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Oct 30 2014

Digital Innovation and the Future of Storytelling: A New Golden Age?


By Bill Kanarick

Read the story on WIRED


The media world was taken by surprise when HBO -- and subsequently CBS -- announced they will allow consumers to bypass traditional pay TV distributors to access entertainment content directly via the Internet. This move was seen as both validation of and a direct challenge to Netflix, whose rapid growth has dramatically changed the way consumers experience entertainment content.

How far we’ve come. Sixty years ago broadcast television was a game-changing technological platform that provided a unique opportunity for creative talent to experiment with new forms of storytelling. And, the programming that emerged became a part of our cultural fabric -- with families gathering around the living room TV set to experience stories that were later shared in hallway and telephone conversations by kids and adults throughout the nation.

Today, this era of broadcast television is remembered with nostalgia as a Golden Age. Yet, we at SapientNitro believe that today’s “digital, always-on” world is a new Golden Age that once again presents a unique opportunity to pioneer new forms of storytelling. While technology is creating opportunities to change the way stories get created, experienced and shared, the story itself has been and always will be what connects us.

For instance, while HBO battles for market share by expanding the means by which it connects with consumers, they and many of their competitors will continue to change the way we consume stories -- as Netflix has done by negotiating the simultaneous release of new films in both theaters and streaming with the latest installment of Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon and with a four-picture deal with Adam Sandler. Still, these moves are only the tip of the iceberg of what is possible to harness the power of digital technology to enhance the way we create, experience and share stories.

Consumers now dominate the content creation process -- with more new content posted in one month on YouTube than was created by the three major television networks in the past 60 years. The challenge for storytellers is to figure out how best to tap into this content to tell stories and engage consumers in the process of storytelling.

Non-linear and cross media, or trans media, story forms are another area being explored. The video game industry is in the lead here with extensive experience allowing audiences to choose their path through creative content -- and also by extending the story beyond the game to feature films and other media.

Virtual reality is another tool that can transform the way we experience stories. The possibilities of Oculus Rift and Google Glass are just now being explored -- but the potential to enable someone who may otherwise never have the chance to experience the World Series or a Beyoncé concert or tour the Louvre as if they were there -- is extraordinary.

And finally, the impact of mobile technology to change the way we experience the world around us is already well established but still in its early days. Mobile is already transforming the way people experience sporting events and shop at retail -- but so much more is possible. And, mobile is also emerging as a second screen to complement the consumption of content on another device.

This is the opportunity we all have in front of us: to redefine storytelling for an always-on world. It is a new Golden Age with an ever-changing set of disruptive technologies that offer creative talent the opportunity to try new things and figure out what works.

Looking ahead, the winning brands will be those who are best able to harness the power of these technologies to create and share stories that strengthen the connection with their audiences.

I had the opportunity to interview boundary-breaking actor, director, screenwriter and producer Kevin Spacey at our recent SapientNitro Idea Exchange in New York, where we spoke about the relationship between content and platforms:


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