Rethinking development, so you don’t waste time

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Our tendency is to work on something until it’s perfect. Clean up the drawings, rewrite the drafts. Then release it when it’s “ready”. Making great work takes time and effort, and development has its place.

“The Internet and technology have changed everything about engaging with an audience – content development, content marketing, content distribution, and content monetization.  Hey, traditionalists! This means you need to re-think essentially everything about your media business.” – Peter Csathy, New Media Advisor and Chairman of CreaTV Media.

The media world is changing, and our approach has to change with it. This is one of the big reasons I started Indie Animated, technology has changed everything about development, yet most development in animation hasn’t changed. For a lot of shows the process is still years of development behind closed doors. If you’re lucky, you get greenlit and your show broadcasts to the audience. You hope you get a good time slot, and the marketing catches viewers’ attention. Hopefully the show finds it’s audience. This obviously works for a lot of people and I’m being a little unfair because I know the people who do this work, work very hard. This process works for people who can afford to take this long. This process doesn’t work well if you want to work on something that works early on.

In business there is a big trend in validating your ideas before committing to building the product or service. This is because it is painful to fail, no one wants to make a product nobody wants. Validating a business means doing tests to figure out who your customers are and selling them some version of the product early, maybe even before it’s made. This is the one of the real economic principles that makes Kickstarter work. If you can get a few thousand people to pitch in money to the production, you’ve de-risked going to market. The idea behind validating business idea is to not waste time creating things that don’t work.

Validating media will be different than a consumer product or a service business. We can still learn from the approach. We can still try to build an audience while developing the product. Or at least test our assumptions to make sure we’re on the right path.

Isaiah and I have been trying to figure out how to create projects that are short enough to test our ideas. It hasn’t been easy and we haven’t found quite the right thing. We still spend months developing stories and don’t know if they’re going to work. Often getting stuck in the planning waiting for the project to be ready to show. As Ryan Holiday, writer of The Perennial Seller, has said, “There’s no question planning is important, but it’s seductive to get lost in that planning.” Still, spending a few months on the side making a project is shorter than a year. Testing is a habit. We’re coming close to our second project of the year and it will be a chance to learn. Whether to persevere and continue with the idea we have, or pivot to a new plan, approach or idea. If we want to see development change, to see more diversity and new kinds of animated content we’re going to have to take the first steps. Create new ways of making animation and building audiences.

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