The best parts of the meeting with Jesse Soleil were the aaaaaahh moments as he let us in on some company secrets.
When you look at any content that we have online, we are each trying to tell stories; his story, her story, my story, our story, their story etc. These stories take many forms; poems, lengthy blog posts, satire, case studies and many more meaning that each one of us content creators are in the business of storytelling. Even the great people behind the incredible WordPress blogging platform say that “CODE IS POETRY”. Now that we all agree that content is storytelling, let’s get into it…
At the top of the hour, Soleil had mentioned that when dealing with technology, it is always important and in fact critical to listen to what your audience is saying. Later on in the conference, he came back to that very important point, listening to the audience. In the design of our stories, Soleil advices us to always have within that design the flexibility to adjust the story based on feedback from our audience. He warns against the passive kind of writing that tries to relegate the audience into voiceless consumers of content who cannot be part of the story. Instead, he urges us to find ways of making our stories as interactive as possible.
On that note, I am happy to note that at the Princess Project, we actually invite readers to send in ideas of where they expect or want the story to develop.
Soleil gave us the classic example of Lost, the famous TV Series that at one time featured on Kenyan TV. The great, successful, and often weird development that lost has become was not what even the screen writers had in mind when it all started. If you have ever watched lost before, then you understand what a puzzle the whole series is. That is the reason I stopped watching it but that is also the same reason millions of people watch it. But according to Soleil, this whole puzzle that Lost has been by design. According to Soleil, the screen writers behind any story must have enough free reign to create their story and that is what the writers behind lost had.
The Lost screen writers apparently would throw into the series so many things but would then monitor the buzz around the internet. They had a big team of people and if I am not mistaken, I heard the number 100 being floated as the team responsible for monitoring conversations about lost around the internet. They developed a structure that allowed them to listen to the things that people found interesting and tune them up and also watched which storylines people were not responding too and tone them down. Basically, they were using what people responded to write the story for the next series.
His message was that a good story must be driven by your ability to manage what your audience is saying.
The design of the story is usually the most important thing. In the design stage, we need to ask ourselves the following:
A good story is designed. Soleil advises that you give your audience only the tip and let them ask questions. It is an Iceberg. In stories, there are nuances, white space, and flexibility. If you give everybody everything, why would they come back? So in the design of the story, your audience becoming part of the story is very important. You cannot plan a lot of things especially the reactions from interactions with your story but you could plan for it. You can give people just enough to tempt them to choose sides, adopt ideologies to align themselves with etc. Lastly, make sure that you create a design that allows us to be flexible, that costs little and that can work across platforms – webisodes, Mobisodes, gaming, toys, movies, books etc.
With design of the story in place, the questions we need to ask are?
If you intend to make money from content, it is imperative that these questions are answered satisfactorily. Soleil advised us that when it comes to the design of content, hyper target. Once you have your core audience, start playing with idea of monetization of the content. Decide whether you will charge people to read, to download, or whether get money primarily from ads and sponsorship. Whatever the decision, do not just jump into it. Test it first. When content is free, people pay for your content with their time and that is worth something. It is the first step. Then ascertain whether they will give you their money. Test whether people can pay for e.g. for the second chapter, for 10 minutes more gaming time, for premium access etc. If 1 person in 100 pays, put that down and use it as the initial conversion rate, the baseline to work with going forward.
Should I mention the importance of analytics in this?