Story Tellers, Super Powers And Second Lives

Quick Read: For the first time in the history of story telling we seem to be having the means to explore the dimensions of *actual* time and space in building narratives. Story telling might just be at an inflection point.

Andrew Stanton while talking about The Clues to a Great Story quotes an incredibly insightful definition of what constitites drama.

Drama is anticipation mingled with uncertainty.” 

Now, while keeping the uncertainty element constant, what if you can build anticipation at the rate of actual human experience?

Wouldn’t the drama get amplified?

Let’s elaborate.

World’s Most Boring Television 

Stick a camera to an ordinary train on an ordinary day. Shoot the entire 7 hr + footage of this ordinary journey as the train pulls from station to station, and put it on national TV with almost no editing.

Sounds like the most boring television show in the history of mankind. Right?

Wrong.

The results of this Norwegian TV show were extra-ordinary, fascinating and even bizarely insightful.

Welcome to the world of ‘Slow TV‘.

What began as a pilot by the Norwegian TV producer Thomas Hellum and his team turned out to become a national phenomenon leading to more shows such as an 18 hour fishing expedition, a 5.5 day ferry voyage along the coast of Norway and many more.

These went on to receive extensive attention in global media, and were considered a great success with coverage numbers exceeding all expectations and record ratings for the NRK2 channel!

But why were these ostensibly boring shows so popular?

To paraphrase Thomas Hellum from the following must watch TED Talk..

Slow TV is so popular because it builds drama by letting the viewer make the story themeslves. 

In otherwords Slow TV is an amazing example of a narrative that rides on building anticipation at the rate of actual human experience in time.

Not to be left behind, the advertising/marketing world has also begun to experiment with the concept.

Virgin America has produced a six-hour-long commercial (!) about how unbearably dull the average plane ride is. The video shows passengers on a flight across the US, playing out its events in real time.

And it has clocked around 850K views till date!

Now moving over to the other dimension.

A New Photographic Language Is Born 

..so says dronestagram – an instagram for footage shot with dones. We even have drone film festivals celebrating the art of films shot with drones.

Meanwhile, YouTube this year has begun supporting 360 degree videos.  And we already see several brands experimenting with this format to create truly amazing ads like the one below by Nike that lets you be Neymar on the field as you check out the action in all its 360 degree glory.

And then you have the likes of Oculus and Google Cardboard pushing the envelope in bringing immersive VR experiences to life. The Economist in its recent feature has in fact taken a serious take on VR and believes that its time may have truly come.

This year the Tribeca Film Festival has even called for ‘virtual reality’ submissions.

So why are we raving about films shot with drones, 360 degree videos and VR experiences?

It is possibly because they all have one thing in common.

Thanks to these, for the first time ever, we see possibilities in constructing narratives that can build anticipation at the rate of actual human experience in space

So what’s next?

From Story Telling To Crafting Experiences To Creating Parallel Lives

As story tellers build increasingly immersive narratives that progress at the rate of actual human expereince in time and space, it ceases being just a story and moves on to becoming an experience.

Now throw in sensory elements to this and you suddently have multi dimensional multi sensory experiences that could possibly shift the business of story telling to that of building parallel realms of existence.

What does that mean?

I don’t know.

But at the least it could herald a second life for the likes of Second Life.

(Featured Image, Source)

Selfies And The Art Of Sky Diving

Quick Read: Selfies as a mode of expression via pictures, videos or 3D shapes is gaining main stream traction. GoPro is a fascinating company that took an unmet ‘selfie need’ and expanded it to encompass newer grounds with great success, while gaining a cult like status.   

It is believed that Robert Cornelius took the first ever selfie in the year 1839. 

Ever since then, over the span of  175 years, the humble selfie has evidently made spectacular inroads into our popular culture. Today we see world leaders, hollywood celebrities, protesters in police vans and even the Pope having all smiles for the selfie. No wonder then, today we have:

In fact – given our recent advancements in 3D printing – it is inevitable that we even have the 3D printed selfie today!

twinkind_window_5126(3D Selfies. Source, TWINKIND)

According to this paper, while selfies have been called different names like  a symptom of social media-driven narcissisma way to control others’ images of usa new way not only of representing ourselves to others, but of communicating with one another through images, or even as the masturbation of self-image, the one that stands out the most for me is the concept of selfie as a device to control others’ images of us. 

This primal urge to control others’ image of us seemed to have proven to be a gold mine for a company that is now on its way to a hotly anticipated IPO. Think Video Selfies. And think about all the exciting activities like surfing, skiing, snowboarding, auto racing, river rafting, sky diving etc. And you get the picture.

Hang on. Did we just say ‘Video Selfie’?

GoPro

2002. On a surfing trip to Australia, Nick Woodman wanted to take a selfie. Albeit with a twist. He wanted to capture quality action photos of his surfing. Having met with limited success, his desire for a camera that could capture him surfing in ‘professional angles’ started to take shape. And thus the name ‘GoPro’ was born for his company that would subsequently go on to sell small, waterproof, wearable cameras that you can use while doing exciting stuff.

GoPro-surfing-longboard-600x400(How to take kickass selfies with GoPro. Source)

Today GoPro makes what it calls ‘smaller, lighter, mightier still’ HD video cameras with a 170-degree angle view under their line up of HERO series to capture and produce high quality content along with an entire ecosystem of mounts, accessories, software and applications.

But what makes GoPro an extremely fascinating brand is the street cred that it earned for itself as an unconventional media company. Sample these..

The GoPro Ad: Instead of advertising, the company aggressively hands out GoPro cameras to extreme athletes asking them to simply shoot and bring back their footage. A small in house team then edits the footage, slaps a hip sound track, throws in the GoPro logo and boom – A stunning free GoPro Ad! (Interestingly – given the versatility of the GoPro camera – a lot of footage that they get from users is so astounding that people are known to insist it had to be fake.)

GoPro on YouTube: GoPro’s YouTube channel ranks among the top 100 with nearly 2 million subscribers and 455 million views of its 1600+ videos posted till date. In fact as per this article, the number of videos with “GoPro” in the title has grown so much—60 percent from 2012 to 2013—that watching 2013’s crop alone would take you 2.8 years. Reportedly GoPro is expected to make about $1.7 million per year from its YouTube channel alone.

The GoPro Channel: In CES 2014, GoPro announced plans to unleash its unique brand of action sport videos on Xbox Live for both the Xbox One and 360. In fact, Virgin America inflight entertainment system already lists this channel that features curated GoPro content where users will also be able to purchase GoPro products directly online.

Expanding cultural footprint of GoPro’s media content: GoPro has strategically carved an outsized cultural footprint for itself by being part of several high points in recent history. Take the recent opening ceremony of the Sochi Olympics, where many athletes were seen filming themselves with GoPros or Felix Baumgartner‘s record-breaking jump from 128,100 feet for the Red Bull Stratos mission. Chances are that you must have seen the footage filmed by one or more of the seven HD GoPro cameras used in the mission.

(GoPro Super Bowl Ad 2014 featuring the Red Bull Stratos mission)

GoPro, Apple and Red Bull: While some observers see GoPro as a company that clearly wants to create a kind of ecosystem, similar to that of Apple, with a devoted fan base addicted to its hardware and software and a thriving core of creators and consumers, there are also those that think, GoPro could make for a new sort of hybrid company, the way Red Bull is both a drink maker and powerful media brand.

Jason Stein, founder of Laundry Service, a digital media agency in New York even says:

“Red Bull has become this media entity, created around the lifestyle of people who drink Red Bull, GoPro is doing the same, but the reason I think they have more potential is that their product is an actual media device.”

Hence analysts expect that GoPro could create revolutionary possibilities in content creation and consumption in the days to come. This article even speaks about a future possibility where the company could sign agreements with sports leagues to place GoPros within the games. So when you tune into your NBA or NFL or IPL, imagine getting a live feed from whichever player you want!

Beyond Hardware

Evidently the GoPro story is no longer about a hardware maker that had captured two-thirds of U.S. sales and 45 percent of the global pie of the pocket digital camcorder segment (source).

It’s about software and experiences. It’s about enabling awesome creative expression and adrenaline packed content production – the non traditional way. It’s about brilliant marketing that is inspired by this unique culture. All borne out of one key human need – to be able to influence other’s image of us by showcasing those fleeting experiences and moments that (we think) could define us.

Like perhaps a selfie.

The Goldfish Conundrum

The fact that Google has introduced ‘skippable pre-roll’ ads on YouTube is nothing new.  In fact nearly an year ago, it has also started to enable the same for mobile users.

skippable-youtube-ad-mobile

Three obvious things that stand out for me from these ‘skippable, pre-roll ads’ are:

(1) Permission Marketing: By placing these ads right at the beginning of the actual video and enabling the viewer full freedom to skip if necessary, YouTube has acknowledged the importance of gaining viewer permission (a.k.a a commitment of her attention span) before bombarding her with any message. This disincentives attention abuse by advertisers.  [Seth Godin must have said – I Told You So” 😉 ]

(2) Soft Wired: Understandably these ‘pre-roll ads’ are not ‘hard wired’ to the video ; meaning, YouTube can dynamically mix and match an ad to a video based on algorithms / user preferences / browsing history / relevance and advertiser criteria, with an objective to maximise advertiser revenues.  This disincentives lack of relevance of the spots to the viewer/ viewer context.

(3) The 5s litmus test: This is the most interesting implication for me. Irrespective of the length of the pre-roll ads (which typically are 15s or 30s), any ad is given a golden period of 5s within which it can either capture the attention of the viewer or fail at it (for various reasons) resulting in the ad getting skipped. This disincentives lack of the grip factor in the ad – by way of production values/ story / narrative etc. 

Not surprisingly, as a result, we now see many of these ads desperately trying to shock / awe / seduce  or lure us into seeing the full spot during the first few seconds of the roll. The fascinating thing for me however is this 5s mark that YouTube has set for itself and advertisers.  But why 5s?

Well,  as it turns out, we human beings are currently rated as a species with one of the lowest levels of attention spans. For eg., see the following table that compares the worsening of our attention spans and contrasts it with that of the Goldfish’s! (source of data)

The average attention span in 2012 8 seconds
The average attention span in 2000 12 seconds
The average attention span of a gold fish 9 seconds

Call it ADD (Attention Deficit Disorder) or Information Overload or Infobesity, it’s almost an intuitive thinking now that our attention spans are plummeting. As a result, today:

  • Movie trailers are getting insanely faster.
  • We now have movie tweasers: (A tweaser is a six-second teaser for a 20-second teaser for a two-minute teaser for a 2:32-length theatrical trailer for a feature-length movie. source)
  • Vine from twitter is capped at 6s (tweasers are hosted on vine)
  • And then we have delightful ‘marketoons’ like the one below:

130902.shortattention

(source and inspiration for this blog: Tom Fishburne)

Obviously, this only reinforces the fact that we are living in an Attention Economy – where attention has become a scarce commodity.

On a related note, you should read this amazing post titled – The Scarcest Resource You Don’t Even Know You Are Spendinghere. And do check out this though provoking video.

From the above two observations viz.,

  • We tend to be ruthless in our attention spans when it comes to consumption of entertainment /information.
  • We are given only a limited number of ‘attention bits’ to spend in our life time. …

…the insight for me here is that.,,

whilst proving ourselves to be (penny) wise in terms of how we exercise our ‘attention spans’ for certain tasks like say – media consumption, we sometimes tend to be (pound) foolish when it comes to expending this very resource for things that have far reaching implications in our lives like learning, decision making, productivity, interpersonal interaction etc.

Something for us to ponder and reflect upon?

h-armstrong-roberts-boy-leaning-head-on-hand-staring-at-lone-goldfish-in-fishbowl

(Image Source)