Social Shows: A Winning Mix

In “Innovate or Die,” I wrote about the launch of “social show” from Eqal, the creators of “lonelygirl15,” called “LG 15: The Resistance.” Let’s delve deeper into what exactly a “social show” means.

In further conversation with Eqal founders Greg Goodfried and Miles Beckett, it becomes clear to what extent they’ve been thinking about how best to move storytelling forward on the Internet. They have some core tenets on what constitutes social and why it’s important. (Without getting too John McCain and all, “I remember when…” the work that Eqal is doing reminds me of the early days of interactive storytelling whether that be on CD-ROM, interactive TV, or DVD. These are the inheritors of non-linear storytelling.)

“First of all we’d love to see ‘social show’ as being alongside film/TV/music in the arts and entertainment listings,” Beckett said. Goodfried added that while they didn’t trademark “social show” — because they want the term to become widespread, with their work being a sort of high watermark of the media form — he did register “soshow.”

Goodfried then reels off the key ingredients for a social show:

  • Initial distribution of video content occurs in a two-way medium.
  • Multimedia storytelling exists outside of the video experience (e.g., Twitter, photos, messages, chat rooms).
  • Interactivity occurs between the show and the community, (e.g., the audience can immerse themselves in the show, or there’s no wall between the audience and the show.
  • The show has a hub — a community site with social features.

Beckett expanded a bit on the “rules” laid out with a nod to “Being John Malkovich.”

“Essentially the show is a portal through which the audience can participate in the story. The portal is not just their way to watch the program but it has hooks for them to become the story in a seamless fashion,” Beckett said. A young viewer watches a scene that includes a call to action for the audience member to do something such as break a code, find a Web site, or shoot a video.

In a best-case scenario, you have the inciting incident of a good story created by professionals — in this case Eqal — and then you have all the energy, excitement, and creativity of a global audience participating in whatever manner they feel, whether that be watching, sending e-mails, or creating their own videos, and becoming integrated into the master narrative. This activity leads to deeper engagement — which is a good thing for creator, consumer, and marketer. And the exponential increase of material such as e-mails, videos, Twitters can potentially yield greater or at the very least more engaging inventory for brand messages.

This all means more work for everybody. It’s more work for the creative team that must create video programming plus organize a community. More work for the consumer/viewer who chooses to engage. More work for the marketer to understand how best to participate in this new medium.

Creating a more lasting and deep connection between all three constituents in this ecosystem is certainly well worth the effort. Judging by the decline in interest in other traditional media forms, the “social show” may well be a keeper for the digital age.

It pushes all the right buttons for the culture of today. It’s of the Internet and for the Internet. It takes advantage of the Web’s social nature, and harvests the power of crowd for greater creativity and innovation. And that sounds like a winning mix to me.