Convergence Culture and New Media: Some Thoughts Inspired by Disney/Lucasfilm and a 2007 Talk by Joshua Green

Joshua Green spoke at the Inverge Conference in September 2007 about the new ways that users are interacting with each other and content online. In particular, Joshua Green identified how digital tools are allowing users (in Jay Rosen's words "the people formerly known as the audience") to interact with media in ways that are changing Old World concepts about the aesthetics and monetization of entertainment, advertising and marketing.

As I write this (on November 1st, 2012), examples of the shift from Old World to New World interactions with motion pictures are becoming more difficult to ignore. For example, in the 2007 video Joshua Green talks about the way that the interactive marketing campaign for Snakes On A Plane succeeded online - even though the Old World Snakes On A Plane film was something of a disappointment. Recently, Damen Lindelhof has acknowledged that the same might be said of 2012's Prometheus. The transmedia campaign for Prometheus was a huge critical and awareness-building hit - but the film (while grossing $400 million worldwide) failed to attain megahit status.

Still, the big US studios continue to look to established franchises as the source material for theatrical motion pictures. For example, Disney just paid $4.05 billion for Lucasfilm. Perhaps a seventh Star Wars film will reinvigorate the Old World revenue sources for motion pictures like theatrical distribution and home video. But the revenue growth momentum seems to be with a (competing?) trend toward monetizing online video content (like old TV shows and new content created by users who consider themselves outsiders).

Hollywood is still dominant - but the transmedia tail is (at least in the cases of Snakes On A Plane and Prometheus) showing signs that it's capable of wagging the dog.

No one yet can answer this fundamental question: Will it be the big media companies or the outsiders who figure out how to make the most money from motion pictures online?

But the fact that the question seems less laughable every day suggests we are experiencing an epochal shift in the prevailing ideas about how entertainment is made and monetized.

The ability to squeeze revenue out of online content still may seem elusive to all but a few aggregators and marketers.

Remember, the online campaigns for Snakes On A Plane and Prometheus were popular, but the pot of gold never appeared at the end of their transmedia rainbows.

But can anyone doubt that vast sums will soon be flowing to the New World filmmakers who successfully figure out how to invite user interaction and sharing with a connected worldwide audience?

Creators and the people who make their livings circulating content are just learning how New World stories will be delivered and monetized.

I don't doubt that Hollywood will adapt - and perhaps eventually end up controlling a vast amount of motion picture revenue online.

But, for now, the most interesting ideas I've heard seem to be coming from outsiders like Joshua Green.

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