Henry Jenkins has a great series of guest posts from Brian Clark up on his blog at the moment. It’s a five-part series on transmedia business models, and it makes a lot of interesting points, including looking at transmedia production through the lens of ten business models borrowed from other contexts. Clark looks at five bottom-up business models, and five venture-funded business models. These range from self-financing, no financing or fan financing, to doing ticketed events, enlisting the audience as co-creators, or raising venture finance, as well as a few others.
Clark covers most if not all of the bases. (I also think he discards the sponsorship and patronage model too easily.) Here are two other possibilities he doesn’t really mention:
One that is somewhat subsumed by his “infrastructure” model in Part Two (fund the production in part through revenue generated by licensing the underlying technology), is a distribution play. I think there’s a really interesting opportunity here at the moment. There is as yet no good channel for the promotion of transmedia projects and properties (nor a good word to refer to them yet). They are discovered virally, or as part of a marketing campaign around a more traditional narrative property, or around a single thread of the transmedia property. But as the games and app industry already knows, acquiring an audience member can mean more than just having that person’s attention for the duration of a single experience. Once you’ve built an audience, there’s a great opportunity to cross-promote other properties to those people — whether they’re your own productions, or those of others (in which case you’re taking a cut of the revenue that flows through you to them). This strategy is generally underleveraged outside of games, and could be of great use to transmedia producers.
The other way transmedia productions could benefit from the experience of the games industry is in relation to “freemium” models. Just as free-to-play mobile games now make more money than paid apps, we may find that ticketed events produce less revenue than experiences the consumer can get involved with for free, but that require a payment (or payments) to unlock additional content of whatever kind. This could take the form of story threads that are not available to everyone, virtual goods for use in games or in character customization, access to premium live events, etc., etc. The thing not to miss here is that consumers are still paying for content in droves, they’re just paying for it in much smaller chunks.
All that said, these models are not entirely in line with Clark’s series. It occurs to me that what he’s really writing about are (very important) financing models, rather than trying to ring the changes on all of the revenue models that are possible. Taken together, these create a much larger number of possibilities than the ten scenarios he describes. That’s not to take away from his series, though, which is very valuable reading for anyone considering a venture of almost any kind in today’s media, trans or not.