The MIT Convergence Culture Consortium recently held a conference on The Futures of Entertainment (periodic PGP Classic Soap Blog contributor Sam Ford wrote about it here).
Here is an excerpt from a discussion about "Franchising, Extensions and Worldbuilding" as it pertains to soap operas:
IA: How do you manage the "layers of interactivity" to keep a spectrum of interested viewers/users (i.e., from "just" watching, to full participation in ARGs, etc.)? Is one at the expense of the other? For instance - the NUMB3RS case where they started out with ARGs and then pulled back. So, are there strategies to balance things and make it satisfying for the hardcore and accessible for everyone else?
LW: We're looking at a new project, 4-6 minute episodes with rabbit holes where you can drop off for other micronarratives. The episodes are beginning, middle and end and the other bits are like achievements you get in gaming. So when you're on you let people drill down if you want to and have some degree of discovery, see what your friends are doing as far as that goes... so as we script it out, you can go off and say "this is something we can play with," but the challenge is remembering "here's the through line of the story." The most interesting part is that sometimes that comes from where the hardcore audience will be. So you set the tone and the rules of what the story world is, and then... when you empower some of those hardcore fans, they start to bridge some of those gaps. Then how do you best mine that? In some cases they reach out and bring in people who are totally new, like from MySpace where there isn't really an ARG community. Alpha fans quickly turn other people. So I'm leaving room for the audience to participate within the world I'm creating with the idea that then they'll bring other people in and hopefully bridge the gaps. You have the passive viewing experience, but the easier it is for someone to catch up - we've joked about putting together compressed reels so they can see all the images down and putting them to music. But - what is the audience really interested in?
GH: We typically try to do something in the campaign, a "chronicle," so you can get one big overview of everything that's going on. Whether that's a website or whatever. Lance is talking about expansion, but what we're talking about is finding a way for people to just pop in - so we try to build a tool that feels like it's in the story.
TC: This reminds me of when there were webisodes that you had to watch on one show in order to understand what was going on with the show. (Ed note: Tom Casiello is referring to the ATWT/Y&R cross-over web-series.) It was required viewing, which was a problem - older viewers didn't like it. But if it's not required...
GH: It has to do a lot with the type of fan. With your hard core fans, you could not go deep enough. I always think about Star Wars and its incredible depth. But whatever you say about the last 3 films people don't have to drill down to understand them, they don't have to know that so and so's armor is Maldorian or whatever.
SR: And you have to put yourself in the mindset of several kinds of viewers. This is where the internet can help. You have to design a website that doesn't scream total immersion - the last thing that you want to do is shame a viewer that doesn't want to be an immersive fan. You have to enable people to not be totally immersive because you don't want to alienate them. But also - people want to share stories, want to hook their friends. You can use fans as an asset: how would you catch someone who's never watched the show before?
TC: I see this all the time on message boards! Someone says "watch this, it's really good right now," and the fans will do bullet points to catch people up.IA: Are there some genres/narrative styles that are best for transmedia? Ex: soaps haven't turned transmedia yet.
Would you like to see soaps tackles this sort of transmedia? Read the full article here, and let us know what you think in the Comments below.