It was with great joy I read Lisa Hsia’s(Bravo Digital Media) article over at Mashable yesterday. Entitled ”HowTransmedia Storytelling Is Changing TV”, it struck directly to the core of myprofessional life – the merging of television with transmedia storytellingmethods, meaningful multiplatform content, coherent strategies for development,production and distribution and a will to look beyond traditional models andinto an inevitable crowd-participation future. Lisa was talking at Storyworld a couple of weeks ago and my guess is that we will be seeinga lot of interesting stuff from Bravo during the coming years.
Lisa brings up some examples; Bravo’s own TopChef, Syfy’s Defiance (which I must admit I haven’t gotten the chance to check outyet) and Tim Kring’s new Kiefer Sutherland-powered Touch, out next year. She quite correctly states that the audienceis already social, already on many platforms, already expecting more than amere television show; the only thing therefore that makes sense is to fishwhere the fish are, and strive to create as exciting and as great (and as logical and as much”Hey, this makes sense!”) content as possible.
It is, however, the two last paragraphs in thearticle that I find the most interesting. Lisa, as Jeff Gomez did at Storyworld, talks about ”collaborative socialstorytelling”, where the fans can ”further the plot in a pervasive, meaningfulway”.
I fully agree that this is a sort of Utopiafor any developer and writer and producer of television content. Having theaudience engage to such a degree that they can collaborate in a meaningful wayto further a plot they are engaged in, will make the audience instantambassadeurs for your brand or content (unless you’re hoaxing them, and thenthe backlash might be severe). Looking at today’s television landscape, thisdoes not yet really exist.
The talent shows, for instance, engage peoplevia SMS (to influence, in a minimal way, how the plot evolves) and as a stormof comments on social media (which influences the outcome not a bit). The fewexperiments when the audience have had the chance to impact the evolvement of adrama / fiction on television or elsewhere have either been too difficult toproduce or ended up in a bad way, since the audience might decide a lot ofstupid things just for laughs (or, to put it more correctly, for the LULZ). Theexample of Mad Men is a welcome change from that, as viewers take on the MadMen characters on Twitter and handle them with utmost care, keeping in linewith the story world and narrative superstructure of Mad Men.
What I’ve derived from this is that, ascreators, we need to plan for the long haul. And when I say long haul, I meanlooooooooooooong haul. I.e., do not create a television series, brand ittransmedia, open up sandboxes for the audience and expect them to come over andplay nice. What everyone who creates new television shows must do, is createwith audience interaction always in sync with the rest of the development andbuilt on transmedia storytelling methods. Then, when the show gets commissioned,do the first season WITHOUT any transmedia elements. Heck, do the second seasontoo, without any transmedia elements.
After two seasons you should have amasseddata and feedback enough to a) have a firm grasp of what your audience wants todo with you and your content, b) have found any potential loopholes in yourtransmedia strategy. You have also seen that your series is a good one thatwill get a longer run, so the transmedia implementations are not producedunnecessarily. And, you’ve hopefully built a loyal fan base that knows as muchabout the mythology and story world as you do, and are keen to enforce therules and keep a straight line and a tidy ship, should anyone else try to stirthings up.
Basically – to go fast, you first need to goslow. Or something like that J.