic media. He has a strong interest in issues of education and citizenship, discussing what we need to do to prepare people to more fully participate within the evolving cultural economy. As his title suggests, he is offering rich and nuanced case studies of many of the core "Web 2.0" sites which are transforming how knowledge gets produced and how culture gets generated at the present moment. He has absorbed, engaged with, built upon, and surpassed, in many cases, much of the existing scholarly writing in this space to produce his own original account for the directions our culture is taking.
In this interview, you will get a sense of the scope of his vision. In this interview, Bruns lays out his core concept of "produsage," explains why we need to adopt new terms to understand this new model of cultural production, and then explores this term's implications for citizenship and learning.
This Thursday evening, the MIT Convergence Culture Consortium, in conjunction with the Program in Comparative Media Studies at MIT, will be hosting a public event entitled "Potentials of YouTube."
This event is the public portion of our C3 Spring Retreat, with many of our consulting researchers and representatives from our corporate partners in attendance.
Since the Consortium has been spending significant time researching YouTube in the past year, we will feature two short presentations and subsequent discussion about the potential uses and significance of YouTube as a site for cultural performance, vernacular creativity, and evolving business practice.
C3 Research Manager Joshua Green will introduce the discussion, and presenting will be Nate Greenslit, a postdoctoral scholar in MIT's Program on Emerging Technologies, and Kevin Driscoll, a graduate student in the Program in Comparative Media Studies at MIT.
Our World Digitized: Henry Jenkins, Yochai Benkler, and Cass Sunstein
As we've mentioned a few times on the blog lately, the Program in Comparative Media Studies featured the latest version of the MIT Communications Forum last week, an event particularly of potential interest to Consortium readers.
C3 Principal Investigator Henry Jenkins moderated a conversation between University of Chicago law and political science professor Cass Sunstein and Yochai Benkler of Harvard University's Berkman Center, in an event called "Our World Digitized: The Good, the Bad, the Ugly."
Sustein is the author of Republic.com 2.0 and Infotopia: How Many Minds Produce Knowledge, while Benkler wrote The Wealth of Networks.
According to the abstract:
Much discussion of our impending digital future is insular and without nuance. Skeptics talk mainly among themselves, while utopians and optimists also keep company mainly within their own tribal cultures. Today's forum challenges this unhelpful division, staging a conversation between two of our country's most thoughtful and influential writers on the promise and the perils of the Internet Age.
The audiocast of the event is already available here, and video will be available soon.
My Twitter account has come to serve as the CNN crawler to my RSS feeds' feature stories and interviews: little bits and snippets of news with tinyurl pointers to the latest events. As I scrolled through my account this morning, I saw that at 5:31 PM yesterday, Derek Powazek tweeted "Are you resistant to change? Join the EVERYTHING NEW IS BAD army! http://www.flickr.com/groups/changeresistance/", which was my first clue that something was up. I thought Derek was just being snarky, so I didn't take the bait -- but at 5:57, Matt Howie followed suit with "Man, just when you think nothing can top Livejournal user drama, Flickr "no video" people go and redefine the term 'user drama'". The topic died down for a while (evidence that my circle, now in our mid-twenties to mid-thirties, are getting more interested in things like cooking and kids than teh Intarwebs in the evenings), but then at 1:01 AM EST my photographer friend Rannie Turingan tweeted "What do you think of Video on Flickr? http://tinyurl.com/5qdqqw". Molly Wright Steenson's tweet "all your base are belong to Flickr Video" was the next on the topic at 11:07, followed by my "Holy crap Flickr Video" at 11:15 and Kevin Smokler's "Flickr video kicked my kitten..." at 11:24. Right now the blogosphere is discovering something new and, like a bunch of curious kittens (thanks, Kevin) we're poking it, prodding it and figuring out what we think of it.
A lot of the reaction so far has been negative, as Derek's tweet seems to have foreshadowed. (This isn't surprising; Derek's wife Heather Champ Powazek works at Flickr, so both Derek and Heather are sitting at ground zero for this one -- in fact, Heather posted a video on the official Flickr blog called 'Video on Flickr' that served as an official teaser for the feature on April 8.) Ryan Gantz posted an interesting Obama-meets-Anti-Flickr-Video mash-up image titled 'leave flickr alone', which is only one image in the pools We Say NO to Videos on Flickr (25,239 members), NO VIDEO ON FLICKR!!! (10,544 members) and We say NO to Videos on Flickr UNCENSORED! (27 members). It's the last one that's particularly interesting; aside from the fact that yes, you do have to click through Flickr's safety screen to get to it (Flickr's CYA clause for NSFW images), it's the only one of the three to have a number of actual videos appearing on its initial page. In fact, six of the thirty images on the pool's initial page point to videos, all of whom seem to be illustrating the point that shocker! adding video to Flickr opens the door to questionable content. Actually clicking on them, though, shows that the content isn't that questionable the first one, a short video called 'Genesis in Reverse' by a user called Claudia Veja is straight out of art school, featuring what appears to be a naked woman wandering through a city, but the film is shot in such a way that it shows no 'questionable' body parts aside from some ankle and some collarbone. The second, Easter Photowalk 2008' by ♥ shhexycorin ♥, is a hyperaccelerated autobio piece with the most questionable bit being a guy trying to kick a pigeon or two. PETA might be annoyed, but they'd be hard pressed to file charges. The third, Genesis in reverse part 2', also by Claudia Veja, is a continuation of the first that is somewhat sexier (featuring a risque outfit, a cigarette and, later, some cross-gendered makeup) but still isn't what I'd deem NSFW. The others? A dog getting peanut butter off his nose, a cat drinking from a toilet and a dog named Gilligan running at double-speed around a yard.
C3 Director Henry Jenkins made a presentation at the Society for Cinema and Media Studies conference in Philadelphia based on his research on politics in the era of convergence culture, particularly looking at the 2008 presidential primary season in relation to the rising popularity and political uses of sites such as YouTube.
The basis of this presentation was a blog entry Jenkins wrote last fall, entitled "Answering Questions from a Snowman: The YouTube Debate and Its Aftermath." This project has led to a chapter completed for a forthcoming anthology, as well as the paperback version of Henry's book and the project that was this origin of this Consortium, Convergence Culture: Where Old and New Media Collide.
More on LiveJournal Activism Through Strike/Boycott
Last time, I wrote about LiveJournal's recent fiasco over not informing their users of large-scale policy changes on the site. After much debate back and forth between users and administrators, and the (fairly brief, due to protest) temporary reinstatement of an interest search filter, a call spread on LiveJournal for users not to post any content on Friday, March 21st, in protest. The discussion around the move, intended to show that LiveJournal's value was content-driven, and therefore user-generated, raises some fairly interesting issues regarding the growing pains of large, for-profit user-generated content sites.
What was immediately notable was that there was a lack of consensus over what a large-scale, one-day disruption to posting constitutes: content strike or content boycott? The terms seemed to be used interchangeably, varying from announcement to announcement (the woman cited as the originator of the idea uses the term "strike"). At the most basic level, a "boycott" would suggest action by consumers, which strike implies action taken by a labor force against the corporations or institutions that profit from their production. There appears here a certain ambiguity over the role of LiveJournal users, wherein they feel responsible for the creation of content and networks that makes LiveJournal a viable business, but also recognize the role of LiveJournal as a service provider.
The first three parts of this series are available here, here, and here. I have been running this series over at my blog as well. This series, which concludes with this piece, is co-authored by myself and Dr. Joshua Green, the Consortium's Research Manager.
Prohibitionists and The Moral Economy
"The world of Web 2.0 is also the world of what Dan Gillmor calls "we, the media," a world in which "the former audience", not a few people in a back room, decides what's important." - Tim O'Reilly (2005)
"Our entire cultural economy is in dire straights....We will live to see the bulk of our music coming from amateur garage bands, our movies and television from glorified YouTubes, and our news made up of hyperactive celebrity gossip, served up as mere dressing for advertising." -- Andrew Keen (2007)
See the first two parts of this series here and here. I have been running this over on my blog. This series is co-authored between myself and Dr. Joshua Green, C3's Research Manager.
The Value of Engagement and Participation
"Corporations will allow the public to participate in the construction and representation of their creations or they will, eventually, compromise the commercial value of their properties. The new consumer will help to create value or they will refuse it... Corporations have a right to keep copyright but they have an interest in releasing it." --Grant McCracken (1997)
At the most basic level, the distribution and publicity mechanisms of networked computing renders visible the often "invisible" labor fans perform in supporting their favorite properties.
As a variety of people who read our blog know, the Consortium has been engaged since its launch in researching the ways in which the audience is constructed. While the media industries, and business parlance in general, often discuss what is known as "the consumer," discussion of those who access digital tools often refer to people as "users." We often discuss "audiences" and use the term "fans" in particular to describe the more engaged of those audience members as a way to insert agency back into the discussion of relationships between media producers and brands and those who support their products, rather than a construction in which the power is presumed to lie primarily in the hands of those who make the products, be they cultural products or goods and services.
This motivation and concern, along with our increased interest in studying online video, were the motivations behind C3 Research Manager Joshua Green's presentation at the Society for Cinema and Media Studies conference earlier this month. Joshua joined alongside other scholars studying YouTube, in light of our own work inside the Consortium at present on the video sharing site, not to present the particulars of what we've found in our early analysis of Youtube content but rather to talk about how to approach these new venues, and how to understand those who use these tools to consume and create content.
Joshua's presentation was entitled "The People Formerly Known As: What Happens to the Audience When We're All 'Users'?"
See the first part of this series here. I have been running this over on my blog. This series is co-authored between myself and Dr. Joshua Green, C3's Research Manager.
"The historic role of the consumer has been nothing more than a giant maw at the end of the mass media's long conveyer belt, the all-absorbing Yin to the mass media's all-producing Yang....In the age of the internet, no one is a passive consumer anymore because everyone is a media outlet." -- Clay Shirkey (2000)
Push-button publishing, citizen journalism, and pro-amateur creative activities dominated early conceptions of the ways digitization would change media production. Newer, so-called "Web 2.0" companies integrate participatory components into their business plans. These activities run from feedback forums and beta-tests to inviting audiences to produce, tag, or remix content. Online services regularly collected under the banner of 'Web 2.0' such as photo sharing site flickr, social networking sites MySpace and Facebook, and video uploading sites such as YouTube and Veoh, have built entire business plans on the back of user-generated content. Software companies engage users as beta-testers and co-creators of content (Banks 2002). Marketing departments build puzzles, scavenger hunts, and interactive components into websites and mixed-media campaigns to generate buzz around branded entertainment properties. Technological, cultural, and marketplace changes make such tactics a necessity.
I wrote the following essay on the cultural politics around web 2.0 with Joshua Green, a post-doc in the CMS program, who is speerheading the Convergence Culture Consortium and who is my partner in crime in organizing the Futures of Entertainment conferences. Green came to us from the Creative Industries program at Queensland University of Technology. This paper blends work out of Queensland on creative industries with work out of MIT on convergence culture. Green is currently completing a book manuscript about YouTube with Jean Burgess, who was interviewed over at my blog earlier this year. I am running this series on my blog but also wanted to cross-post it here, considering its relationship to the work we do here in the Consortium.
Participation and User Value: LiveJournal's Latest Debacle
The social blogging site LiveJournal.com has had quite a tumultuous past year, starting last May with what has been called Strikethrough 2007 by users, wherein hundreds of community and fan journals with content ranging from fanfiction to abuse and molestation survivor support groups to discussion groups for Nabokov's Lolita were deleted on claims of child pornography.
Then there was the licensing, then sale, to Russia-based company SUP toward the end of last year, which, according to Wired, raised suspicions of censorship among Russian users and general wariness of change amongst US users.
To ease the transition, a LiveJournal advisory board was created with founder Brad Fitzpatrick, Professor of Law at Stanford Lawrence Lessig, Internet investor and journalist Esther Dyson, and danah boyd, a fellow at Harvard's Berkman Center for Internet and Society.
Despite some changes made to the abuse policies, the change in ownership caused little uproar amongst LiveJournal users, until now.
Last week, it was revealed that LiveJournal had made a drastic policy change, without bothering to inform current users. LiveJournal began with two account options, "basic" and "paid," with a former having less features than the "paid" account in exchange for being free. In 2006, LiveJournal introduced a "plus" account option, which offered more features than the "basic" in exchange for hosting ads.
Last week, they did away with the "basic" option, so that all new accounts would have to pay a fee or host ads. While this is an annoying (and arguably poor) decision, what really angered users was that there was no announcement of the change on the LiveJournal news feed, the news traveling instead by word of mouth. Users were angry that they were not notified of such a significant change in policy, and the revelation that at least three of the four members of the appointed advisory board had spoken out against the decision.
I originally posted this on my blog and wanted to share it with the Consortium readers as well, considering C3's particular interest in online video and participatory culture in its current research.
A few weeks ago, Stephen Duncombe, author of Dream: Re-Imagining Progressive Politics in an Age of Fantasy, and I held a public conversation about "From Participatory Culture to Participatory Democracy: Politics in the Age of YouTube" at Otis College. The conversation ranged across many aspects of the current campaign season -- from "Obama Girl" to Huckabee's relationship to Chuck Norris, from The Daily Show to this anti-Hillary video -- suggesting the ways that social networks and participatory culture have impacted this most unlikely of campaign seasons.
As part of ongoing work about YouTube and the nature of online video sharing we've been pursuing, I've been looking lately at the some of the reasons for the ascension of the service to almost generic status as a shorthand for online video-sharing. The reasons for YouTube's rise to Xerox status in the US are many and murky, some having to do with diverse matters like site design, early mover status, canny marketing, the width of the stripes on their sweaters and champions they picked up along the way. Undoubtedly, however, I think that one of the reasons for YouTube's particular success is the downmarket quality of the video on the site. This is due to change, with the service currently testing technology that's been in development for a while now to increase the video and audio quality of the site, so it is perhaps prudent to point to some of the reasons I think grainy quality equalled success in YouTube's case.
Learning From YouTube: An Interview with Alex Juhasz (Part Two)
Earlier, I ran the first installment of a two part interview with filmmaker, activist, and cultural critic Alex Juhasz that first ran over on my blog.
In the first part, we focused primarily on a course she taught this fall on YouTube, describing some of the pedagogical issues she encountered, and some of the ways her course got distorted through mass media coverage.
Today, she is focusing more fully on some of her concerns about profoundly "undemocratic" aspects of YouTube, concerns which her teaching experience brought into sharper focus. While Juhasz and I start from very different perspectives, I see her critique as a valuable starting point for a conversation about the ways that YouTube does or does not achieve our highest goals for a more diverse and participatory culture.
Learning From YouTube: An Interview with Alex Juhasz (Part One)
Given the Consortium's interest in YouTube, I wanted to post a recent interview I ran over on my blog a few days ago.
What does it mean to learn from Youtube and what would it mean to treat YouTube itself as a platform for instruction and critique?
Alex Juhasz taught a course about YouTube last term at Pizer College, a small liberal arts school in California. As she explains below, Juhasz and her students adopted novel strategies for not simply engaging with YouTube content but also for using the YouTube platform to communicate their findings to a world beyond the classroom. In doing so, they took risks -- inviting outside scrutiny of their classroom activities, bringing down skepticism and scorn from many in the mainstream media which itself plays such a central role in the cycle of self promotion and publicity which surrounds the platform and its content. They became part of the phenomenon they were studying -- for better or for worse.
Earlier this month, I served as a respondent on a panel at USC's 24/7 DIY Video Event on a panel during which Juhasz shared her experiences. I felt that both her pedagogical approach and her critical perspective on YouTube would be of interest to readers of both my blog and the C3 blog.
Among the featured guests number of youtube celebrities such as Lisa Nova, Tay Zonday, and the source of my own bit of YouTube infamy (see here and here), Soulja Boy.
Bloggers hit their keyboards soon after and several called the event an "upfront" -- a telling comparison since the goal of Videocracy seemed to be to present YouTube to advertisers not just as a video distribution platform, but also as a viable alternative content stream comparable to television wherein advertising was concerned.
I recently shared this piece with the readers of my blog. Considering the work the Consortium has been doing of late on YouTube (See blog entries about it here, here, and here), I wanted to cross-post it here as well.
Last week's 24/7 DIY Video Summit at the University of Southern California represented a gathering of the tribes, bringing together and sparking conversations between many of the different communities which have been involved in producing and distributing "amateur" media content in recent years.
Mimi Ito and Steve Anderson, the conference organizers, have worked for several years to develop a curatorial process which would respect the different norms and practices of these diverse DIY cultures while providing a context for them to compare notes about how the introduction of new digital production and distribution tools have impacted their communities.
Based on the observations from our YouTube coding project presented in my previous post yesterday afternoon, I'm trying to formulate some hypotheses to work with as I delve more deeply into the research for a project I'm working on with the Consortium on viral marketing, interactivity and film, and we begin to analyze the coding we've done to date for YouTube videos. To recap, the most prevalent observations I found were that:
1 - What's most popular is often taken from "traditional" media.
2 - YouTube has its own celebrities - and soap operas - that spur user participation.
3 - Webrities and traditional don't always mix.
So far, I have two hypotheses. First, the most effective way to promote something with YouTube is not with trailers and commercials. Second, YouTube is about YouTube users, not copyright infringement.
Earlier this month, the C3 team took on the task of coding our sample of YouTube videos for our upcoming content analysis project. After recovering from spending many hours hunched over with my headphones plugged into my MacBook, with Excel spreadsheet and html archive files always open, I have had some time to reflect. This post is about my preliminary observations on what I have seen so far, that I thought I'd share here. Granted, the sample was small, but I'll be curious to see if any of these observations or conclusions are shown to be true across the group's sample.
Be Somebody: ClipStar, and the Myth of Internet Celebrity
Coming off of my Soulja Boy run (look here and here), it seemed appropriate to bring up a new UK-based video sharing community, ClipStar.
Unlike YouTube and other established video sharing sites, ClipStar sets out with the explicit purpose of being a channel for self-promotion and publicity. It's not just about sharing your videos, but sharing them with the right people (ClipStar appears to be affiliated with a number of talent agencies). They're even pushing it one step further than other self-promotion sites by introducing a talent competition, starting at the end of October, with an annual pay-out of one million dollars.
I am a regular listener and sometimes guest on NPR's On the Media, which does a great job of covering new developments in news and civic media. One recent segment, featuring an interview with Regina Lynn, the sex and technology correspondent for Wired.com, caught my attention.
The segment started with the oft-repeated claims that pornographers might be regarded as lead users of any new communications technologies, being among the first to test its capacities as they attempt to construct a new interface with consumers. We might add that pornography is at the center of the controversy surrounding any new media as the public adjusts to the larger shifts in the ways an emerging medium shapes our relations to time and space or transforms the borders between public and private.
The Medium Is the Message?
Indeed, I have long used pornography as an example to explain Marshall McLuhan's famous line, "the medium is the message," suggesting that the evolution of pornography can show us how different media can change our relationship to the same (very) basic content.
"Meet me at my crib . . .": Reading the official "Crank That" video
Last week, I brought up the phenomenon surrounding Soulja Boy and the "Crank Dat" dance craze that propelled him to success and touched upon a few of the things that drew my attention to this particular case. This week I thought I'd dig in a little further, and try to tease out some of the things that Soulja Boy really embodies for me (as a concept more than as a musician or performer) through a closer examination of his official music video, which touches upon a lot of these themes of production, participation, and distribution in the age of convergence.
Pragmatically Challenged: Where Do Quotes Fit in the YouTube Copyright Solution?
As those who are either members of the Consortium or who follow C3 regularly may know, we are in the process of doing some in-depth research into YouTube and the types of content that is most prevalent on the video sharing site. With that in mind, we have been paying more attention than ever to what is happening in this space. With the recent launch of the tools designed to cut out the improper use of copyrighted material, or at least offer copyright holders the opportunity to profit from the content's appearance on YouTube by offering ads, I fear that both fair use and the benefits to producers are getting lost in the process.
Let me explain what I mean. It has to do with what I feel is a very legitimate and fundamentally important aspect of YouTube: quoting. There is a substantial amount of copyrighted material on YouTube--of that, we can all surely agree. However, there is something fundamentally different about a segment from a show, a funny bit or a suspenseful bit, that is quoted in particular, versus the many people who post "last night's episode of X, Part I of V." One is trying to find the way around distribution; the other is about sharing a snippet of content that points back to the larger work, pointing to the proselytizing activities that are vital to a fan community and benefit both the fan sharing the link, those who click on the link, and the media company which the quote points back to.
Hustling 2.0: Soulja Boy and the Crank Dat Phenomenon
A little while back, Kevin, one of my colleagues here at MIT, brought the Soulja Boy YouTube phenomenon to my attention while we were discussing an upcoming project.
Fast forward to October: Soulja Boy is fending off Britney Spears and Kanye West on the Billboard Top 100, and you can now watch a rag-tag team of MIT grad students, researchers, affiliates, and Richard Stallman, founder of the GNU project and the Free Software Movement, crank that:
(CMS program director Henry Jenkins even joined in the learn the dance, but sadly had to run off to something undoubtedly important before the video was shot.)
There is a new player in the UGC field: The User-Generated Content Database (ugcDb), which expects to become the "Who's Who" of the UGC world. As the name hints, this site has a pretty similar structure to that of IMDB.com, with the distinction that they focus on the content creators and the community around them. Although they're still in beta, ugcDb already has close to 1,000 creator profiles.
In a time when mainstream media and advertising are constantly trying to find a way to take advantage of the passion behind UGC, and when many amateur creators are hoping to use UGC as a stepping-stone toward a more profitable production model, creating a clear-cut definition of UGC is not an easy thing.
SIGGART: Trying to Emphasize the Importance of Nimble UGC Campaigns
Last month, we got an e-mail from The Gold Group about an interesting project they had completed on behalf of SIGG Switzerland, which is an aluminum bottle manufacturer with its US offices based in Stamford, Conn., who are concerned about building their brand as being eco-conscious. The company solicited user-generated ideas, "crowdsourcing" a new design for their bottles. Based on the study, Gold wants to emphasize that the "wisdom of crowds" can generate interesting results, no matter which buzzword you use. The winning bottle design was produced and sold by the company.
A report that Jeff Greene, Executive Director of Client Services for the Gold Group, wrote, focused on the question, "Do social media outreach effects really produce word of mouth engagement? And, if they do, what are the most effective components of social media that should be incorporated into a campaign?"
YouTube Creates New Ad Models as Viacom Woes Move Forward
A little bit of interesting wrap-up on the YouTube front as well, based on some unfolding stories throughout the month. I was interested in the continuing fallout from the Viacom/Google lawsuit based around YouTube, as I've blogged about several times.
When I first wrote about the topic, I was concerned with the ways in which the community of YouTube was getting lost in the corporate structure for the business model as the lawsuit moved on, with no distinguishing between YouTube the group of users and YouTube the business. I wrote, "What's missing is the fact that YouTube is not the entity posting this content--it's the fans, fans who see quoting from these shows and sharing their favorite moments with each other as part of expressing their love for these programs." See more here, here, and here.
C3 Updates: Flash Gordon, ATWT Inturn, and Ten Day Take
Hope the C3 readers got something valuable out of the interview with Parry Aftab. It's Wednesday morning now, and I wanted to update everyone on a few extensions of issues we've been following here at the C3 blog over the past year.
1.) Flash Gordon. I first wrote about Flash Gordon in a post from January on fan communities based on historical comic strips, such as Dick Tracy and Flash Gordon, as well as the historical Yellow Kid of much older fame. Some fans wrote in response to me, questioning whether Tracy and Gordon could really be considered historical properties, and the scope of this changed when I learned through Warren Ellis' blog that Sci Fi was planning on making a television movie featuring Gordon.
Answering Questions from a Snowman: The YouTube Debate and Its Aftermath
I posted this on my blog at the beginning of the month, and I wanted to share it here on the Convergence Culture Consortium blog as well, since it ties in closely with some of the writing on user-generated content featured here on the site.
"I think the presidency ought to be held at a higher level than having to answer questions from a snowman." -- Mitt Romney
I first promised some reflections about the YouTube presidential debate almost a week before I finally put it up on my blog but something has kept getting in the way. I almost decided to forget about it but in the few days before I wrote this post, the issue has resurfaced as the Republican candidates are doing a little dance about who will or will not participate in CNN's planned GOP YouTube debate in September. So far, only two Republican candidates have agreed to participate. I've been having fun challenging folks to guess which ones they are. The answer will be later in this post.
The Sharecroppers of the Digital Age: Remixing and Fair Use
One message has been emphasized throughout the bulk of our work here at the Convergence Culture Consortium, and throughout some of the writing by our director, Henry Jenkins, over the past few years, that the traditional model of prohibition in the media industries is being eroded by, and in our view should give way to, a more collaborative view of copyright ownership.
This takes into account a conversation that has been very important to C3 researchers, that of fair use. In his column this morning in The Washington Post, Lawrence Lessig writes that "the remixer becomes the sharecropper of the digital age." He admits it is an over-the-top metaphor but acknowledges that it applies an old way of thinking to new technologies and new consumer practices.
He doesn't mince words, writing, "Lawyers never face an opening weekend. Like law professors, their advice lives largely protected from the market. They justify what they do in terms of "right and wrong," while everyone else has to justify their work in terms of profit. They move slowly, and deliberately. If you listen carefully, sometimes you can even hear them breathe."
Former Convergence Culture Consortium Media Analyst and MIT Comparative Media Studies graduate Ilya Vedrashko had an interesting piece on his Advertising Lab site recently, focusing on a recent New York Times article about Heinz' advertising campaign asking viewers to create their own versions of a Heinz commercial.
Journalist Louise Story writes, "In one of them, a teenage boy rubs ketchup over his face like acne cream, then puts pickles on his eyes. One contestant chugs ketchup straight from the bottle, while another brushes his teeth, washes his hair and shaves his face with Heinz's product. Often the ketchup looks more like blood than a condiment."
For the final post in wrapping up a look at the body of work the C3 team has aided me with in putting up here on the site, I wanted to point the way toward a few concepts that have been articulated publicly here on the Convergence Culture Consortium site through the blog in the past year to direct people to the posts explaining them in further detail, as well as terms or concepts from Henry Jenkins' work, and those of us at the Program in Comparative Media Studies at MIT, that have made their way into our posts from time-to-time.
1.) Immersive Story Worlds. This is a concept that I developed in conjunction with my thesis work on looking at the current state and the future of the soap opera industry. The idea was to outline a category that explains narratives which are serial by nature, which have multiple creators, a sense of long-term continuity, a character backlog, contemporary ties to a deep history, and a sense of permanence. I included portions of my thesis outlining this concept--and how it relates to the Marvel and DC Comic Universes, the world of pro wrestling, and daytime serial dramas--here and here.
2.) Transmedia Storytelling. Transmedia storytelling is meant to indicate texts in which the story develops through multiple media platforms and in which new content in another platform is not simply a redistribution of the same content that has already appeared elsewhere. We have a whole category of posts about the topic here.
3.) Cross-Platform Distribution. As opposed to transmedia storytelling, cross-platform distribution is simply the reappearance of content from one platform in another, such as making broadcast television shows available in VOD, cable shows available on YouTube, etc. We also have a whole category of posts on this topic available here.
I was interested by the recent news that Lucasfilm wants to empower fan proselytism of its forthcoming animated television series by making some of its copyrighted material available for fans to create their own videos about the show, through Eyespot.
In short, the company has made the tools available on its Star Wars Web site, which features "a Web browser-based, drag and drop editing application that allows fans to play with copyright media without having to download additional software to their computers," according to TelevisionWeek's Alex Romanelli.
Since Lucasfilm hopes to create 100 episodes of the series before it ever shops it around, the company would benefit greatly from creating as much goodwill from its fans as possible during this process, so that there will be as much demand for the product as possible once the 100 episodes are "in the can" (in a metaphorical sense, of course).
What fascinated me most is Romanelli's linking this to Sci Fi's decision to make an online library of clips available, as well as tools for sound and visual effects and editing to enable the production of fan films.
YouTube Expands Role in Providing Branded Channels, Encouraging User-Generated Episodic Content
YouTube has launched two interesting recent initiatives, one encouraging its continuing process to be seen by media producers as a platform for the cross-distribution of extant media footage, and the other encouraging viewers to submit user-generated content for a contest. The two fronts demonstrate the continuing ways in which the Google-owned video platform is trying to deal with its positioning as both a forum for sharing video and a legitimate business model worthy of the hefty investment the company has made in it.
With National Geographic, YouTube has formed a partnership for short videos that the company has created for its Web site and now will allow for sharing among YouTube users as well. The content is available here.
Several of the researchers in C3 have just finished or are in the process of finishing their Master's thesis projects, which means many of us now have the prospect of graduation staring us in the face. Here at C3, we have had the great opportunity to not only work academically as researchers while graduate students but also to interact with the media industry and work with folks at our corporate partners on a variety of initiatives, meaning that a majority of the people coming out of C3 are interested in maintaining a relationship to both academia and the media industry moving forward.
But, as job hunts loom on the horizons and as colleagues start to land jobs elsewhere, we all have to consider what it means, in both the industry and academia, to come away with expertise in issues such as understanding fan communities, transmedia storytelling, new advertising models, and the variety of other focuses that C3 research has taken.
Not much time to write at length on this, but I wanted to make sure it made it onto everyone's radar. From last week's Cynopsis:
FanLib.com launched as hub for "fan fiction" writers. The idea is to provide a home for creators of one of the first "user generated" genres, fan stories written using popular movie and TV characters and storylines. Members can upload stories, embed promos and build communities around their favorite shows. FanLib, founded by Titanic producer Jon Landau, Jon Moonves and former Yahoo! CMO Anil Singh, is also currently sponsoring the Ghost Whisperer Fan Finale Challenge on the site asking fans to write their own conclusion to the show's two-part finale.
Particularly interesting, since fan fiction seems to be one of the last traditional forms of fan creativity that hasn't been widely coopted and encouraged (within specific, copyright-friendly parameters) by the entertainment industry. I haven't given this as much thought as I should, but my offhand guess would be that fan fiction, unlike mashup videos, tribute songs, and so on, are harder to 'control,' and leave a lot more room for individual fans to take characters, or narratives, in directions that producers and executives aren't comfortable with.
That said, it's not surprising that FanLib exists; what intrigues me is the second part of the announcement, regarding the collaboration with CBS drama The Ghost Whisperer, asking fans to write their own endings to the season finale. The contest just ended, and the results are online... but I can't find any specific rules or directions anymore. Does anyone happen to know what restrictions, if any, the producers put in place when issuing the challenge?
(The prolific Sam Ford has written about other instances of commercially solicited fan fiction here, and probably in several other posts I can't find just now.)
I read a couple of days ago from Dave Meltzer's Wrestling Observer site that World Wrestling Entertainment is going to be pairing up with Comcast Ziddio to identify the greatest WWE fan in a contest that will lead to a $25,000 first prize.
The contest will open on May 18 and run until the end of July, and Ziddio will be accepting videos of up to 60 seconds for fans to explain why they are the biggest WWE fans. The list will be narrowed down to 10, with those 10 winners being flown in for the WWE Summerslam pay-per-view event and will be judged by a panel of wrestlers.
The contest could provide some interesting footage from WWE with all this footage of people demonstrating and explaining their lovemarks for the company and its wrestling product, and it will be interesting to see if they use some of this footage prominently on their Web site or in their TV shows as the contest progresses.
Ziddio fans will get to vote for who wins, and the top 15 videos will be featured on WWE 24/7 On Demand, according to the press release. I wrote about WWE 24/7 back in August.
YouTube Makes Plans to Reward Select Independent Content Creators
YouTube isn't just coming up with content distribution deals for corporate copyright holders these days. The Web site is also moving forward with plans that will compensate some of the most popular creators on the site with some of the advertising revenue that their videos generate.
According to the company's site, some of the most popular YouTube creators will be selected to receive revenue deals, in somewhat the same vein of Revver's program for independent producers. Ads will be placed next to the videos, and the independent creators will receive revenue based on the number of views their videos receive.
Interestingly, though, YouTube is not opening up this content program for anyone. Instead, there remains a somewhat arbitrary line which independent video creators must cross in order to qualify for this new deal. The company has made it clear that an independent creator must not only develop an audience but sustain that audience for a period of time before they will become eligible for this new business model.
Xbox Live Originals Contest Looking for Pilots To Be Made into Six-Episode Series
An initiative that launched earlier this month might be of particular interest to readers of the Convergence Culture Consortium Weblog is Microsoft's plan for a user-generated content contest for an original television pilot through Xbox Live.
The contest's winner will win $100,000 to make six episodes of their show. The pilots must last from five to 15 minutes and can be either animated or live action or some combination of both. Entries must be submitted by 29 June 2007. The winner will also receive a featured screening of that pilot at the 2007 New York Television Festival.
That festival will be hosted from 05 September to 10 September 2007.
Aftermath of Steve Byrne's Win of TBS/MySpace Stand Up or Sit Down Contest
While the Ten Day Take contest from Comcast and Ziddio may be on hold while we wait for them to announce a winner, another contest I wrote about soliciting user-generated content for the chance to win a competition has declared its winner.
Back in October, I wrote about The Sierra Mist Stand Up or Sit Down Comedy Challenge, a partnership between TBS and MySpace. The contest invited amateur comedians to submit their work on MySpace, then allowing the MySpace community to view those videos and select their favorite amateur comedians. The finalists then appeared on a special that aired on TBS in November, and the winer received $50,000 and a developmental contract with the Turner-owned station.
In that post, I mentioned a variety of other examples of this type of contest as well. This TBS initiative, however, is very similar to the Comedy Central Open Mic Fight I wrote about yesterday. In that competition:
72 comics will be chosen from this pool to then compete in regional competitions across the country. That pool of 72 will be narrowed down to 12 via votes from online fans, who will then compete in a live contest in September. The pool of 12 will be narrowed down to three competitors, who will then have videos posted online, and fans will once again vote to select the winner.
Ten Day Take Contest Over; Waiting for Winning Entries to Be Announced and Reality Series to Begin
As I wrote about earlier today, an increasing number of companies have been seeking user-generated content through contests to both provide online video for their platforms and also recruit potential new creative voices.
While Comedy Central's upcoming contest is one of the latest examples of this, another was announced late last year.
Ten Day Take will require users to submit ideas for programs to Comcast, with a winning idea being selected to give that person a chance to work with Endemol to produce a pilot. The catch, as the name of the contest implies, is that the winning idea will only have 10 days to produce a pilot, working on a budget of $50,000. You can probably see where this is heading...The process of creating that pilot will be programming as well, as it will be a reality-style show which follows the production of that pilot. Think about the wealth of content this creates...a call for user-generated content that builds into a documentary on the making of a show by the winner of the contest.
The plan was for the reality show to be made available through Comcast's on-demand service as well as Comcast Ziddio, and the call for user-generated ideas came through Ziddio.
Apparently, however, the contest has stalled, and some of the contestants are not happy about it. An anonymous contestant posted here on the C3 site recently that the plan was to go public with the outcome of the contest, who would be the winner and would then be featured in the reality show, on March 12. Now that it's been more than a month later, the Ten Day Take Web site still features a message saying "Currently Being Judged," listing the contest as closed. Several of the submissions are still up for view.
Comedy Central Looks to Recruit Stand-Up Comedians Through Web-Based Contest
Working with one's fan community through soliciting user-generated content can lead to some substantial rewards. One is the amount of content that it generates which then can be used as ancillary Web content. More substantial, however, may be the ability it gives entertainment brands to try and find its creators and entertainers of tomorrow from "among the ranks."
That's what contests like Comedy Central's Open Mic Fight, a call to seek comedians online will do. I have seen news of the call circulating this week, in which an online talent competition asks for users to send in video with the winner getting not only the chance to appear on a show on the network but also $10,000 in cash.
The competition on Comedy Central's site opened this week, and 72 comics will be chosen from this pool to then compete in regional competitions across the country. That pool of 72 will be narrowed down to 12 via votes from online fans, who will then compete in a live contest in September. The pool of 12 will be narrowed down to three competitors, who will then have videos posted online, and fans will once again vote to select the winner.
It is quite an involved process, with that many steps, but it creates the potential for an ongoing competition or saga that generates fan interest on its own, not just from those interested in submitting videos but from the much larger population who would like to participate as critics.
According to TelevisionWeek's Jon Lafayette, "The winner, who also will receive professional representation, will perform in a Comedy Central live tour and be a 'featured comic' on iTunes, VOD and mobile platforms."
YouTube Preparing for Preemptive Copyright Protection, More Substantial Advertising
Earlier today, I wrote about the quote from Google CEO Eric Schmidt distinguishing the NBC Universal/News Corp. online video site from YouTube and claiming that the two cannot really be viewed as competitors. I agree.
But that quote came from a story with a much different focus, on the increasing ways in which YouTube hopes to combat copyright infringement on its site, including a new set of tools that will be tested and then rolled out this year which will allow content to be screened for copyright infringement before appearing on the site. As Google looks at how to create a successful business model surrounding the YouTube site, these issues are becoming increasingly pertinent.
The news came out of the National Association of Broadcasters Las Vegas convention earlier this week, where Schmidt spoke on Monday.
Daisy Whitney's TelevisionWeek article highlighted Eric's comment that these new tools would allow copyright owners to "claim their content," and Whitney writes, "As Google rolls out the additional copyright protection tools, the process will be automated and preemptive, letting Google and YouTube detect in advance when users upload unauthorized content."
As YouTube tries to move toward a way to more explicitly monetize its site, there are discussion of pre-roll and post-roll advertising. It remains to be seen how these changes in an effort to capitalize on the huge investment Google made into YouTube will resonate with the YouTube community.
Google CEO Says Network Video Site Not a YouTube Competitor
In reading Daisy Whitney's story from TelevisionWeek on Tuesday about YouTube's plan for copyright control, I was struck by what I considered a substantial quote from Eric Scmidt at Google.
He said of the News Corp./NBC Universal online video network being planned for launch later this year that, "It's been labeled as a competitor, but it's a different animal. It's primarily targeted at long-form content. YouTube is not television. It's a different phenomenon."
I couldn't agree more. If the media industry looks at YouTube simply as another platform for distribution, they are missing what makes YouTube unique. As a place to watch video on-demand that a user can't get anywhere else, YouTube is only great in its ubiquity, that it's a one-stop shop. Otherwise, though, the video quality isn't great, the copyright issues are taxing, and no long content can be posted in its entirety.
As a site for cross-platform distribution, YouTube is much less interesting. What powers the site, however, in addition to the user-generated content, is its quotability and grabability.
Vidmeter Study Emphasizes that Blatant Piracy Is Not What Powers YouTube Community
Online video viewership metrics service Vidmeter has released an in-depth study on a sample of the most popular YouTube videos to see how many of them were pulled for copyright violation in a 3.5-month period or so, finding that less than 10 percent of the videos sampled were pulled for copyright violations and that they only received almost 6 percent of the views of the videos in the sample.
In other words, copyrighted material does not explain the popularity of the video sharing site, and coloring arguments about the YouTube community as a site of rampant "piracy" is an argument that does not reflect the myriad ways in which the site is used by the YouTube that really matters, the community that empowers the site through its sharing activities.
The group concludes that:
Unauthorized copyright videos make up a relatively small portion of YouTube's most popular videos and an even smaller portion of views. While the study did find a fair number of blatantly pirated full-length clips from television shows and movies, the bulk of views to removed videos consisted of music videos and short clips from comedy sketches and unique sporting events.
This coincides with my prior arguments that, even when YouTube members share copyrighted material, it is most often as quotes from the overall program, or else sharing video that is not presently commercially available from the archives of a show.
I posted this interview with the team that created Super Deluxe on my blog, but I wanted to cross-post it here on the C3 blog as well, considering Super Deluxe's involvement with the consortium. Super Deluxe's parent company, Turner Broadcasting, is a member of the consortium.
"We're Super Deluxe. And by God, We're going to make you laugh." -- taken from the Super Deluxe webpage.
Super Deluxe is a new comedy site launched by Turner Broadcasting in January of this year. The site promises a mix of original professional content with community tools which will allow people to share amateur produced videos. It might be seen as one of the first of what are likely to be a series of attempts by major media producers to create their own YouTube like sites which combine authorized commercial content with fan generated materials. In this case, the site is targeting comedy as a genre that is likely to support both commercial and amateur produced material of high quality -- with their understanding of comedy including a fair amount of animation as well.
As the press release announcing the service explained:
Original programming will range from short films and sketches to episodic series and more. In addition to being available online, SUPER DELUXE content will be available via cable VOD, wireless devices and personal media players.
Programming is just the beginning, however. SUPER DELUXE's community tools will allow fans to interact with artists and each other, adding an extra dimension of value for the consumer. Through these tools, fans can express their own unique sense of humor and interact with artists and others by creating their own profiles, uploading their own videos, rating and sharing content, making comments, sending messages and more. Fans can even join or create groups with other artists and users to share and discuss their favorite humorous topics, comedians or anything else that strikes their interest.
The featured content on the site at the moment is quirky, original, and engaging. Consider, for example, a range of shorts featuring somewhat fractured versions of American presidents, contemporary and historical (with the idea of failed presidents a strangely recurring theme across much of the content produced so far).
Last summer, my cousin and his wife, the future co-doctors Steven and Kara Ford, wanted to share a new user-generated video with me. They had read my posts about the remake of The Skeletor Show and consequently showed me a Brokeback Mountain remake of the Zach/Slater relationship from Saved by the Bell.
But, I'll have to admit that nothing could prepare me for what they would show me next: Baby Got Bible.
The parody video presented a Christian version of the rap classic from Sir Mixalot, except this brother has a fetish for big Bibles instead of badonkadonks. "You Christian brothers can't deny/That when a girl walks in with a KJV/And a book mark in Proverbs/You get stoked/Got her name engraved/So you know that girl is saved."
Imagine my surprise, then, when "Baby Got Bible" reappeared, almost a year later, and this time on Steve Bryant's Reel Pop blog. Bryant was writing about an interesting new service called GodTube, now in beta form.
Veoh Developing Deal with AMD to Connect High-Res Content To TV Sets
Online video distribution platform Veoh continues to add to its services, with an announcement this week that the company would be collaborating with new technological services to bring DVD-quality high-resolution Internet television to its video service, and to effectively connect that video service to users' TVs.
Veoh will work with AMD to offer more than 100,000 high-quality videos through its service, as Veoh sets to distinguish itself in the market based on its video quality. The videos will have no length restrictions and will include both user-generated independent content, as well as content through deals with major media owners.
And the technology from AMD, called Active TV, will facilitate the Internet-to-TV service in tandem with the Veoh videos. In the story he filed on Reuters' blog, Kenneth Li writes, "We're not quite sure where or in what form Active TV technology will pop up. And plenty of skeptics wonder if anyone will care at all. Competitors will also have to convince consumers why their gizmos will be better than Apple's new set-top box device, Apple TV, that links iTunes to TV sets."
Bochco's Cafe Confidential an Interesting Foray into Web Content
Earlier today, I wrote about the launch of Prom Queen tonight, the Michael Eisner Webisode series that will feature 80 weekly 90-second episodes, distributed each Sunday night through MySpace and Monday through YouTube and its own Web site.
Another big name dipping his toes into the online video distribution waters as of late is famed television series creator Steven Bochco, who has teamed with online video site Metacafe for a new channel called Cafe Confidential.
The channel features Webcam confessionals, in which "reality TV" meets "the Web's clip culture," as Erick Schonfeld with The Next Net writes.
As opposed to Eisner's slick and professionally produced product, Bochco sifts through user-generated content to pick confessional videos for the channel, grouped in categories such as "Most Emarassing Moment" or "My First Time."
Over the weekend, I wrote that the attempt of the awards was not just to recognize some of the most creative user-created work that appeared on YouTube in 2006 but also "to create the air of authenticity for YouTube videos." I was interested in seeing how people would debate, in the end, divisions between the degree of which the various videos were professionally produced versus completely amateur.
However, Steve Bryant has harsh words for the choices made in the award categories in the first place. "The problem, of course, is YouTube's press image. Can't very well make tough editorial choices or promote controversial fare. What about best hoax? Best police brutality? Wittiest international racism? Most artful use of a stun gun? YouTube is the world's town hall. This is Chuck E. Cheese fare."
Nothing legitimizes a medium like awards. After all, the pinnacle of the film industry is the annual Academy Awards, just as the Tonys for the stage, the Emmys for TV, the Grammys for music, and the Slammys for the pro wrestling world (okay, the last one hasn't appeared since 1997...)
So, what better way to create the air of authenticity for YouTube videos than to create the YouTube Video Awards, with the competition taking place of the past week. The winning videos will be featured on the site and, of course, immortalized by winning the first edition of the awards.
The awards will be decided for a variety of categories, including best overall series, best comedy, best music video, best commentary, most creative video, most inspirational video, and most adorable video. Videos from 2006 were voted on by YouTube users over this past week, with the winners planned to be announced on Monday.
Of course, plenty of creators were openly lobbying for readers to vote for their videos in the YouTube Awards.
CBS News Contest Provides Venue for Student Journalists, with the Winner Getting a Summer Internship with Katie Couric
Speaking of user-generated news, as I wrote about earlier today with Wired's Assignment Zero project, CBS has created an interesting initiative of its own to get students involved in the journalism project.
This past week, CBS' news division made the announcement that it would be soliciting user-generated content from college students for a contest called Springboard, with the winner receiving an internship this summer with Katie Couric, the famed host of the CBS Evening News.
Contest submissions can include both video and text and sponsored not only by CBS's online news site but also by U-WIRE, the College Sports Television news service that links together more than 800 colleges and universities to report college news stories by college students.
The deadline for the project is looming on the horizon--April 7--and the winner will be traveling to New York for the summer. The announcement will come at the end of April. According to the official site from CBS, qualified print and video entrants will be posted online after decisions have been made.
Citizen Journalists and Professionals Collaborate in New Wired Project
Earlier this month, our research manager Joshua Green sent me the Wired story about their new in-depth investigative series surrounding the phenomenon of using the crowd itself as a source. The catch: the project, called Assignment Zero, will be conducted both by the journalists on staff at Wired and readers as well.
According to the description on the Assignment Zero site, the project will examine "how the Web makes it possible for the crowd to be the source of good ideas. But instead of one journalist reporting, we've created a site where many people can work on the story, with editors as guides."
The initial announcement claims that the magazine's "hope is that a team of professionals, working with scores of citizen journalists, is capable of completing an investigative project of far greater scope than a team of two or three professionals ever could."
Acceptable.TV Features Hybrid of Voter Control, User-Generated Content
VH1 is launching an intriguing new show at 10 p.m. EST this coming Friday, considered an interactive comedy series that also features user-generated content. The show is called Acceptable.TV, and the premise is that the folks in the Acceptable.TV creative ensemble will create five 3-5 minute pilot episodes that will air on the main show. Viewers will then be able to go to the show's Web site to vote for their favorite episodes that week. The two shows with the top votes will return the next week for another 3-5 minute installment, while the three mini-shows with the fewest votes will be cancelled.
In addition, each week's show will feature the digital short that has receive the most votes from the user-generated content that will be featured on the Web site, meaning that a user-generated version of this same competition will take place on the site, with the top vote-getter each week being featured on the show. The Web site will feature all the user-generated content, as well as both the "acceptable" and "unacceptable" pilots from the television show.
The show is being marketed through the involvement of executive producer Jack Black and also features the creative forces of Channel 101 co-creators Rob Schrab and Dan Harmon. According to the press release, the two "became pioneers of the do-it-yourself TV movement with Channel 101, a competitive forum for digital shorts founded in 2003, anticipating the YouTube revolution by a several years" (sic). Embarrassing typo aside (I have had a few of those in my day as well), you can still see the anti-YouTube-ness come out, even in a Viacom company's press releases these days.
MTVN Speaks Out on Their Vision of User Grabability and Quoting Moving Forward
Interesting story in Reuters recently by Kenneth Li that had some preliminary promising points about MTV Networks' focus post-YouTube on how to work with and empower the viral spread of video content on the Web but through the company's own channels rather than YouTube. I haven't commented yet and was interested in the fallout, but I have to say that it's a major rhetorical step forward.
Basically, Viacom has plans to make videos from their sites "grabbable," in that users will be able to embed those videos in their own sites/blogs, much as users can from YouTube. The hope is to incorporate some of the technologies that has made YouTube work well into the videos they provide themselves, thus lessening the damage from not being a part of YouTube.
The ubiquity of YouTube is one thing that draws viewers to that site and which this service won't be able to overcome. After all, people love a one-stop-shop, but the move toward being able to imbed the videos into users' own sites is a major advantage for MTVN, since that "grabability" is one of the features that has driven interest in using YouTube.
MTVN's Global Digital Media President Mika Salmi spoke of not just opening their Web sites "for consumers and for other companies" but of opening content as well. I'm personally interested in what opening the content means. He said, "Part of that is allowing people to take our content and embed it and make your own things out of it, whatever they want."
Embedding and making whatever you want from video clips are two quite different activities, but both are what drives a lot of the interest in YouTube. I think the "grabability" issue will be covered well by MTVN, and I'm excited about the possibilities of letting users play with the content as well, if they really mean it as openly as it sounds.
BBC Deal with YouTube Raises Questions About Quoting, "Damaging the Brand"
YouTube has created another "official" deal this week, now with BBC. According to news that was announced last Friday, the BBC will provide two official BBC channels on YouTube focusing on properties such as the popular Doctor Who, as well as a third channel focusing on content from BBC News.
"The venerable BBC--an 'old' media giant that has been teaching much younger media outlets a thing or two about new media for some time now--has taken a different tack when it comes to YouTube." Ingram believes this is "a much smarter strategy" than pulling clips.
However, keep in mind that there will be blocks for people in Britain for viewing the news content on YouTube because they will include ads. More controversially, though, Rafat Ali at paidContent points out that BBC Worldwide content will include pre-roll ads that can be seen in the UK.
Fora.tv Provides Another Model for Niche Video Sharing Sites
Back in January, I wrote about various video sharing sites filling in the niches around YouTube censorship, based on an article by Brad Stone in the New York Times.
This post focused on sharing sites like LiveLeak, Dailymotion, and Stickam, all of which have carved out an audience by providing something that YouTube does not. For LiveLeak, it has been the posting of war videos and footage that YouTube would not allow. For Dailymotion, there is no limit to the length of the videos posted. And, for Stickam, it is the ability to send out live video feeds and have online video chats.
At the beginning of this month, Eric Benderoff with the Chicago Tribune featured another story that highlighted another set of these video sites which are developing niches around the more popular sites.
In this case, the focus was on FORA.tv, whose tagline is "The World Is Thinking." The site is described in the article as "C-Span for Web video," featuring a wide variation of international political videos that might not get that much attention elsewhere. The tight focus provides a model that may not have the ubiquity of YouTube but also has none of the noise. For people who might be looking for "Kuwait's minister of foreign affairs talk for an hour before the International Institute for Strategic Studies," as the article uses as an example, this site would be a concentrated place to find such video footage uploaded.
Citizen Journalism and the Replacement of the Pros with User-Generated Content
User-generated news. I've been hearing various media professionals lately criticizing moves in the industry that have led to columnists and journalists being let go in favor of less professional content and more homespun analysis. The blogosphere replaces professional writers, the collective intelligence the singular expert.
Now, certainly, even groups like C3 who value the idea of reader-writer dialogue and the sort agree that we're not going to see the professional disappear but rather be joined by non-professional voice who deserve a degree of validity.
Yet, I have heard of several instances lately in which a news division or editorial section dumps the staff entirely in favor of user-generated news and opinion. The most recent example came from earlier this month, in The San Francisco Chronicle, which carried a story about a small TV station, owned by Clear Channel, which fires its news staff and is looking for programming directly from its viewers.
The station is KFTY, situated in Santa Rosa, and it is listed as "covering one-eighth of the Bay Area" with an area so concentrated and ratings so low that it can't even be measured by Nielsen.
The station, "Channel 50," is asking the community "its independent filmmakers, its college students and professors, its civic leaders and others--to provide programming for the station."
MTV's Scarred Raises Discussion About User-Generated Content on TV, But the Phenomenon Is More Than Just a Modern Fad or Buzz Phrase
While I was reading about upcoming plans for television projects, I saw that MTV is launching a variety of new series, one of which is being called Scarred. The series will be in the style of those syndicated programs which air people doing dangerous stunts and filming themselves while doing them, often unintentionally. MTV's version, hosted by Papa Roach will feature videos of terrible injuries and the like.
Chris Pursell emphasizes that this is the first MTV show featuring exclusively user-generated content, although I'm sure the network-produced Papa Roach won't hurt ratings any.
Nevertheless, that had me thinking about the "buzz phrase" of "user-generated content." I won't launch into a diatribe now, but I think the danger over the past few months has been in making "user-generated content" such an overused term that it starts to sound like a fad rather than new expressions of a long-standing part of the entertainment industry.
User activity, interactivity, and user-created properties that add value to a media property have long been a part of television, radio, literature, and myriad other media formats. Call-in requests on the radio, fan fiction, fan commentary, interactive storytelling of various sorts--all are more active and conversational forms of interaction with fans that values user input in meaningful ways.
Comcast/Facebook Pair for TV Show Featuring User-Generated Content, While Leichtman Finds Online Video Viewing Growing Slowly
Viewing online video growth may be growing at a slower rate than some visionaries would like to see, but it isn't slowing the variety of new business models designed to facilitate online videos or to launch new media properties through Web programming. One key that seems to be driving the growth in online video viewing and new models, however, is the pervasiveness of user-generated content.
A partnership has been announced between cable provider Comcast and social networking site Facebook to create a television series featuring user-generated content through Ziddio, Comcast's user-generated Internet video platform. This fulfills one of Ziddio's major goals. As I wrote back in November, "The plan is to bridge this user-generated content cross-platform into video-on-demand for Comcast users as well, picking the best content for VOD."
The plan is for Facebook to encourage its users to post videos online through Ziddio or Facebook, with representatives from both companies choosing some of the user-generated clips for a new show called Facebook Diaries, which would air on VOD for Comcast as well as on Facebook's site and Ziddio's site.
The first part of the plan was announced last Thursday, when YouTube released a statement that YouTube's video listings will start appearing as part of the Google Video search service. Certainly, most people expected the expansion of Google's video services was coming now that YouTube was in house. Through the change, Google Video searchers will be able to get full access to YouTube content through regular video searches.
The long-term plan, of course, is to make YouTube the site that will house the content, while Google itself will work toward increasing the viability of video search tools and monetizing those functions.
Meanwhile, over the weekend, Google also announced plans to start sharing the revenues derived from advertising to content owners. It's unclear exactly what this means but not a complete surprise, as some other sites have launched similar models.
Broadband Video Sites Veoh and Brightcove Continue to Expand
Two online video sites I've written about several times here at C3 are Veoh and Brightcove, and both made new announcements this past week regarding an expansion of content, in Veoh's case, and significant new funding for Brightcove.
Veoh has formed a partnership with Us Weekly magazine to create an online celebrity news and entertainment show that will be available on the Us Web site and Veoh's site as well. The initiative will launch in February with the intent of also including user-generated content.
For another look at a broadband celebrity destination, see my November post, "The Death of a Buzzword: Synergy and Time Warner". At the time, I wrote about TMZ, the Three Mile Zone product being launched by Warner Brothers and AOL. At the time, I wrote:
But, while TMZ is not my cup of tea, I think that it touches on the ability of the Web to do something others don't and to prove that synergistic relationships, even as that buzzword has gotten a negative connotation, are the building blocks of convergence and transmedia approaches. The success of this site shows that there is still power in these types of partnerships. The problem is in the thinking that they work irrespective to how they are executed.
It will be interesting to see how this Veoh/Us product compares to the TMZ project.
Meanwhile, Veoh has also partnered with the United Talent Agency to create "an online resource for digital content submissions," according to Daisy Whitney with TelevisionWeek.
User-Generated Content Expected to Continue Growing While Corporate Revenue Surrounding It Questionable
News broke last week that user-generated videos have been the primary force of growth in the number of online videos available, currently estimated at being 47 percent of the videos that are found online, launched through the popularity of YouTube and other video sharing sites.
The statistics, made available from Screen Digest, leads to a prediction on their part that 55 percent of the online videos viewed in the U.S. will be user-generated by 2010, which would account for approximately 44 billion views.
However, Screen Digest emphasizes in their report that, while the amount of views is bordering on half for user-generated content, the portion of revenues generated from this content is significantly smaller, although their predict that revenues generated from advertising surrounding user-generated content will expand from the $200 million estimated for 2006 to a 2010 total of $900 million, which would still be only 15 percent of the total online revenue, at a time when they predict 55 percent of the online video content consumed will be user-generated.
Quoting and Piracy: How the Industry Lumps Together Two Very Different Activities
"It bothers me artistically. Here's this thing where you have no control; they are chopping it up and putting your memories in a blender." -Brian Grazer, producer of 8 Mile.
The quote above, taken from Laura M. Holson's fabulous New York Times article from Monday about Hollywood's response to YouTube, is in response to mash-ups of the Eminiem battle rap flick 8 Mile and the cultish hit Napoleon Dynamite, a video that, as of the writing of the article had received 60,000 hits but also the ire of the moviemakers whose clips were used. The plan now is to create the type of responses to YouTube mash-ups that will eliminate this quotability of their work.
The article addresses two sorts of behaviors of posting copyrighted material, one being short clips or mash-ups and the other being uploading whole chunks of the movie, so that one can watch each chunk and see the whole thing, as a user has done with 8 Mile. The trouble is, in order to resist setting the precedent to allow too active use of its copyrighted material, companies' responses have been to discredit the whole process and instead think of ways they can safely put content up on the Web, where they are in control.
However, these are two very different behaviors--one quoting from a pop culture source and the other just plopping a copy of that source up on the Web in full.
"15 Seconds" of Fame Meaningful Use of User-Generated Content or "A Load of Crap"?
Will CBS' new initiative with YouTube get its 15 minutes of fame? The joint project, called "15 Seconds," asks users to submit 15-second inspirational clips into a contest in which the best videos will be shown on the CS broadcast networks throughout the season, with one to air on the network each quarter, probably as a commercial bumper leading back into a show or something of the sort.
The new plan got major press after it was mentioned by CBS President and CEO Les Moonves earlier this month at CES in Las Vegas and the first viewer video is set to air on Feb. 4, Super Bowl Sunday. With just one video per quarter picked to air on the network, the project is just a minor way to encourage the incorporation of user-generated content into the everyday presentation of CBS and provides a contest for YouTubers to get their work in front of a massive national broadcast audience.
In addition, other top videos will air on CBS.com every two weeks, providing cross-platform distribution of the winning YouTube videos. And the top videos from the CBS.com selections may make it up to the network, as MarketingVOX points out.
Metacafe Producer Rewards Program Successful, Despite Various User-Generated Challenges
According to Daisy Whitney with TelevisionWeek, video site Metacafe has announced that their Producer Rewards program which gives creators of video content $5 for every one thousand views of their content, has resulted in more than 27 million views thus far, driving traffic to the site while also creating a way to create revenue for video producers, giving an incentive both for creators to post their content there and for advertisers to pay more attention to the site.
Could this business model work as a permanent fixture? According to Metacafe, it already is showing signs of major success for content creators. They have reported that the top eight creators on their site, through the Producer Rewards program, have topped more than $10,000 each for their video content on the site, creating a lucrative return on the online videos in a two month span.
Whitney sites the Nielsen Net ratings as ranking Metacafe as "the 8th most viewed video site with about 2.6 million unique visitors per month."
First noticed this a week ago, and re-noticed it last night while watching this week's episode of Nip/Tuck:
During one of the ad breaks, FX ran a spot to promote what they're referring to as a "fancast," where fans are encouraged to record audio clips of themselves discussing their thoughts about the show and send them in for possible inclusion in (what I assume is a cleverly renamed) Nip/Tuck podcast. Viewers are also encouraged to send in questions for a selected member of the cast, who will (presumably) answer either the questions that are most commonly asked, or that the fancast producers find most interesting.
This strikes me as interesting for a few reasons.
For one, it sets up the content of the podcast (fan discussion and dialogue) as more important than the medium of the communication (an iPod).
More importantly, though, it establishes a clear relationship between audience participants and cultural producers from the outset: we want to hear what you have to say as fans of the show, so long as we're all clear on the fact that you *are* fans of the show.
It's an interesting and subtle clarification to make upfront, given the problems that some creative teams have faced in the past due to the ambiguous and unarticulated boundaries that exist in their online interactions with fans. In some ways, the "fancast" is similar to the use of "intermediary channels" like Ask Ausiello and Watch With Kristin; audience questions and input are still moderated, but in this case, by someone working either inside the show or inside the network... no need to form polite give-and-take relationships with outside writers, and it (potentially) makes the audience feel that much closer to the stars of the show.
I'd actually be quite curious to know how FX is structured, in terms of the division of responsibility on these projects, between the show team and the network's marketing division. I'd also be curious to know whether fancasts are specific to Nip/Tuck, or being produced for several of the network's more popular dramas.
Either way, given the attention that Nip/Tuck got for using a MySpace profile to deepen viewer engagement with last season's narrative arc about the Carver, I'm interested in keeping tabs on whatever they're doing now.
Henry Jenkins, Director of the Convergence Culture Consortium, wrote the following on his own blog this past week, which I thought was pretty relevant to the topics covered here on the C3 blog, especially since I have followed the Snakes on a Plane fan following here as well. Henry's blog is in preparation for his new book, aptly titled Convergence Culture:
I am watching with great interest the growing hubbub about the new suspense/disaster film, Snakes on a Plane, scheduled for release later this summer and expected by many to yield some of the strongest opening weekend grosses of the season. In many ways, we can see the ever expanding cult following of this predictably awful movie as an example of the new power audiences are exerting over entertainment content.
Here's what I think is going on here:
Enter the Grassroots Intermediaries.
First, the Snakes on a Planephenomenon has been building momentum for well over a year now. In the old days, the public would never have known about a film this far out of the gate. They might have learned about it when the previews hit the theatre -- a phenomenon which itself is occurring earlier and earlier in the production cycle -- or even given the fairly low-brow aspirations of this particular title -- when the film actually hit the theatre. In the old days, this would have been an exploitation movie of the kind that Roger Corman used to crank out in the 1950s and 1960s and destined to play on the second bill at the local drive-in.
The newest craze in fan-created content circulating on YouTube goes even further the the pieces I've noted over the past several days, in that this involves a parody performance of Bono from U2 that makes the piece even more amazing.
The video editing that transforms this fairly accurate impersonation of Bono singing a tribute to actor Samuel L. Jackson makes what looks very much like a legitimate music video, aside from its obviously comedic aspect.
Jackie Huba at the Church of the Customer blog calls the piece "citizen marketing." Indeed, with such ardent fan support, the producers should realize the powerful marketing opportunities that fans present at no cost. Sure, creator David Coyne has broken some substantial copyright laws with his parody performance of Bono because of all the images of Jackson in the background. However, the producers of Snakes on a Plane and Jackson himself should celebrate such marketing. Even though the piece is clearly parody, it also draws attention to and celebrates Jackson and the upcoming film.
More than almost any other film in recent memory, Snakes on a Plane has a lot of cult buzz behind it. The show's producers capitalized on this through the very title, adopting what became an underground title for the project as the film's public name as well. Further, check out the film's site, particularly the "Fan Site of the Week" option, to see how well the show has integrated the grassroots marketing of the fan community with official marketing.
How much profit will all this cult grassroots marketing have on the film? Time will tell, but the even harder question is how long we have to wait with a cult film to determine its success--will audiences turn out to see it in droves on theatrical release, will DVD sales be substantially higher, or will the film's potential cult status lead to its continued success in DVD sales for years to come?
Thanks to Siddiq Bello with Turner for bringing this piece of fan promotion to my attention.
Slater Just Can't Quit The Preppie: A Brokeback Spoof on Saved by the Bell
After blogging about The Skeletor Show and 10 Things I Hate About Commandments over the past couple of weeks, my cousin and future doctor Steven Ford directed me toward another YouTube phenomenon--the Brokeback Mountain style parody of the relationship between characters Zach Morris and A.C. Slater on that teen situation comedy my generation grew up captivated by, Saved by the Bell.
Apparently, this fan, in true slash fiction fashion, searched out the many scenes of mutual admiration between Slater and Zach in the show's archives and edited together this video, "Saved by the Bell: Brokeback Style," as a tribute to their love, set to the great soundtrack from the award-winning cowboy gay love story. The show, marketed on DVD as nostalgia for those that remembered it fondly but largely unwatchable for anyone who didn't grow up watching it, is considered a marker of childhood for the generation that watched it on a regular basis.
For those who remember the show and the two masculine leads, the tribute video works almost as well as Kirk/Spock slash fiction--(such as the "Perhaps" video tribute to their love aboard the Starship Enterprise). And, considering the constant focus on Slater's body in the show and the rather cheesy dialogue, I believe there was probably a wealth of material that can seem pretty homoerotic once it's strung together.
The tribute is yet another illustration of the degree to which fans have gained the tools necessary to create fairly complex and well-edited videos using texts from the show's archives. In this case, this fan has created, in particular, an alternative reading of the show, so to speak, that largely only has appeal to other fans who will understand the various scenes depicted. In other words, these videos invite fellow fans to deconstruct the editing process.
Of course, in my mind, nothing will top the classic fan-reworked movie trailer for The Shining. If you have never checked it out, it remains a must-see.
The piece, called 10 Things I Hate About Commandments, is a trailer for a teen drama featuring Moses and Ramses fighting over the same girl. While a parody of sorts for both the older film and the teen drama form, as well as a parody of movie trailers in general, the piece is more a celebration and send-up spoof than a biting critique and is an example of the ways that fan-generated content can bring new excitement to long-existing pieces of work. When I first watched the trailer early this morning, the trailer already had over 600,000 views. While some Christians may be offended by Samuel L. Jackson's language in his version of The Burning Bush, I don't read this as a criticism of the original film or the biblical story, save its the camp value of some of the acting and costuming.
More than anything else, though, this trailer demonstrates the tremendous power of fans to generate "poached" content in ways that look as professional as a real movie trailer, for the most part. The use of quotes from the actual Ten Commandments shows the time and energy put into conceiving, piecing together, and executing a trailer like this. I can't help but be continually amazed at the expertise and dedication of fans.
I want to thank Siddiq Bello from Turner Broadcasting, one of our partners here in the Convergence Culture Consortium, for passing along this really interesting example of the power of fan-generated content and the abilities of a remix culture--
YouTube has become a vibrant outlet for fan-generated content. (You can even find a video of my managerial services at work in a Universal Championship Wrestling pro wrestling card in Owensboro, Ky., filmed by someone in the audience and posted on YouTube.) A recent example, and this is a real kick of nostalgia for those of you from the He-Man generation like me, but YouTube features The Skeletor Show, which creators describe as "a heartwarming story of the most evil man in the universe" made "in the style of Sealab 2021."
The episodes, usually about three or four minutes in length, use visuals from the original Masters of the Universe cartoons to create a show from the perspective of the antagonist, Skeletor. The series is going to be in line with most fan-generated content, in that it becomes a community of creation based around the original product.
The initial creators say that, "for those of you who have written to me interested in writing, I am developing the show bible now and will have it available by next week (I hope)." I'm going to be interested in following The Skeletor Show over the next few weeks to see both if there is any negative reaction from any copyright holders and also to see if other fans join in on remixing footage from their childhood favorite. Yet another example of the power of the creativity of fan communities and how new tools help facilitate and spread that creativity.
Today's Metro here in Boston had a great story on Channel Frederator, which lists itself as "The World's Original Cartoon Podcast." The site, for "mature audiences only," produces cartoon programming for adults, a market that founder Fred Seibert feels remains unjustly underserved.
What's so interesting about the podcasted cartoons is that they not only produce their own work but also accept work from amateurs, which--if good enough--becomes distributed by Channel Frederator, making it a true community of production where the line between cultural producer and fan becomes a little hard to distinguish. The editorial function remains with the producers, who decide what does and what does not get distributed, but Channel Frederator seems to get that fans want content generated by them to not just be considered ancillary but to be featured as well, at least the best of it.
Amber Ray's story in the Metro, "Fan-cast-ic," mentions that some viewers of the site complains about the sometimes-amateurish quality of some of the fan-generated content, but the founder retorts by pointing out that the drawing quality of great animated series such as Beavis and Butthead and South Park does so on much less "beautiful" pictures as cartoons like Looney Tunes.
Fans can enter the contest via the film's website WelcomeToSilentHill.com where they will be able to download creative elements from the film (photography stills, title treatment and billing block) to create their own Silent Hill poster design. Deadline for entries is January 3, 2006 and all valid entries will be posted to WelcomeToSilentHill.com on January 4th for online and WAP site voting to begin.
On January 17th, 2006, TriStar Pictures will review the 50 posters with the most votes for a selection of five finalists. The finalists will be posted on January 20th and fans will cast their votes for the winner. TriStar will unveil the winning poster on February 22, which will then be displayed in theaters across the country prior to the release of the film.
It'll be interesting to see what kind of results they get out of this, both in terms of the poster and generating pre-release anticipation for the film.
Sounds like Burger King may be positioning itself as an early champion in the convergence of brand culture and fan culture: they're apparently getting a decent response to their new campaign, which encourages fans to create their own BK ads for Apple's video iPod.
Although less than a month old, the video iPod is fast becoming a new advertising vehicle. Burger King is dipping its toes in the water by partnering with Heavy.com to offer consumer-generated videos extolling its brand icon, 'The King.'
Burger King interactive shop WPP Group's VML in New York created the campaign in concert with Heavy.com, a youth-focused broadband video site that features a heavy dose of user-created content. Heavy.com sent out about 25 Burger King masks, created for Halloween by Crispin Porter + Bogusky of Miami, to the site's frequent contributors. It got back a dozen videos of The King in action, including one featuring him driving through a McDonald's drive-through wearing the mask and asking for Burger King menu items...
"It's more about giving people something they'll find value in, tying it back to 'have it your way,'" said Jessica Brown, media manager at VML.
MediaBuyerPlanner links to a MediaPost article about Geico's new website that asks consumers to submit short movies about the Geico gecko for a chance to win prizes. The article states that it "may be the first marketer generated effort to create a large-scale consumer generated media campaign promoting a brand." Geico's website can be found at http://goldengecko.com.
The article later mentions Adcandy.com, a website that features user-submitted ads and ad concepts. Wired has a story about the Adcandy website, calling it "open source advertising." Companies can subscribe to Adcandy and tap into what Adcandy calls the "collective unconscious of the public."
I'm wondering what motivates the people who submit entries. Geico and the companies who subscribe to Adcandy probably hope that the user-created ads they see are the result of customer evangelism - customers who love a product and want to spread the word. But does offering prizes or other incentives also encourage submissions by people who simply desire to win, and don't feel strongly about a particular product? Would those kinds of submissions still be helpful?