Co-Creation: Scott Walker at Transmedia Vancouver

Last week, the Transmedia Vancouver Meetup had our second guest speaker. Scott Walker was kind enough to Skype in from the LA area to talk to us about value co-creation with an audience and how it relates to transmedia storytelling. Value co-creation happens when you have an audience that loves your storyworld and wants to be a part of it. If you have a popular property -- like, say, Harry Potter -- your audience is going to do this no matter what you say: fan art, fanfiction, and more. What Scott suggests is that we embrace this fandom, and reward those who produce good work based on our story properties.

Rather than leave these audience creations to places like deviantart and fanfiction.net, bring them back to your own communities. Showcase the highest-quality entries as a reward for those who produce them and to give incentive for others; if the work fits into your established canon, even label audience works as canon and bring them into your story.

Scott emphasized that audience value co-creation and transmedia storytelling are separate things, and not necessarily tied to each other. However, he sees them as working very well with each other, and sharing some of the same values. A transmedia storyworld is about a deeper engagement with the story, and it already embraces the multiple media that audience creations might use. There's also often an emphasis on rewarding the engaged audience and bringing them deeper into the story -- allowing them to add to your story, and rewarding them for doing so, is a perfect way to do this.

A few interesting points came up in the course of this discussion.

Rewarding Contributors: There's some sense that some fans are going to create content for a story they're engaged in, and that recognizing it and even canonizing it is a great reward for that audience. But one begins to wonder -- if you're getting a lot of content produced by your audience and posting it as part of your project, are they going to be satisfied with "credit"? At some point, are they not going to want real compensation for their hard work, especially if you're profiting from it?

One potential solution may be some kind of revenue sharing -- if, for example, you've collected a series of short stories to add to your canon, you could release an anthology, and share the revenue from that with the various contributors.

This also brings up the question of rights -- who owns the rights to the content your audience submits? This needs to be extremely clear before your audience begins to submit.

And always be careful to treat your audience well -- people who feel betrayed by a property they loved not only stop being customers, but may also stop others from being customers by spreading the bad word.

Can't Create in a Vacuum: The other big point that I took away from the discussion was that an audience can't create content in a vacuum -- or too that you won't get content from an audience that doesn't exist.

People respond creatively when there's something to respond to. First this means that you need an established audience before you can ask for submitted content. It also means that you need to continue to create content for an audience to continue to respond to -- putting something out and then asking for audience creations and then waiting probably isn't going to get you the kind of response you want.

Develop your audience first, and then continue to provide them with creative stimulus.

As we discovered last week, a back-and-forth discussion is much more engaging than a block of content on its own.

You can watch a recording of the livestream of last week's meetup with Scott Walker at livestream.com/silverstring. Thanks, Scott! For more, check out his Digital Book World articles on value co-creation, here and here.