The ”Why” of Transmedia

I’m thrilled to see a great many transmedia projects springing up all around the world, in different settings; from marketing campaigns for blockbusters and tv series to crowdsourced international mystery-stories, from web based crime fiction projects to socially engaged documentaries – the powers of transmedia storytelling are being grasped and acted upon my a steadily increasing number of practitioners. The like-button is firmly pressed for my part.

One thing I myself have found to be of great importance to keep in mind when developing stories and content for a transmedia project is the simple question ”why”? It might sound naive, but believe me, it can at times be a hard question to answer, at least in a way that would satisfy yourself, let alone anyone you would like to invest in your project.

A simple ”because I (or we) can” just does not cut it. That’s a sure-fire way of developing something that doesn’t fit together in the seamless and logical way that’s crucial for any transmedia project. There are just too many pitfalls along the way; there is no need to go digging them yourself.

”Because it’s cool” or “because it’s what everyone is doing nowadays” are hardly better reasons. Yes, it will be cool, providing you get it right. Chances are you won’t, and it will not, therefore, be particularly cool. Yes, many others are doing it. This does not mean that you, necessarily, should be doing it as well.

If it’s a transmedia marketing campaign for a release of some kind, that makes it infinitely easier. It’s ”to raise awareness of this particular property” or ”to make people engage in the content and get more viewers in through word-of-mouth”. In this sense you know what you’re aiming for and your results are possible to observe, analyze and draw conclusions from.

Another reason, especially if we are talking about a transmedia campaign connected to an existing property (the new Pottermore instalment might be an example) can be ”to extend the storyworld and offer more content to an engaged audience”. This is a reason that probably could be adapted to most transmedia projects, and in that sense needs more clarification – is it ”to offer alternative or complementary stories set in the original storyworld”? Or is it ”to give the audience a playing field, a sandbox, intended for user generated content”? Is it something else?

It can also be ”to explain the background and the history of the main property in the story” or ”to expand on the mythology through new stories” or even ”to act as a behind-the-scenes view of the main property” (especially in the case of transmedia documentaries).

Whatever reason you have for developing transmedia content (and the answers to the ”why?” above are probably as many and as diverse as the number of transmedia projects in existence), ”Why?” remains a good question to ask, at any point of the development, production and execution phase.

PS. It was swiftly pointed out to me that one – perhaps one of the most central – reason for transmedia would be “to generate revenue” and in the long run “to increase the value of the IP”. I will concur, although I will add that at the moment I think most of the transmedia projects we are seeing are pretty happy just to break even. Thanks Simon Pulman for pointing it out. DS

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