Sunday, December 18, 2011

What we are learning about digital publishing

Some of Our Story So Far

     As 2011 winds its way down, I am appreciating all of the accomplishments of the year. Over the last week, we have put the finishing touches on our second book in the O Story Story series. We have also submitted our first book, Wendy's Giant List of Things to Do to the Barnes & Noble app store. On Monday, we will be setting up our Kindle fires for testing. At the same time all of this digital activity is taking place, we have uploaded our files to an On-Demand digital printer for output as a hard cover book.

     The production team was assembled in May of this year. That means that all of our production process, as well as all of the content we have produced, has been developed in the last 8 months. During that time we not only set up our production pipeline, but we were learning how to make digital experiences. There's been a lot of learning. I often equate it to working on a car engine while it's running.

     Going forward, I want to share some of that learning. We've encountered many issues and we have solved many of them. But we are still learning and what we are learning is that apps are not books. In some ways there are more interesting and in someways they are harmful. It's interesting that content can be extending along lines of learning. Apps can be harmful in that its difficult to support and cultivate quiet focus. Are we conditioning our children for shorter and shorter burst of attention?

We are constantly trying to balance this as we create our stories and the experiences of our stories. One thing is clear. There is no answer and it will take years of exploration to discover the optimum use of technology a resource in child education.

Friday, December 09, 2011

The Invention Of Noise- part3

In 1990 I worked on ‘Until The End of The World’, a film directed by Wim Wenders. It was one of the first films to explore using high definition video to do visual effects.  The movie was shot on film. It was also edited on film. The editor was a wonderful man named Peter Przygoda, a long time film editor with many wonderful films to his credit. I am forever grateful to Peter as he gave me one of the most important understandings of my career.

We were in doing post production in Berlin. It was late at night, I was getting readying to leave the office and Peter was still at work on the film table. Given the hour, he had a glass of red wine and a small plate of cheese on the table beside him. He was the self-proclaimed inventor of the “ stink cheese” method of film editing which involves having a good glass of red wine, a really stinky cheese and an quiet place to work.

As I was walking out the door, Peter called me into the editing room. Do you know what editing a film is all about, he asked. I said that I knew he would show me. Sit down and learn something, he said.

I walked over and sat down.  He turned back to the flatbed, took a deep breath and pressed the play button. As the film began to wind its way across the Steenbeck, Peter took a nice long breath. It only took a moment to realize that the editing of the film was tied to his breath. The pacing of the cuts was almost perfectly in sync with the natural rhythm of his breathing. I was stunned.

He turned to me and said, if you want the audience to relax, slow down the cuts. If you want them to feel nervous speed things up. Knowing this has completely transformed the way I watch films and it has continued to inspire me when I think about content.


Wednesday, December 07, 2011

The Invention of Noise - Part 2

20 Minutes Into The Past

Max Headroom: 20 Minutes into the Future is 1985 television movie which had its origins in a music video. One of the plot points in the movie is that a reporter, played by Matt Frewer discovers that the television station he works for has created a new form of advertising called a "Blipverts". Blipverts are high-speed, highly concentrated, commercials that last a few seconds. More adds in less time means more revenue for the company but there is only one problem. Blipverts can kill.

Just to give you some idea of the state of web technology available during the production of Max Headroom, In 1986, the National Science Foundation funded NSFNet as a cross country 56 Kbps backbone for the Internet.  25 years later the speed of the internet backbone is closing in on 100 Gbit/s. My how things change!

For many of the last decades, broadcast television has been the dominant media platform. Television is the child of film and as such much of its terminology and function was inherited from the film world. Because of the intimate technology relationship between film and video, television inherited something else from its cinematic parent, rhythm. Until the invention of video editing systems and specifically, non-linear editing systems, film was cut and spliced together. This is slow, arduous, thoughtful work that is done by hand. It is in the truest meaning of the word, a craft.

Editing film has certain limitations to it. Film moves through a physical mechanism. Gears turn, sprockets move of the gears, film moves across the gate, light shines through the film. Because of its physicality, film had its own rhythm. During the 1960 the standard length of a television commercial was 1 minute. At some point, advertisers developed a controversial practice of “piggybacking” which meant putting two, thirty second commercials into a one minute time slot. These two commercials were for different products from the same company.
In 1971, 30 seconds became the standard length for a television commercial.

We interrupt this blog for a very important message:

Do you breathe? Are you aware of your breathing?

Science has shown that the average healthy adult at rest has a breathing rate between of 12 breaths a minute. Children between the ages of 2 and 6 years old typically have a breathing rate of 20-30 breaths per minute. Children (2-6 years of age) have a typical rate of 20 - 30 breathes per minute.

We now return to our regularly scheduled blog.

The breath is the baseline function of a human being. It is the primary exchange we have with our environment. If you want information to be easily absorbed and integrated by your audience, align the rhythm of your information with the baseline function of a human being.


Tuesday, December 06, 2011

The Invention of Noise - Part 1

 The Art of Noise has a song called " Paranoia" which features the fictional character Max Headroom. You can see the clip by clicking here. ( Ahh the 80's ...)  I'll be going about about both the Art of Noise and Max Headroom later, but first,  

This Important Message.

Several years ago, I read a study that said, the average person in an urban environment receives about 25,000 unique marketing messages per day. Consider this along side the fact that most people take about 27,000 breaths per day. Imagine that with every breath you take, you are being sold something; a product, a service, an opinion. It’s not just that you are being sold the benefits of something.

You are being conditioned to believe that you exist in a state of deficiency. If you used this product, your life would be better. The baseline message is not only is there something you can do, but there is something you should do in order to improve yourself in the eyes of others.

25,000 messages is an amazing number, but if you break it down it becomes understandable.
Let’s say you wake up with a radio alarm. Instead of hitting snooze, you lay in bed and listen to a song or the first news snippet of the day. Maybe what finally drives your from the comfort of your warm bed is a commercial break. “Are you over weight? Are you tired? Are your teeth white enough?”

After a shower, you move into making breakfast, turning on the television as a replacement for the radio. It’s more news and some helpful tips and more commercials. The into your car and off to work, along the way there are billboards, storefronts, advertisements on buses and of course more radio.Once at work, you plug in and surf the web and encounter more ads along side or embedded within the content you are interacting with.

We now live in an environment that is saturated with messages. Each packet of marketing ingenuity vying for our attention from the moment we wake up, until the moment we go to sleep. This cacophonous clamoring has one objective, transform thought into action. It’s like the movie inception only it happens so often we take it for granted.

I watched the football game on ESPN last night and during every commercial break, Ford ran an ad for its F-150 truck. During one football game, It felt like I had watched that ad almost a hundred times. I don’t even want a truck and I wanted a truck.

I am not a carpenter. I do not need a truck for my business or personal use. For the most part trucks go against all of my values as a responsible consumer. If ESPN knew me, they would never show me another truck ad for as long as I live. But ESPN doesn’t know me, (yet). So they continue doing what they have always done, broadcasting marketing messages into space.

There is a reason google wants into the $180bn worldwide TV ad market.