Juergen Boos

How stories grow and overcome media boundaries: An Interview with Juergen Boos on the 2nd edition of StoryDrive China

China Press and Publication Daily, May 06. 2013

How stories grow and overcome media boundaries: An Interview with Juergen Boos, director of the Frankfurt Book Fair, on the second edition of StoryDrive China.

Interviewed by Wang Kunning, China Press and Publication Daily

(translated from Chinese by German Book Information Center in Beijing)

Mr. Boos, why exactly does the Frankfurt Book Fair get involved in the topic of media convergence?

Digitalization leads to the separation of content and medium: With the internet, we constantly cross media boundaries - internet is based on the concept of multimedia. Digital content is defined by its content, its ‘story world’ – not by its medium, so the boundaries between book, cinema, video games and journalism all blur gradually. We have established formats like the “Movie & Media Forum” in Frankfurt from very early on, to offer the creative industries a place where they can connect. With StoryDrive we wanted to create an even broader all media platform. The basic idea is to build bridges – not only between the book and the movie industry, but with a sort of “360 degree” view, including video game adaptations and cross-media projects. This trans-medial approach can cater to different media channels simultaneously. At this very moment of development in the field –AT Kearney announcing its total revenue of 3.5 billion Euros in eBooks in 2012, for example - it becomes even more important to offer an international forum for these topics. And exactly this is the objective of StoryDrive.

What are the advantages for China to host another “StoryDrive”?

We should look at it the other way around: China might not necessarily need StoryDrive but StoryDrive needs China! China definitely adds value to the conference. The international creative industries long to incorporate Chinese skills and abilities, especially with regards to content and a multimedia approach. For professionals in the industry, China is impressive because of its large domestic market. Generally speaking, media convergence involves rapid internationalization; the target market is not just one’s own domestic market anymore. We have to think globally when putting together ideas and specific projects in the film, book or video games sector; we need to develop global strategies in terms of distribution and even in the very early stage of developing a concept. China is a very attractive partner for the creative industries’ global players when it comes to distribution, but also for the creative process. And Chris Dodd, Head of the Motion Picture Association of America, commented just recently: ‘China (…) is the big international story of 2012. Chinese box office receipts grew a staggering 31% - to about $2.75 billion— making China the second largest international market behind Japan.’

Which corporations or business models would you currently label as most successful?

To me, corporations who grasped the core idea of the current development are the most successful actors right now. The objective is to tell a story that captures the reader: A story provides knowledge, entertains, it leaves the viewer or reader longing for more. This kind of ‘storytelling’ represents the essence and core of the international creative industry. Even music is often used to tell a story –storytelling is the way how we as humans create our world. One of our speakers at this year’s StoryDrive China conference, the American author Jonathan Gottschall, describes this pattern in his book ‘The Storytelling Animal’ in a very striking way.

So what is special about storytelling in the digital age?

The social aspect of stories is very special; something about it is almost reminiscent of the time before the invention of book printing - but in a more global way. Writing a story, we can get directly in touch with our readers through the use of social communities, where content is shared and eventually maybe even changed. Readers have the possibility to influence the stories which shape our modern world. The media cosmos has changed and its users have done so accordingly. One remarkable example for an innovative approach to online literature is the business model of Cloudary, which uses crowd sourcing to create, license and distribute content. Similar business models can be found all over the world, one example would be Neobooks by DroemerKnaur in Germany. There are hundreds of possibilities to create a ‘story world’ – and as many questions related to this as well.

Which possibilities are we looking at in terms of cross-media cooperation?

We are deeply convinced that publishers and media corporations, who want to be successful in the future, need to extent their business into their neighboring creative industries. Co-operations among actors from the book, games, and movie and technology industry will gain importance in the future and the demand for new formats and multimedia stories will increase noticeably. If publishers want to offer sophisticated and successful products in the future, they cannot avoid finding a partner to team up with in this endeavor.

What can participants expect when they attend StoryDrive China?

The cross-media business is still in an early stage and the Chinese market players engaging in this field also have a lot ahead of themselves. With StoryDrive China, we want to pinpoint possibilities for co-operations across the borders of the industry; we want to discuss different ways of handling content as well as their respective monetary and social value. And we will put common business models to the test.

With the second edition of StoryDrive China we will also strengthen our cooperation with local Chinese publishers. The Chinese publishers who joined us in our efforts to create such a conference format identify themselves with the idea of media convergence, cross-media and media globalization and they share our view that StoryDrive China is an ambitious step into the right direction. Media experts from all over the world are going to speak at the conference and there will be detailed case studies to examine. Matt Costello, for instance, is a creative consultant and writer whose work includes novels, video games and movies. Kristian Costa-Zahn is another speaker who will add flavor to the conference: he works as head of creation of Germany’s UFA new media units "UFA Lab" and "UFA Interactive". These speakers will tell us more about trans-media strategies and how to tell stories using various media channels. ‘Visual Storytelling’ will be the topic of choice for our guest speakers from the German Designer Club. Joint Publishing Company deputy director Zhang Zhijun will take us to the world of creating original Chinese picture books, while Bao Yan, general manager of the Zhonghua Book Company, will speak about multiple platforms of selling traditional poetry in the Chinese publishing market. Besides, Liu Zhenyun will provide us with insights into the art of storytelling – after all, he has mastered this brilliantly and his novels and scripts have repeatedly and very successfully made their way to the big movie screens and several television projects in China.