Part 2 – Interview w/ Ben Yennie on Snapchat, Crowdfunding, and Story vs. Marketing


E: We got into the technology and what it will possibly be doing, but do you think AR or VR will facilitate transmedia or not? Are they exclusive experiences, like the movies used to be? Or is there a function of transmedia here?

B: I definitely think there can be uses for transmedia there. There’s kind of a misconception about transmedia. It’s not an all-or-nothing sort of thing. It is a tool that you can use that is appropriate in some cases and not appropriate in others. That’s really all it is. There are some times that using transmedia can really increase revenue for an independent film, either by increasing awareness or potentially even creating a revenue stream.  However there are also some times that it’s a time sink and the cost doesn’t really improve your margins. It’s all about how you do it and when and how you execute it. If executed poorly, it’s a complete waste of time and money.

E: What technologies that exist now, do you think, will fall away?

B: It’s hard to tell on these things. Most of the platforms that exist now that have their communities will continue to exist. Snapchat may be a fad as it exists right now, but the thing about Snapchat isn’t really the platform itself, it’s the self-deleting technology behind it. I think the technology behind Snapchat will grow and be able to be used in different platforms and different places. I think that’s the reason for it’s, something like, 9.5 billion dollar valuation. I think that’s the key differentiator for Snapchat. Snapchat probably will fade away, but I don’t think the technology behind Snapchat will fade away. That will grow.  There are a lot of uses that could be widely applied to military, high level business, and other forms of communication.   Of course, it could also be I’m old and just don’t get you kids and your snapyscaps.


E: I want to move this conversation to crowdfunding. I think that crowdfunding is the the ultimate transmedia marketing experience, because you cannot just crowdfund out-of-the-blue. It needs at least a social media presence, a website, and media or a product at the end…


B: And friends!

E: …and friends, and collaboration. A crowdfunding campaign necessitates transmedia. How do you think crowdfunding will evolve? Will crowd-equity take hold or is it too controversial or risky?

B: I definitely think crowdfunding is more than just a fad. I think crowdfunding is here to stay. I think crowdfunding, at least for film and media projects- and to some extent tech and gaming products- will be the first stage of financing for the foreseeable future. It’s not right for all tech, like B2B tech won’t really work for it, but hardware relies on it to a very high degree.  

Equity based crowdfunding is going to be an interesting experiment. I think that any successful crowdequity company is going to need to charge something more like 20% versus the 5-9% for Indiegogo, and to have an investor relations board that goes with it. Any startup that is crowdfunding from so many people- even if you’re getting a slice- there’s no way they can manage that many investors, especially for how little amounts of money we’re talking about.

Investment is kind of a wonky term. It can refer to straight equity. It can also refer to a promissory note for debt-with-interest, or even convertible debt which, for those of you who don’t know, is debt that you can convert into equity at a later stage. So depending on how you’re looking to raise, it can get really complicated really quickly and those regulations can easily become burdensome and make the amount of money impossible to raise.  Although currently, crowd funded equity is in a legal limbo with the SEC, as it basically changes the entire idea of high risk investments and can quite easily open up a can of worms and make it too easy for people with less moral scruples than you or I to take grandma’s retirement money.  


E: The final thing I want to ask you about is where does transmedia fall into the marketing system versus the narrative one? Are they actually separate? Which is more useful or engaging?

B: Personally, I think transmedia is best done when when it serves as both a marketing campaign and storytelling platform. At its heart, marketing is storytelling. When you do it well, the two work very well together. If you’re telling the story of a product, let’s say it’s a film, why not expand on the universe around that story and get people excited about it? Then that essentially serves the same purpose as marketing.