Transmedia – The Steady Burn

There is an interesting discussion going on regarding the possibilities and implifications when talking about transmedia and localization – i.e. segmentation, catering for the needs of different demographics through the powers of transmedia. Simon Pulman wrote a great post stemming from Shakira, Jeff Gomez and Rosetta Stone, to which Alison Norrington responded with some good thoughts on the cultural perspectives and Lucas J.W. Johnson pitched in with an interesting post about the dangers of ghettoization (be sure to read the comments too, all good stuff!)

Transmedia – engaging in the long run

Looking at the issue from another angle, I have always felt that one of the major strengths of transmedia is the possibility to add the Steady Burn to any project you’re working on. If, in a project, the tv series premiere or the major motion picture release is the bright flash that catches everyone’s attention, the transmedia story archs can provide the steady burn that keeps people huddled around your story fire.

All previous advice still apply, naturally. The different transmedia parts of a story must fit together, they must stay true to the overall mythology and canon and they must be executed with utmost care. My point is rather to look at parts of what you’re creating as just that – the steady burn, the log you put on the fire to ensure it does not go out, that final piece of wood that makes the tinders just perfect for roasting your transmedia marshmallows on.

In this sense my thoughts tie in with the discussion above – I feel that including the awareness of localization, of catering to different segments of your audience via different storylines, is a powerful thing in this aspect.

To exemplify: If a tv series has ended and there will be over half a year until the start of the next season, you will have viewers that symphatize with different characters in your story. Now, as the steady burn until the next bright flash, let the ones following your hispanic character continue to do so via her YouTube videos, the ones following your gay character continue via Twitter updates, the ones following your divorced suicidal middle aged white mail character do so via his blog etc – and plan these updates to a) stay true to the story world, b) move off on their own mini-story-archs, as a sort of interlude and c) tie them all together, so that anyone watching the first one or two episodes of the next series of the tv show will find references to these storylines that have acted as interludes. (Of course, that first show must also work for anyone who has not been involved in the interludes as well, but that’s a given).

The Long Tail in a transmedia world

Now, Venture Beat has an eye-opening article on how social media advertising is replacing traditional media advertising. We all know this has been happening for quite some time already (just look at how traditional newspapers are faring) but when, for instance, Proctor & Gamble declares that they will be moving the lion share of their tv advertisement money to social platforms, this will have broad implications for anyone in content production.

Looking at the example above, I was talking about the tv series being the driving platform for the story line. This will probably be true for the forseeable future as well (even though the largest amount of people watching said tv series will have torrented it, watched it online somewhere or just basically NOT sat down in front of a television at a set time each week), since tv is a great media to tell stories via and since most people are used to the 30, 45 or 60 minute spot and it’s dramaturgy. What will not be true – and has not been for some time now, regarding many productions – is that tv will be the major source of revenue for whatever story/property you are producing. The “long tail” model is no longer only about distribution but also production. Revenue will come from online, mobile, you name it, and the content will need to take this into accord, be tailored, localized – basically developed according to the best transmedia principles.

In the example above, I would look at a scenario in the very near future where the sole aim of the television series – even if it is am HBO mega series or suchlike – is to build the mythology and the story strong enough to engage people in the Steady Burn between series, where the major part of the revenue stream is found through subscriptions, donations, fees, etc.

Interesting times ahead.

4 thoughts on “Transmedia – The Steady Burn

  1. I totally agree with the slow-burn idea but I suspect it's very difficult to pull off in practice. It's not only moving the producers/creators/distributors away from "campaigns" it's also about audiences migrating to new shiny projects.It's also a problem for indies who will find their resources and enthusiasm stretched to breaking point. How many filmmakers are sick of their movie once it's finally finished editing? I think the trick to doing this successfully is to allow fans to create their own content between the "official" content. It shows the original creators where fan enthusiasm lies and allows resources to be directed accordingly.Co-creation also addresses some of those localisation/niche audience groups too because the people implementing the localisation are…well.. local 🙂

  2. Robert,yeah, I am talking about an ideal world here. It will have to adapt to reality, which is why I absolutely agree with your point about fan-created content; question is, as always, how much freedom you will allow the fans to have with regards to your property. Still – and now I'm being idealistic again – if you adapt Jeffs Swiss Cheese model, i.e. purposefully leaving holes in your story, where you know the boundaries of the holes but allow the users to fill the holes in their way, then it might be manageable. And yes, it should not be the same person(s) producing everything from A to Z; the same team, with the same grasp of the story world, yes, but not the ones who've just rendered the last episode after 2 months of day-and-night-editing 🙂

  3. I like the concept of the slow burn approach you described but as Robert mentioned the burn in terms of money and effort to sustain interest may prove too much.Co-creation does seem to be a viable option in maintaining interest that is not cost prohibitative, so long as the framework is set up for in depth engagement

  4. Tom,yes, but it's all about creating sustainable business models that allows a project to maintain that steady burn… and I absolutely do not believe that the same person(s) should be responsible for maintaining all this content; the funding should be there for a larger production team, that can "take turns" so to speak.And yes, as a producer that has to find that money to make my/our stuff, I know it's hard 🙂 … still, it is a challenge, not an obstacle.

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