A Complete Digital Experience

A Complete Digital Experience

A couple weeks ago I had a meeting with an extremely bright VC at one of the region’s top firms and, about ten minutes into the conversation he said, ‘oh, I get it, you guys provide publishers and authors with a complete digital experience.’ At the time, it seemed a little like newspeak, but I’ve found myself coming back to that phrase again and again – and not just when we speak to publishers, but to broadcasters, authors, non-profits, and anyone else that we find ourselves working with.

Ninety-one percent of broadcast executives say they’re not taking advantage of the opportunities that digital creates. It has ‘got to be mobile and has got to be tablet.’ And that’s true, of course, but there’s a real danger in pointing to the mobile / tablet space and saying: ‘This is our strategy. We’re going to make an app.’ Sure you need an app. But you also need a website. Even more importantly – you need the two to work together – and to tell the same story.

So are we moving towards a moment in the culture where mobile is taken for granted the way that websites are? I was looking for apartments this past weekend in New York and, of course, I turned to craigslist first. But then, a couple hours into the hunt, I looked up apartment-finding apps. Craigslist, broker websites, apps, youtube videos, email lists – this is all part of the digital experience of looking for an apartment. And none of it replaces walking around a neighborhood and bugging my friends to ‘keep their ears open.’

Putting together a digital strategy for a web-series or a cause or a book can be fun, but it’s also full of challenges – most of them financial. From the outset, we have to think multi-platform, not ‘let’s make an app.’ We target alternate distribution channels and niche audiences. Look for viral subject matter. Above all – we must tell good stories, tell them well, and connect them with the audiences who will feel strongest about them. And all of this costs money – especially on the technical end. But for many execs, the complete digital experience is something that exists outside and in opposition to their ‘core business.’ It is something amorphous and with potential, but which hasn’t really been monetized.

I think there’s a bigger picture here, though… Storytelling in general is becoming more holistic. Increasingly, we are blurring the lines that separate the ‘official’ or ‘canon’ release of a book, tv show, or whatever, from the online ‘extras.’ The ‘article’ and the ‘comments’ are becoming one. The behind-the-scenes footage becomes just as much a part of the show as the audience vote, or the user-generated content. When we talk about the complete digital experience, we’re not talking about a website or an app or a marketing campaign that goes along with a story. We’re talking about the story itself.

The idea that ‘Broadcast Executives Say Digital Brings Opportunities’ is great, I guess, but it also misses the point… There is a complete digital experience to everything that these broadcast executives are doing, the only question is whether or not they want to have a say about what that is.