The future of content: discussions from the International Women in Digital Media Summit

futuristic image - from iStockPhoto.comWhere is digital content and storytelling headed? The International Women in Digital Media Summit (iWDMS) wrapped up yesterday with a number of discussions around this particular topic. In the morning, Tom Perlmutter, Government Film Commissioner and Chairperson, The National Film Board of Canada gave a keynote presentation on “The Digital Impact of Storytelling.”

Perlmutter started by explaining how technology is changing the way we tell and interact with stories. “The invention of film forced audiences to learn new conventions in storytelling and narrative. Today, navigation is to interactive as montage is to cinema,” said Perlmutter. “Interactive storytelling builds a new relationship with your audience through engagement. If cinema is about time, interactive is about space and movement.”

He argued that there are different storytelling principals in both art forms (cinema and interactive), and that narrative is important in both. “Cinematic work always exists at a point in time – the creative work itself is unchanged. Interactive allows for organic shifts in the narrative. There are ebbs and flows in the ways that audiences interact with the story,” he said.

Later in the day, a panel entitled “The Future of Content,” investigated how transmedia platforms are impacting audience participation and collaboration.

Nicoletta Iacobacci, Head of Interactive TV and Crossmedia, European Broadcasting Union (EBU) explained how the public broadcaster uses multiple platforms, including social media to produce socially responsible content. “We applied a Transmedia model to reach a broader community and positive actions from our audience,” said Iacobacci.

The EBU’s new model for content is now “PSM (public service media) leads to SRM (socially responsible media) – which inevitably leads to SRP (socially responsible people).” Iacobacci believes that “social media is gold for public service broadcasting. It’s a big opportunity to be exploited for social action.”

Tessa Sproule, Director of Interactive Content, CBC argued that “we don’t make TV anymore, we make experiences.” She described how the CBC has re-organized their divisions into “unscripted programming and scripted programming.” Digital is no longer a separate entity for the public broadcaster.

In reference to the CBC’s reality TV shows, Battle of the Blades and Cover Me Canada, Sproule explained that “the audience used to come to us out of habit. Whenever and however they wanted. The audience is now the network – the modern, social remote control. They’re also the content.”

She gave an example of how Erica Strange, the fictional character from the hit CBC TV show Being Erica, now has a Twitter profile on which she carries on a fictional conversation with another character, Julianne. The CBC emulated what the fans of Mad Men had done a few years earlier. In this case, the fans were actually the ones to create the fictional Twitter profiles for the characters. At first, the Mad Men producers wanted the fans to take the profiles down. But they soon realized the network opportunity for promoting the show.

“We have to listen to the audience in ways that you never had to do before. The audience is the most powerful collaborator in your story today,” said Sproule.

At the end of the day, a panel entitled “OMDC: Play” detailed the many programs happening in Ontario to support the success of digital content and media producers. Valerie Fox, Director at the Ryerson Digital Media Zone (DMZ) said that “large media companies are now coming to the Ryerson DMZ to learn from startups in the content and digital media space. They’re looking to collaborate on projects and try out new business models which might help them find new ways to make money.”

Likewise, Ana Serrano, Director of the New Media Lab at the Canadian Film Centre (CFC explained that “there is a huge trend towards the commodification of content. Now that much of the value of digital content is roughly that of a coffee bean, what’s missing is the Starbucks experience which distributes the content in a way that gets people to pay for it.” Serrano suggested that “perhaps this means that content producers need to become platform producers as well.”

Overall, the conference was a huge success – with many new ideas generated both for the future of digital media and for the success of the women who are working in the industry.

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Andrea Wahbe

Andrea Wahbe

Andrea Wahbe is a freelance B2B marketing strategist and corporate storyteller who has contributed to the growth of online media businesses in Canada, such as AOL and Google. By day, Andrea writes about digital media and marketing trends and tips for Canadian startups and SMEs. By night, she’s an analog book reader, master swimmer and experimental chef.  more

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