The five pillars of transmedia

Again this past week I find myself impressedby the amount of thought processing that people put into thinking abouttransmedia and its’ impact on all kinds of media (and other kinds of artexpressions, such as theatre for instance, (which admittedly was from last year but popped up on my radar only now).

Reading through a number of posts and articleson everything from social television to transmedia in marketing, I think onething stands out very clearly. Everyone is looking at transmedia from their ownangle. This is very natural and exactly as it should be, as everyone have theirown area of expertise, everyone have their own skillsets and everyone havetheir own projects in mind when deliberating using transmedia storytellingmethods.
A classic view of transmedia. Nothing wrong with it, except for the fact that no people are involved.
Picture from sonofhowell.com
What this means, however, is that on many occasions a full-fledgedtransmedia project cannot be successfully developed and implemented – at leastnot one that would realize the full potential of transmedia storytelling –without there being people representing all these different areas of expertisepresent in the project. This, in turn, points to what was discussedover at Transmythology earlier, the need for translators between differentpossible parts and people in a transmedia project. These translators – or avery comprehensive glossary that everyone would be required to memorize – arecrucial in order for everyone to understand everyone else and pull in the samedirection. 


Basically it is very easy to get lost in the myriad of storytelling, technical and other possibilities and connections outlined in the picture above. We need to remember that it is actual people who will design, develop, produce, distribute and market the content that is created; these people need to gel, at least in the context of the project, or else we’ll have something worth less than the sum of its’ parts, instead of the other way around.


Five people we need to get to talk to and understand each other,
if a transmedia project is to be a success

The five pillars

As I see it there are five pillars that asuccessful transmedia project must strive to get to work together andunderstand each other (disclaimer: there are transmedia projects where the same person sits on two or more of these chairs, as well as projects that differ in some other way; this is based on projects I’ve worked on, where for instance tv has played a big part).
The creative part. 

First off, this is notto say that any other part is not creative. They are, more often than not. Bycreative I mean the people responsible for creating the story, the content.They build the storyworld, fill it with characters and plots and stories andplan how these can extend over different media. They write the scripts, theyplan the overarching story arc, the narrative superstructure and look atpossible entry points via seeded storylines on different media.
One thing that the creative people sometimesmiss are the technological aspects of what they want to create. It’scomparatively easy to say ”…and then we’ll tell the story of XX via a casualgame on Facebook”. I mean, there are TONS of casual games on Facebook, right?How hard can it be? In reality, it’s a little trickier – a Facebook game cancost quite a bit (try 100k€ and upwards) and you need to find someone who knowshow to program it as well. And get them to GET your idea… and so on. 
It’s alsooften hard for a creative (I know, I count myself as one as well) to relinquishhold of their story or characters, whether it be to other people in the developmentor project team or in the end to the audience. But if this is what makes sense,then this is what needs to be done; we must try to keep a certain distance,while not letting go of any of the passion.
The technological / production part. 

Now, for tech people(of which I am not one, so any techies reading this and feeling hard done by,blame me) other challenges exist.  Programmingis an art form – you can write beautiful code or ugly code or anything inbetween, that much I’ve learnt from my programmer brother – but lives bytotally different constraints than the creative storytelling part. Deadlines inthe programming world are often not the same as deadlines in, say, thetelevision world. There is no ”putting forward the release date” of theprogramming part of a project, if the television part of it is supposed to airat a certain date and time. 
This is a minor problem though; a greater challengefor tech people can be to immerse themselves in the story to the extent thatthey actually try to enhance it with technical possibilities, not just make thestuff that the creative team asks for. There are a lot of possibilties with appsand web portals and HTML5 and what have you, that creatives simply do not knowabout. 
If the tech people can immerse themselves in the story, they will startto see possibilities that the creative people then need to be able to take inand understand, in order to work them into the story. This all takes some timeand a lot of trial and error – believe me.

The financial part. 

These are veryimportant men and women. Not only because they are the ones who will get youthe funding you need to be able to do what you are setting out to do, but alsobecause they will be very close and intimate with your project
See, money veryseldom comes without any strings attached. It’s your financial people thatoften will broker the deals that say which strings will be attached where andwhy. The creators will have their say, naturally, and so will the tech people.But in the end, if there is no money, nothing gets made. That’s why it is sovery important to integrate these people into the story and the story world,using transmedia storytelling methods to tell the stories to them as well toensure they see the same project and the same content and the same stories aseveryone elseOnly then can the financial people properly care for the projectin talks with possible partners. 
(Or you can crowdsource on Kickstarter etc;that again brings its own challenges (unless you’re producing Double Fine andstart a Kickstarter campaign, of course, then it’s all cool sailings :)).
The distribution part.
The distribution people are the ones thatultimately will be in charge of making sure everyone can take part of whatyou’ve created. If you’re a small indie (or you’ve created something that doesn’t need any bigger and more costly platform) you might simply distribute your storyon YouTube (if that is an applicable platform), via an e-book or by some othermeans, depending on your content. If you’re relying on television you have yourbroadcasters or IPTV providers, if it’s a film then you deal with the theatersand the DVD distributors, and so on. A lot of this is technicalities;follow the set of rules for submitting content and the end result will be asprojected. 
What distribution people increasingly need to pay heed to is thefact that they too are a part of the bigger story. Distribution (and this goesvery much for the ”old” media, such as television) need to adapt to fit into abigger picture; for instance, the television part of a story can no longerdictate all other parts of a transmedia project, or everything will suffer. 
Distributorsneed to take into consideration the instructions from the creative people aboutthe story and the storyworld as well as the possibilities and demands the techpeople might offer and have. This in turn means that the distribution peopleneed to look beyond their core area of interest – distribution – and beprepared to take in the whole of the narrative superstructure, the mythologyand the story world, to make sure the distribution models ADD to the overallexperience, not DETRACT from it.  
The marketing part
I know many people scoff at marketing when itcomes to transmedia. And yes, a cause can be made for transmedia marketing notbeing a ”true” form of transmedia, but since no global organization hasestablished a single definite definition of transmedia yet, I guess you cancall transmedia marketing ”transmedia” if you want to. In this post though Iwould look beyond this and focus on the role that marketing has for anytransmedia project. 
As I wrote last week, there should be no ”build it and theywill come”-thinking when it comes to transmedia. You have created compellingcontent with groundbreaking use of technology, good funding and distributionsecured. You even have a set target group as intended audience. Now you need toput it in front of them, and here’s when the people at marketing come in. Theyare – if they are worth their salt – usually very good at getting things infront of people. The more people you can get to take note of your content (andproviding your content is good enough to measure up) the more chance you haveof your project turning into a breakaway success. 
What marketing people needto ponder and understand is that transmedia most often has a participatorynature. It’s not marketing in the sense of ”show them this can of soda enoughtimes and they will buy it!”, it’s ”tell the story of the content, give them areason to tell it – or their own connected stories – onwards and the tools todo it”. There’s quite a big difference that needs to be understood and adheredto, in order for marketing to work for a transmedia project.


The sixth part – the audience
All of this leads to one thing; the need tocreate a transmedia experience that will engage, excite, enable and enrich anaudience. This, while all the people representing the five pillars above need to communicate fully andthoroughly with each other, communication which may or may not include the use of translators and glossaries to assist with the understanding. What it all boils down to is that everyone muststrive to understand everyone else and open one’s eyes to the possibilities andchallenges that will arise.
Or, rather, open one eye to possibilities andchallenges, as the other eye needs to stay constantly fixed on the audience,ready to adapt, respond, re-develop and communicate.
The audience is the foundation that all thesepillars need to be grounded on, else we’ll just have a heap of rabble in theend. More on them in another post.
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