Serialized entertainment is a mainstay of storytelling for centuries. And it's gotten new life in everything from streamed tv series to fan fiction, podcasts, webtoons, phone fiction, and serialized story apps like SerialBox and Wattpad. But with some exceptions, these formats mostly lack built-in, freemium-style monetization capabilities, and none of them run on Alexa, where daily routines and the conversational experience present an ideal medium for serialized content offerings.

What Headcanon Voice Publishing does

Headcanon is a platform for serialized fiction, non-fiction, children's stories, and more. The skill delivers one episode per day, free-of-charge. To binge listen to the entire story at once, with access to any episode, in any order, plus get unique interactive features, users can purchase Full Access from directly within the skill.

But that's only half the story. Headcanon was designed to scale up available content by cleanly separating content creation into a separate, easy-to-use and understand authoring system.

With no code and no technical knowledge, creators can readily build freemium episodic content with premium interactive features that the Headcanon skill will run. We're building a variety of interactive features for creators to choose from and support, from exploring within scenes to creator commentary, similar to Director's Commentary in films, to SMS and email messaging additional premium content or information to users. We've got three titles in production that we can talk about, and are piloting marquee non-fiction content from major authors and publishers.

It's a new category for monetizing content that is not a podcast, or audiobook, or a game, but a new combination of elements delivering experiences that take advantage of the Alexa platform and its unique capabilities.

Interactive Features _ Explore Within Episodes _ For example, after you’ve heard an episode of our premiere story Here Boy, you can say Hear thoughts to listen in on the characters’ thoughts, or say Look around for a detailed perusal of the current scene.

Message listeners via SMS and email. For the forthcoming Headcanon Edition of the cult serial, The Adventures of Ford Fairlane, by Rex Weiner, you can say Send me the playlist to get a music playlist specially curated each of the story’s New Wave/late 70’s downtown Manhattan episodes, sent directly by Headcanon directly to the listener’s phone via SMS.

How I built it

Headcanon was designed to scale, and is built as a platform with a robust runtime engine that can load and operate episodic content with paid premium content plus unique interactive features.

Challenges I ran into

We did not have particular challenges that we would consider unexpected. Probably the greatest challenge was to build and pleasingly integrate the four main elements of the Headcanon Platform:

  • A robust and capable runtime engine
  • An easy-to-use, no code authoring system to empower creators
  • Well-designed and implemented In-Skill purchasing user flows
  • Compelling content

On this last point, we're proud of the first story, Here Boy, an unconventional love story. But we're following that up immediately with the cult, serialized Original Adventures of Ford Fairlane, the subject of the feature film, but here brought back to its original, downtown noir glory in collaboration with celebrated author, Rex Weiner. There are others in the works, and we will make use of our extensive network in the publishing, author, entertainment, and creative communities to ensure a solid catalog of compelling Headcanons comes to Alexa.

Accomplishments that I'm proud of

Designing and building a platform that will empower creators to create and monetize content for Alexa.

What I learned

Skills are inherently commerce-enables, and what’s more, this medium has the same broad potential as the Web, but with a new and broadly accessible interface. Serious fun!

What's next for Headcanon Voice Publishing

Extending birth the platform’s capabilities and the catalog of content. There’s a lot in the works!

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