From the Media Age to the Liquid Storytelling Age – The long version

Sharing stories is an irrepressible urge for mankind for the very good reasons explained in the previous section.

For centuries in the pre-industrial society people has been the main medium to propagate stories. Books, frescoes, sculptures carried maybe the stories worth to make the history, but they were negligible when it comes to numbers.

Everything changed with the advent of the Industrial Age. Mass-market distribution rules: it’s all about making people consume stories in big numbers during a short time-frame as any other packaged product. Storytelling becomes media-driven: only stories most fitting for distribution formats are told. In the Early Media-Age each channel is a silo: television, cinema, books and even the internet of its beginnings do not communicate with each other. The different industries are separated and in competition each other: a story produced as a movie for cinema is not going to be found on other media. There is a big effort to conquer audience to a specific medium at a specific time. Television is by far the big winner: hundred million people’s “natural” behavior becomes to sit down in front of tv screen when their day is ending.

In the Late Media-Age cross-media storytelling emerges as unrelated stories are delivered at the same time on different channels, loosely linking them together under the same brand/franchise. A few examples: C.S.I., Matrix, Spiderman. It optimizes marketing dollars as companies once working on different industries merge and consolidate. However, the separation between producer, distributor and consumer is still total. The main challenge is still to win the attention of enough people belonging to the desired market segment at a given time of the day. The advent of the video-recorder starts to challenge this status-quo.

When the Internet becomes a social phenomenon, the storytelling industry is ripe for disruption. People becomes increasingly used to access content when and where they want, not at the given time and place dictated by the Majors’ needs. The entertainment industry tries to adapt by developing transmedia storytelling franchises, where reciprocally enriching stories are delivered through different channels. Consumer can choose different paths in each story-world. This way a limited interaction with producers is introduced, but this relationship is still heavily asimmetric as the distribution and the business model have not changed for real. The core effort is to try to find new ways to keep the same degree of control over consumer behavior. Apple and Amazon have been very good at seeing the potential for improvement of the industrial distribution model in the Internet-powered world, but as a whole this effort is falling very short: all the traditional media-centric companies are losing customers. The loss are dramatic when one looks at the younger generations.

The new frontier of business is for people-centric companies like Facebook or Twitter: it’s all about empowering people to share stories. Everyone is a storyteller: producer, distributor and consumer at the same time. Everyone learns new stories, blends them with his own stories, and shares them with his circle. Stories behave like a fluid: each storyteller creates an interference and bounces a new and slightly different wave.

So in this new age, focus is no longer on delivering stories as a closed package through a channel to consumer, but it is on providing services to people to help them manage the storytelling process. Once again the crowd is the only real medium as it was before the advent of the Industrial Society.

The king format of the Liquid Storytelling Age is the Story-World.

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