So now onto some of the hard numbers of success. You can check out the infographic to the right to get some additional highlights, however the main success metric for the show creators has been the video views. Each LBD episode boasts about 300,000 views on average (comparable to successful niche television programming). This clearly reflects a quality “lean back” experience, but there are other numbers that show how much this content engages and inspires its audience. Do a search for “the lizzie bennet diaries” on Google now and it returns over 3.5 million pages of LBD content; this includes pages from the story itself, articles written about it, social media memes created, and fan frothing of the highest caliber. The first LBD episode with over 1,000,000 views has spurred over 2,100 fan comments, while the exciting episode 60, has received over 500,000 views (100,000 of which were received in the first 24 hours) and over 7,000 comments. Keyword research shows that people are searching for “the lizzie bennet diaries” over 12,100 times every month (which compares to other modern retellings such as “pride and prejudice and zombies” with 9,900 or the Bollywood “bride and prejudice” with 22,000 searches).
LBD fans (many of whom call themselves Seahorses) are highly motivated and engaged throughout the whole transmedia experience and were just waiting to be asked to do something for this show they loved so much. And ask the team did, in that now famous Kickstarter campaign. Three asks were made for fan support: 1) to finance DVD production (a completely fan driven desire), 2) to help pay for a little summer bridge series Welcome to Sanditon and 3) any “extra” would go towards paying the team of twenty who had brought Lizzie’s world to life over the past year. Jay firmly believes it is this last ask that spurred the fans on to pledge as generously as they did. Most of the comments on the campaign make it clear they wanted to give back to the people who had taken them on this amazing journey. The team is incredibly humbled by this response, perhaps a bit overwhelmed by the responsibility, but excited to see what they can do with and for this audience next. This, more than anything, may be the ultimate success metric and the lasting legacy of LBD, especially if it can become part of an ongoing and evolving business model for the creators and sew the seeds for multiplatform storytelling success of others in the future.
Transmedia Lessons Learned
Speaking with Jay he had three very clear lessons learned from this amazing transmedia success story:
- There is no such thing as digital marketing. He explained this means every piece of content they put out was considered part of the story. The social media and other online assets were not siloed into a separate marketing department, they are as much a part of the LBD storyworld as the core vlog series.
- The transmedia team needs to be in the writers room. An extension of the philosophy above, for a multiplatform story to work, the transmedia content producers need to be as deeply embedded in the creative process as possible. Major plot points unfolded in the social media storylines and synergy and knowledge exchange needed to happen between all the storytellers involved.
- Interactivity does not mean surrendering the storytelling to the audience. If the audience had its way Lydia would never have fallen for Wickham and a big part of the drama, conflict and character growth of LBD would not have happened. Jay feels the audience still wants to be taken on a journey that transports them somewhere else. Interactivity can happen by creating spaces where the audience can play and interact with characters but the story is still protected and guided by the creative team.
My Digital Marketing Takeaways
Despite not having a formal strategy I see LBD as a digital marketing success story which demonstrates some important fundamental truths, including:
- Know your niche and be where they are. This achievement was built upon two initial niche audiences: the Nerdfighters and the most voracious Pride and Prejudice fans, those who had shown a willingness to consume this story over and over again. With zero dollars for publicity, digital offered a way to reach out to these audiences directly and have a presence on the social networks that mattered the most to them (like Tumblr).
- Use the power of the digital two way conversation to engage them. The transmedia elements of the LBD story leveraged this power not in a “used car saleman” way, but with an authenticity, narrative and responsiveness that generated strong emotional reactions (which makes people want to share and spread the word).
- “Don’t ask before you give”. Sheri Candler recently made this statement when we were teaching together in the IPF workshops. I agree it is absolutely key to digital marketing success and the LBD team proves to be a perfect example. They gave their fans a year of fantastic story and experience before they launched their Kickstarter campaign. It is highly unlikely this campaign would have seen similar success if it has been launched before or even early on in Lizzie’s journey.
What Comes Next for LBD?
Two things are clear: 1) the successful Kickstarter campaign means Welcome to Sanditon will have more resources and it was just announced that this story will start to unfold next week on May 13, 2013; and 2) the next big series is set to start in July (which they don’t need to Kickstart because it has already been funded by Deca.TV). However, what the new big series is to be is still a secret. Looking again at the keyword research might I suggest “sense and sensibility” (with 49,500 monthly searches on Google), “mansfield park“ (27,100), “northanger abbey” (18,100), “emma jane austen” (12,100), “persuasion jane austen” (6,600). Or what about doing The Lizzie Bennet Diaries in another language? In Spanish “orgullo y prejuicio” gets almost 50,000 searches a month. Then there’s the possibility of looking further afield outside the Austen canon. Perhaps to the Bronte sisters and “jane eyre” (165,000) or “wuthering heights” (135,000). Wherever the LBD team chooses to try their collective hands next, I have no fear they will continue to build an authentic brand that delivers compelling story experiences complete with fantastic, relevant modern day writing, great characters and casting, and a respect for the audience they have built and continue to serve.
Have you experienced The Lizzie Bennet Diaries story? I would love to get your input and feedback. Share your thoughts, ideas, questions below or send them to me at annelise (at) veria.ca or on Twitter @veriatweet.
If you found this issue of From Search to Screen interesting, you might also like to read these other digital marketing case studies.
Next issue: My Cord Cutting Experiment (The 2013 Edition)
Or revisit the previous issue: The 4 Key Touchpoints of Evolving SEO