How Your Storytelling Can Evolve in 2023
How audiences are finding and engaging with content continues to evolve, as story and story distribution platform features get increasingly innovative. Technology is powering new solutions to build stories and connect with audiences. Discover trends to pay attention to now, that will impact how storytelling evolves in 2023.
Artificial Intelligence to Accelerate Story Ideas and Their Creation
"Synthetic media and AI can power creative storytelling tools that help artists and creators to tell their stories in new and innovative ways” shares Joanna Popper - Chief Metaverse Officer at Creative Artists Agency.
From using AI to edit video with tools like descript, to AI converting text to video with solutions like Stable Diffusion, we can expect increased usage of AI-based tools for video content creation and even simply resolution quality improvement. I have already seen experiments that convert images to music, which hint at the possibilities of entire soundtracks being generated using AI.I have even been able to use OpenAI’s ChatGPT to generate synopsis for film and series ideas within seconds, based on text prompts. These tools have the power to further level the playing field for creators, as they can offer support that was previously inaccessible to many due to the costs of hiring all of the necessary talent and services. Content co-created with AI, such as creating versions of what a scene or character may look like, can be used to inspire artists and even to test with audience groups ahead of content being developed further.
Creators increasing their power over streamers, broadcasters and social media platforms
Creators that invest time in building community engagement with their personal brands, and their fiction or nonfiction worlds, have the potential to hold more power than the platforms distributing their content. With the ability to publish content directly on a growing number of platforms, creators have more choices when it comes to creative decisions through to how they will monetize their content. “Creators have more power now than they had in the past because they have stronger connections with their communities" explains Jim Louderback - author of the Inside the Creator Economy weekly newsletter on LinkedIn and responsible for leading the development of VidCon before its acquisition by Viacom. They are building "conversational and community first worlds'' and some creators are finding ways to build more direct communities with fans that go beyond one social media platform. Having one owned channel where audiences are driven to, such as a website that houses all touch-points, can help to not only diversify where fans engage, but also monetize the creator IP further. This can range from offering digital collectibles to training content. If you’re only on YouTube for example, Louderback warns that in essence YouTube owns your fans.
It is “important for brands to understand how storytelling happens on storytelling platforms… you can't just go in and spread your message around” explains Louderback. It is essential to create content that fits with the environment of each platform. IP holders can do this on their own, and there is also opportunity to partner with the right creators to expand existing story worlds into new platforms and communities. This can unlock new collaborations between the creators behind the IP, and those creators with strong social media communities. Jeff Greenspoon - President, Global Solutions at Dentsu highlights that the “new dynamic between brands and creators demands open and collaborative business models that put the consumer at the forefront.” After all, “watching entertainment and interacting with online content and social media …are intersecting more and more often, where we see many consumers, especially younger ones, carry out second-screen activities while they watch shows…or looking at the ‘buzz’ that is generated around content on channels like social media to determine what they should watch.” IP holders need to compete for share of voice on these channels as well, and doing this alongside creators can help.
Building communities and creator collaborations like these can help to unlock content funding. Co-creating content with community leaders can expand not only the reach of a story IP, but also the quantity of engaging content and value to funders - both the traditional content funders as well as brands eager to connect with communities in authentic and break-through ways beyond traditional advertising. With varying features across content platforms - from the ability to live stream, to the ability to use augmented reality to layer in environments and objects - it is a missed opportunity to not maximize what a story IP can bring to audiences across multiple touchpoints.
Evolving expectations of content
Audiences expectations around what content looks like and what they can do with it, are also evolving. Greenspoon explains that younger viewers in particular “make less distinctions between ‘high-’ and ‘low-production’ entertainment.” For example “Review shows and fan-generated content used to be seen as derivative offshoots, but now there is very much the expectation that content is created for community engagement and that it should be delivered to fans in a way that allows them to in turn create adjacent IP that helps generate awareness for the branded original.” Additionally, “there is the exponential growth of gaming which is informing the expectation that all content should have an interactive element to it, whether it’s gamifying user engagement or planning a full-on video game adaptations of the IP you are producing.”
This should offer further encouragement for story IP holders to experiment with building content for different platforms that the target communities are engaged with. With social media platforms offering features that allow for increased interactivity, as well as streamers like Netflix experimenting with interactive features, there is no doubt that audiences will increasingly expect that there are ways for them to engage with story worlds.
Further reduced barriers for content creation with spatial storytelling tools
Barriers to create and distribute content continue to decline, as access increases for tools that make building linear through to interactive and immersive story experiences even easier. These tools can empower new creators, as well as comfortably funded IP holders, to create story content that lives across multiple touchpoints.
Popper shares that when it comes to building experiences in spatial environments, platforms like Roblox and The Sandbox that require no-code or low-code to create on make it “easier to bring more creators into the ecosystem.” Even when talent are building stories or story worlds in collaboration with skilled technical creators, this makes it easier to experiment with and build big ideas. The Chainsmokers Concert Experience and world in Roblox called Festival Tycoon, developed by Gamefam reached over 24 million visits and became the all-time highest rated concert experience in Roblox. To reach an audience of this size, Popper estimates that it would have taken over a year plus on an arena tour. Talent “can connect in new compelling ways… and consider new ways to monetize, like digital merch.” These experiences can be effective uses of brand dollars for digital interactive fan experiences.
“3D is a big opportunity for IP holders”, shares Tom Emrich - Director of Product Management, 8th Wall at Niantic. When building out props, characters and more, investing in “3D assets for your IP can unlock a number of opportunities including using these online, in AR and VR experiences or as NFT digital collectibles, and even within traditional marketing such as print. If you are an IP holder, you should be devising a strategy around 3D content which should consider the multiple ways you can distribute and use this content to increase the return on this investment.”
For augmented reality, there are social media platform features that make it easy to layer into video content already. And web-based AR powered by platforms such as 8th Wall allow for audiences to engage with content simply by visiting a link on their browser. AR, Emrich shares, “can enhance and elevate traditional content. For TV and OTT, augmented reality can be used to bring the show beyond the television screen into the home of the viewer. For social media, AR can be used to give users new tools to add special effects to their content.”
Studios are using content developed in game engines for immersive experiences, games and linear content. Dan Fill - President of Dark Slope, highlights that this is helpful both for expanding what is possible with IP, as well as productions themselves. “Increasingly the Unreal Engine is becoming pervasive across all areas of the entertainment industry… we will be seeing more and more pre-visualization performed in VR, real time rendering and brand new production pipelines.”
Louderback believes that spatial content has the potential to “change the game for content” especially for younger audiences, disrupting multiple forms of linear and interactive entertainment. As he put it “the MrBeast of the metaverse probably just graduated the 8th grade…The metaverse is already here. Minecraft is here. It has a shared virtual space. Roblox is a shared virtual space where you can create, explore, share experiences and tell stories.”'
Consider this - as brands pour more dollars into supporting spatial experiences, that will impact the revenue streams for other traditional distribution platforms. Do not miss the opportunity to be everywhere your target communities are engaging.
*All art for this article, excluding the image from The Sandbox, was co-created with OpenAI’s DALL-E 2 - an AI system that can create realistic images and art from a description in natural language.