Data Management in the Magical World of Transmedia
By Frank Huerta | March 21, 2014
These days there’s no shortage of devices on which consumers can view and digest media. This array of platform engagement hasn’t gone unnoticed by the media and entertainment industry as content developers and marketing moguls rush to capitalize on the myriad of ways to reach consumers.
One way to do this is with Transmedia. Transmedia storytelling uses multiple media platforms to weave together one cohesive narrative. The collaborative nature of Transmedia adds richness to the story whereby each piece contributes to a larger plot.
What’s So Great About Transmedia?
Transmedia is particularly effective for reaching multiple demographics based on their interests, thereby increasing a project’s fan base. Whether it’s comics, video games, mobile apps or film, each product can function as a standalone story experience, or come together to create one multi-faceted and complete engagement experience. With transmedia the opportunity for content creation is endless, extending the lifetime of a project and creating added value.
Both the commercial and grassroots expansion of narrative universes contribute to a new mode of storytelling, one which is based on an open-ended expanse of information which is put together differently by various groups and processed collectively by social networks and online communities.
While transmedia is a great avenue for entertainment franchises looking to capitalize on new technology, content creators will need to take inventory on how they are keeping the generated content in synch across multiple platforms. Not only does the content created by developers need to be effectively managed, but these types of projects also produce large sets of consumer data. With the expectation of active participants, content creators need to address subscription management and location challenges to deliver a more seamless user experience.
The Multitude of Challenges Accompanying Data Management
Implementing new technology platforms brings challenges for any industry and transmedia is no exception. Picture the following scenario: This season’s most anticipated sci-fi show is going to incorporate transmedia at every level. Executive management believes that in order for this new pilot to be a success, fans will need to be actively engaged from the start and transmedia is the way to achieve this type of interactive experience. With this decision comes the challenge of effectively implementing a cross-market vehicle to ensure a satisfying customer experience.
First, the very act of creating multiple platforms that cohesively form a single story means that the massive amount of data generated needs to be up-to-date and accessible by content developers working on the individual pieces. Secondly, with potentially millions of viewers actively using the different platforms, the challenge of subscription database management needs to be addressed. How do you ensure that all users have access to each medium? Lastly, this type of fan interaction provides a veritable gold mine of valuable analytic data for the marketing team to utilize to enhance viewership and revenue.
All Together Now
The reality is that many disparate departments have a vested interest in different pieces of the transmedia puzzle. For each group – programmers, designers, production teams and management – the crux of the issue is ensuring synchronized content.
As content developers generate terabytes of data, associated metadata, or the data about data, is also created, allowing computer systems to synchronize matching files. This metadata can include file name, size, path and encryption keys – all subsets of a larger data set. Without it, keeping content in synch and up-to-date would be impossible.
Metadata is a crucial component to controlling larger data sets comprising video files, music and photos – all of which go into a successful transmedia project – and the industry is primed for a solution that simplifies the management of the growing volume of unstructured data.
The Expanding Fan Universe
The most common approach to media projects involves a single point of entry. For example, a TV show broadcast in-home reaches the audience, but leaves a host of potential revenue markets untapped. With the more holistic approach of transmedia, fans can watch a show at home or online, download the mobile app for bonus content, purchase an accompanying graphic novel, or log in to play an associated video game to enhance their interaction. This strategy is gaining popularity and many studio executives are eager to enable access to a franchise from a host of endpoints.
When a fan of a franchise streams a show online, uses a show’s mobile app or downloads its graphic novel, he or she submits subscription data that is added to an online community. As additional endpoints are added to the franchise, that studio or network must determine how best to track and manage these invaluable revenue sources.
On the backend, as a fan interacts with these various platforms, user data is collected via subscriptions that must be securely recorded, stored, analyzed and managed. Integral to the core of any production cycle should be user data management and analysis. By distributing this data via the Cloud or local servers, network or studio teams are able to access data that can then be analyzed as soon as the project is launched, providing real-time insight into what works and what doesn’t.
Data, Data, Everywhere
After all the proper steps have been taken and a transmedia project is ready for launch, success will be measured based on actual user interaction, accessibility and functionality. If the studio doesn’t consider these key elements from its inception, consumers won’t be able to access online databases for registration and login creating an unsatisfactory user experience.
To avoid this, media companies need to consider new approaches that permit them to deliver content to users from anywhere in the world. As subscription data continues to grow, ensuring global access to data is one way to deliver a satisfying user experience while shielding the project from outages or synchronization issues. Today, storing metadata in a geographically distributed relational database management system can prevent these types of issues.
Improving Resiliency by Decentralizing Data
New technologies provide a means to transition data to a geographically distributed relational database management approach, whereby organizations can store data across nodes based on usage, policy and geography. Unlike traditional database infrastructures where capacity and performance are increased by ‘scaling up’, this new approach does so by ‘scaling out.’ These nodes create a compute fabric that places data closer to the user and provides increased resiliency.
Additionally, these systems automatically store data across nodes and deliver information when and where it’s needed. Information is replicated across multiple nodes to ensure availability and if a node fails, users are re-routed to other nodes so that productivity doesn’t diminish. Nodes can then be easily added and databases scaled-out during the height of production, and quickly reduced as production wraps, making this approach ideal for organizations with fluctuating production schedules.
Transmedia and Beyond
Successful collaborative projects, such as those inspired by transmedia, require technology infrastructure that accommodates global accessibility and support. Savvy companies looking to capitalize on transmedia are in need of new database solutions that enable content delivery that is consistent, highly available and accurate, while ensuring consumer accessibility and ease-of-use.
As this shift in the entertainment industry moves towards more collaborative, cross-platform projects, it’s clear that traditional database solutions don’t provide content creators, studios and production companies with the technology necessary to leverage the economics and efficiencies of transmedia and the metadata it produces. A fluid, robust database solution that addresses the needs of all involved parties in a transmedia project is the next phase in data delivery that will provide a heightened fully immersive user experience.
About the Author:
Frank Huerta is CEO and co-founder of TransLattice, where he is responsible for the vision and strategic direction of the company. Prior to TransLattice, he was co-founder and CEO of Recourse Technologies. Recourse was purchased by Symantec Corporation, and Mr. Huerta then served as a vice president at Symantec. Previously, he was the director of business development for Exodus Communications where he focused on mergers and acquisitions. Mr. Huerta also held positions at VeriFone, Seagate Software and Hughes Aircraft.
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