Commentators love telling us that we're living in the age of content overload. It only takes a quick glance at any Comic Con lineup to see how that may be true -- from TV fan favourites to video game franchises, cult-like movies and, of course, the originators of much of the content on show, book authors and comic artists-- the glut of content on offer is enough for any fan to break out in sweats just contemplating the ordeal of planning their weekend. At a time when our smartphones are cluttered with an average of anywhere between 20 and 43 apps (depending on what research you read). how are we really juggling those Netflix binge marathons with chasing phantom Pokemon and reading the latest James Patterson thriller? Are we making conscious decisions on how we split our media consumption time or is it a free-for-all loudest-marketing-buzz wins for our collective attention?
The truth is that no one cares -- at least no one that isn't the producer of said content trying to earn a living off it. From a fan's perspective, the remarkable shift of the last decade has been in the convergence of media. We've already seen film, music, TV, games, and books all fold beautifully into that singular device we carry on our persons at all times. The platform has already unified, but even more so, the lines between the various media are blurring as well. For over ten years I designed and produced video games and the holy grail of game-making was creating linear and non-linear narratives that engaged the gamer on an emotional level in response to game developers' obsession with the question: Can games make you cry? As I shifted industries and delved deeper into the world of book publishing, I saw the authors of hugely personal, touching, emotional works of fiction exploring ways to enhance the format of the book to give the reader agency and create a more 'interactive' experience. Straddling both these worlds, it is easy to see that these two sets of content creators with their vastly different dynamics were both aiming for the same end product, just simply approaching it from opposing ends.
More practically speaking, the marketplace for the content has also unified. Whether you're on iOS, Android, or even any of the lesser platforms, the platform app store is the singular storefront for your content regardless of what media box it sits in. The monumental task today for any creator is how to compete, not just within their format, but across content types as well.
To solve this great challenge facing digital media we have to look to the offline world. Word of mouth remains the number one means of building a user base. and curation, that buzzword-de-jour, relies almost entirely on the personal, human recommendation. At the heart of this are the communities -- whether it's fans of a TV show joined by a hashtag on Twitter, a guild of gamers, or a book club that meets once a month, this is where our marketing efforts should focus as we look to create ripple effects with our content.
Though not without their own growing pains, the digital evolution has been kinder to films, TV, music and, naturally, video games. It is the book industry today that is looking to evolve its very offline habits and compete effectively for consumers' attention.
Book publishers would do well to start with the existing nucleus for the reader community: Book clubs-- which are as old as reading --offer better understanding and engagement with key reading influencers online and off. Reaching out across the media verticals to, say, film clubs and gamer communities, already familiar with book worlds and characters through adaptations, the cross-sell potential multiplies and consumers are rewarded with the joy of more effective content discovery than the algorithms of the Internet and AppStores currently offer.
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