Michael C Hogan

Agile Product Development & Innovation Strategy


Value: is Your Story Golden?

Value: is your story golden?

(Photo credit: Clearly Ambiguous via Flickr)

Last Thursday I attended Producers Go Digital hosted by Digital LA at the ioLA incubator. The panel shared a variety of insights about the realities of being a producer (some of may favorites are below). Yet there was one question I had trouble getting answered…

How do I value the worth of a story?

Most of the answers I got focused on the cost of the project. The problem is that cost does not equal value, not in digital media and not in any other industry. While it’s relatively easy to put a cost on the effort that will be required to tell a story (think location fees, salaries, equipment, logistics, manufacturing, printing, marketing), the real challenge is deciding if the value of the story is great enough to warrant all that cost.

One formula for value: D.U.S.T.

I learned the DUST formula while at USC in ISE 585 Strategic Management of Technology. DUST is an acronym that stands for demand, utility, scarcity, and transferability, which are the key factors the valuation of property. Let’s take a look at each of these attributes and how they may apply to storytelling.

Demand is the most obvious attribute of the value equation. In order for an asset to be valuable there needs to be an audience that demanding access. The larger the audience, and the more passionate the demand, the greater the value.

Utility is a measure of how well an asset solves a problem for its audience. This is a more challenging attribute for storytelling because stories are often luxuries compared to other necessity items like shelter, food or clothing. Yet, stories can educate, entertain, distract, and inspire, which are all useful outcomes. The simplest example: a story can help a parent answer his or her child’s request to hear another story, strengthening the child-parent relationship.

Scarcity is a measure of how challenging it is to produce an asset. Talent and copyright are the storyteller’s tools for establishing scarcity. Copyright is a short term tool that gives an author the exclusive rights to publish a creative work. Excitingly, the easiest way to get copyright is to publish! Talent is a more sustainable source of scarcity. Since talent is inherent in the storyteller and his or her team, it is often impossible to copy without poaching members from the team.

Transferability is the essential element of value, without which there can be no value. Transferability is a measure of how easy it is to transfer an asset from one person to another. In storytelling, transferability might be thought of as the ease of delivering a story across a wide range of formats. The more formats, the more ways to transfer the story to the audience and the greater the likelihood a member of the audience will choose to consume (and pay for) a specific format.

So is your story golden?

If you are in possession of a unique story that is told using the unique combination of talents available to your team (scarcity) and that story does something meaningful for the audience (utility) so that many people are excited to experience the story (demand) and you are able to package the story in a way that lets the audience easily experience it (transferability), then the answer is yes—you’ve uncovered a golden story.

As promised, here are my favorite insights from the panel

  • Definition: a digital producer is a producer… aggregates people, stories, ideas into a business.
  • Few can do “All Media.” Traditional industry silos (tv/film/web) don’t interact… It’s like Klingon vs. English
  • For #DigitalProducers good storytelling prevails, but need to understand the toolsets unique to media types, recruit the right team
  • Sometimes small budget projects discover the best people… they bring spirit and great storytellers make most of it
  • The key element pitches often forget is the “why” …the reason for doing the project …don’t forget the why

D.U.S.T. reference

DUST is a common acronym in the real estate profession, for example see Bellairs, Herbert J. “Modern Real Estate Practice in Pennsylvania” (2002) Pg. 348.