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Revenue streams from hypertext paths
(or, Why aren't you making REAL money on this stuff?)


by Gene Ashe


A potentially profitable use of hypertext is hidden in plain sight. But the hard fact remainsŠhypertext, or to be more specific, hyperfiction, is still not considered "mainstream." The fact that Babylon 5, ostensibly, turned a profit on what was virtually a hypertext work, begs the questionŠwhy hasn't the hypertext world turn a profit yet? This proposal hopes to answer the question by suggesting a new use for hyperfiction. This is an obvious attempt at getting the HT community to re-orient their focus to a business and profit-oriented perspective.

  A SWOT analysis on the current state of the hypertext art world is started. This is an exercise that considers factors such as authoring, distribution and consumption in order to develop a list of features; Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats. After completing the exercise, the light is turned on certain segments of the entertainment industry, whose use of a hyperfiction-like structure in some very successful genres, i.e., sitcom spin-offs and "sequel-prequel-multiple ending movies", has proven there is an appetite for hyperfictional material. An argument is then made for an emphasis in the packaging and marketing of any new product that adheres to an evolutionary model. A use case is then proposed for the purpose of creating a new product, which is essentially a subset of a specific hyperfictional work. Finally, it is demonstrated why certain participants within the entertainment art world are the natural candidates for consumption of this product.

SWOT analysis of hyperfiction   The SWOT analysis is a tool used in industry for dissecting a product, concept or strategy. The process reveals the superstructure of the object of the SWOT. Only then is one able to take a current problem facing the object and link qualities of its superstructure to innovative ideas that may produce a solution. The SWOT below examines the current state of hyperfiction from an outsider's perspective. It is not meant to be exhaustive in any way, but simple enough to get to the core issues and start the analysis.





The entertainment industry Americans will spend approximately $195 Billion on home entertainment/multi-media next year. And it seems apparent the demand for this will only grow. However, our apparent attention span is shrinking for the long story.. Nevertheless, this demand is currently keeping the earnings of many entertainment corporations' in good health.

  The entertainment industry is the ideal market to target for a form of hyperfiction. The publishing industry could be considered as well. But just how does one target the entertainment industry with a product like hyperfiction? Before answering this question, let's examine some general guidelines one should consider prior to the introduction of a new product.

Evolutionary success  

A good marketing plan should include the following tasks to be accomplished prior to a successful product launch:

It is this last task regarding change, which is the most important feature to consider. In short, this task begins judgement on how much change is too much or too little.

Change can be evolutionary or catastrophic. An evolutionary model for the introduction of new ideas or products is not new. But why choose gradual change over sudden change?

If a market participant must make a significant paradigm shift in his thinking to accept an innovative product, then the buyers will probably be those on the cutting edge. This is not because they are smarter then the general populace. It is due to the fact that they are usually most adept at this kind of thinking. On the other hand, if all a market participant must do is not be stupid to benefit from the innovation, then the buyers will probably be the proverbial "average Joe." So, when does "change" require a major paradigm shift in thinking and when does it require "not being stupid?" This truly is a judgement call. However, I think one is able to eliminate the extreme examples easily to narrow the choices.

The real point here is that a micro-change helps to promote mass acceptance within a market. Once the ball is rolling in the direction of mass acceptance, then something like critical mass, the 100th monkey syndrome, or in the case of fusion, unity, takes over and begins driving the demand. Conceiving the size and "hook" for this micro-change will require creative input in the product development process. New ideas and products must make micro transitional or quantum changes in their development to foster wider acceptance.

Since a work of hyperfiction can yield a linear thread map, this could be the foundation on which to base a small evolutionary change in how hyperfiction is packaged. This thread map is only a portionŠ(a taste of the whole to hypertext fans and not complete from their perspective). However, that doesn't necessarily mean that it couldn't be appealing to a more linear friendly, "not stupid," audience. In fact, a linear story based on a thread map path from a work of hyperfiction would currently be enjoyed because it could easily be packaged into the more familiar linear state.

  New uses for hyperfiction

  We propose to create a meta-hyperfictional product called "equel." The product name springs from it NOT being a sequel or a pre-quel, but something else. It is NOT a complete hyperfiction, and yet it is NOT a linear story by comparison. In evolutionary terms, it is a transitional speciesŠa manageable change. It looks like a linear story to the marketplace, but has the added feature of being able to evolve very quickly into something else, which is veryŠ"hyperfictional."

  To be specific, here are two proposed use cases for a work of hyperfiction:

  1. Create linear thread maps and extract linear sub-texts from collaborative hyperfictions and publish them in a print or HTML format as short stories, chapters, installments, or anthologies under the trade name This has the innovative market advantage that pre-quels and sequels for an story are available for immediate consumption.
  2. Create linear thread maps and extract linear sub-texts from collaborative hyperfictions, edit them as   radioplays, teleplays, screenplays and stageplays for agents and editors. These targets would understand the advantage gained in the editing process over single author submissions, which is a result of the heterogeneity, malleability and the sheer size of the source material.

  The extraction process is really an editing assignment. This becomes a function and reputation of the organization licensed to carry the trade name. The resulting linear story becomes the product to be distributed in yet to be determined channels. The thread map itself becomes a copyrighted item and subject to royalties. In addition, each mapped component of the path is made up from different author's copyrighted material and is also subject to royalties.


The hyperfiction "engine" has the potential of being one of the resources supplying sustenance for a billion-dollar entertainment appetite. However, this is only possible if a suitable evolutionary product is chosen for its delivery.

Objectives for CyberMountain

At CyberMountain I would like to work with others in refining a marketing plan, now in draft form, that produces the product for a targeted market. As part of the product development discussion, we may outline a plot and characters that could function as the "attractor" or spine story with which to start a collaborative work of hyperfiction. Discussion could then center around the best channels in which to market the resulting product, i.e. agents, editors or publishers. The details of how the collaborative work is administered and produced could be negotiated as well.