"It's an exciting time for everyone who loves great entertainment," reads the last line on the "about" section on EQAL'S web site. Certainly it is. EQAL's Co-Founder and CEO Miles Beckett and Co-Founder, President and COO Greg Goodfried have positioned themselves as leaders (if not the leader) as a cutting edge media company dedicated to changing the way content is consumed. Beckett and Goodfried created the two most successful online interactive dramas: lonelygirl15 and KateModern. They also are the team behind HarpersGlobe.com, the companion social show behind CBS's Harper's Island. But, this is only the beginning for EQAL. So I spoke with the co-founders about their future and their outlook on the entertainment industry.
Kuhn: First, EQAL is a "social entertainment company." What does "social entertainment" mean?
Beckett and Goodfried: Social entertainment is at the intersection between traditional entertainment and internet technology. It's interactive entertainment produced for community members on social websites. An example is Harper's Globe, the companion social show to CBS's Harper's Island.
Harper's Globe is a social show where a community joins together to watch the mystery unfold through the videos, interactivity with the story, and communication with community. This means that you can speak directly with the characters, solve puzzles, participate in live chats and actually see your participation affect their lives by sending them messages to help them solve clues and puzzles and by creating your own storyline.
The interaction goes beyond the story as audience members form a community on the social network by setting up their profile page, messaging friends, discussing the show and other interests in the discussion forums, and adding their own user generated videos to the website.
You created the Web's two most successful interactive drama series, lonelygirl15 and KateModern. What do you see as the formula for success behind great videos online?
At the heart of any successful online series is a great story. At the end of the day it's still about creating believable characters and engaging plotlines. The challenge is to take these traditional techniques and marry them to new technologies that enable interactivity and community participation. The videos need to be shot in such a way that they feel organic to the internet, characters need to have profile pages and the story needs to take advantage of social tools like messaging, blogs and chat.
One of your projects is with the 'CSI' franchise creator, Anthony E. Zuiker. You are teaming up to a multiplatform 'Digi-novel' series that will expand traditional book reading into a multimedia experience. Can you tell me a little bit about this? Has this ever been done before?
When EQAL first announced the Anthony Zuiker partnership, the series was originally called "Dark Chronicles," but since then the title has changed to "Level 26." We became friends with Anthony through our relationship with CBS. He came to us with this project, a Digi-novel, which is really a multiplatform novel that extends the universe outside of the book's binding to a fully featured social network. Readers can go to the website to unlock "cyber bridges" which are multimedia files that fit into the narrative, for instance at the end of a chapter there will be a code to go to the website and unlock a video that's relevant to the story. Additionally there will be profile pages and fans will have the opportunity to talk to each other about the characters and storyline and even contribute their own ideas for future books.
I'm not sure if this is the first time something like this has been done before, but it certainly might be. There have been multimedia CD-ROM's in the past that are "books," but as far as I know there's never been a book series tied to a social network and community like this with content and interactivity.
You are also working with CBS's Harpers Island. You created HarpersGlobe.com to complement the television show with separate videos and plots on your site. Do you see this as the future of television? Why?
I think this is definitely the future of entertainment. Brands can't just be confined to one platform and it's important to think more about "universe building" rather than creating one-off pieces of content. With Harper's we extended the universe to HarpersGlobe.com, creating an additional storyline on the website, and building an entire community dedicated to the Harper's brand. I think you'll see more and more properties extended in this way in the future and I'd certainly like EQAL to be the leader in that space.
Everything you work on is so interesting, creative and different. How do you go about choosing your projects?
Thanks! We're incredibly lucky to have the opportunity to work with so many talented people and great organizations. Creating social shows like this is our passion so we need to be 100% excited about any project that we tackle. Fortunately, because of the success of lonelygirl15 we've had the opportunity to meet with a lot of creative people who have great ideas for this type of content. We'll meet people through friends or conferences, and if an idea seems exciting we'll look into getting involved. At any given time we have a bunch of properties in development, and we move forward one all the pieces are in place for it to become a reality.