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SXSWi: Interactive Narratives

This was just cool. And in my quest for a way to marry my love of writing and telling stories, with a way to make a living, this is fabulously appealing. In the session called “Interactive Narratives: Creating the Future of Storytelling" the panel discussed something incredibly cool: telling a multi-threaded story across social mediums to build an interactive experience between author and audience.

The similarities to both LARPing and fanfic are stark, and incredibly fascinating. I’m still organizing my thoughts about this, but it’s basically taking the kinds of things that fan groups have organically done and doing it in a structured way for either artists (as a simple narrative format, such as literature) or brands (as marketing entertainment).

The idea is to take a story, ideally one that is capable of standing on it’s own, and publishing it via one medium (e.g. a blog), and then to have interactive ‘sidebar’ stories that branch off as stand alone subplots around it, via alternate mediums — Facebook characters, Twitter interactions, text messaging, a smart phone app, etc. If each piece can stand alone (which is quite a feat of story architecture) while also contributing to the larger story as a whole, while also soliciting and incorporating audience feedback into the process, then you’ve basically got a whole new real time literary construct.

This is not dissimilar to what my friend Ryan from righteousMENACE and I talked about doing, but it was great to hear some specific examples of how it worked, and to see the test case that the panel constructed.

Very cool stuff. And the absolute embodiment of why SXSW is a constant source of pleasant surprises.


In a Sunday session called “Shopping as a Revolutionary Act" I got a pleasant surprise. It’s something I wasn’t previously familiar with that now I want to dig into more: Vendor Relationship Management.

This is the inverse of CRM (Customer Relationship Management). The idea being that instead of vendors relying on collecting data from customers, that customers own their own data (increasingly relevant issue) and that they can provide it to vendors so that the vendors can use self-selected data to provide the consumer with a more meaningful experience.

This concept constantly makes me think of Hulu’s ad voting functionality. I always vote on commercials for Hulu. For some people that might seem strange, but for me it’s logical. I’d rather give Hulu the feedback they need to serve me commercials that might be relevant to me, rather than ones that I find horrific to have to watch.

However, on many, many occasions, I’ve thought about how much I would prefer if Hulu had a preferences page in my profile where I could set my advertising preferences with as much detail as I have the stomach to manage. This would be particularly helpful, because then instead of just saying “Yes” to a Petsmart commercial, I could say “Yes” to the dog Petsmart commercial and “No” to the cat Petsmart commercial.

I would imagine that this could have some interesting potential for Hulu (and similar companies) as well, because it would give them the ability to go to advertisers and say, “We have X users who have deliberately opted-in to commercials about Y.” I would think this would be a valuable sales opportunity for them.

Even more valuable, is that Hulu could do this and then lead the way in the VRM space. If they allowed me to export my advertising preferences into a generic/standard format, I could then import them into VRM and then be able to re-use it elsewhere.

One of the most interesting things that came up in the session was when the CEO of Shwowp said that, in her attempt to raise funding for her business, Angels and VCs listened to the concept and sort of shrugged with a general disinterest… yet large brands and marketers were salivating.

This is particularly interesting to me because it tells me that the marketing/advertising side of the world recognizes that in a world where people with money are increasingly able to insulate themselves from advertising (one of the most interesting long-term affects of the freemium business model, IMO), there is huge, huge value to people who are upfront about what advertising they consider worth getting.

This makes a huge amount of sense to me, and is something that I want to brush up on some more, because I find it incredibly interesting. After all, not only would I rather get served a commercial from Petsmart than from Gerber, but I would think that Gerber would rather not waste CPM fees on me, and that Petsmart would like to know that I’m a high income dog mom who doesn’t like cats and who is willing to spend insane amounts of money on her Shih Tzu.

So why are Angels and VCs too short-sighted to see that?

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