Clarity in Transmedia

A couple of days ago I was alerted to Google’s new study, going by the name of “The New Multi-screen World: Understanding Cross-Platform Consumer Behavior.”. It’s an interesting report, especially taking into context where it is coming from – you can’t go much bigger than Google, especially not in online video content.

To sum the report up, it points out a number of key findings, chief of which are the facts that most of today’s media consumption is screen-based, that viewers move seamlessly between devices and that TV no longer holds the full attention of the audience, the major part of which choose to accompany TV viewing with some other device, be it laptop, smartphone or tablet.

Now, there is one thing that strikes me as obvious in all this, at the same time as the creative in me shouts with joy at having so many possible engagement points with an audience. That thing is a well-needed quality called Clarity.

In her brilliant book “A Creator’s Guide to Transmedia Storytelling”, Andrea Phillips talks to Jay Bushman, who points out the exact same quality as one amongst others, saying: “…when potential new players first encounter your experience, they need to know exactly what they are being asked to do.”. This is very true, and for me the same goes for non-players; passive members of the audience electing to merely observe. Even though these take part only as consumers, it is extremely important to keep the right level of information so as to guide them correctly while, of course, avoiding the loss of the wilful suspension of disbelief.

An example could be the pan-European transmedia drama venture The Spiral. It has received mixed reviews after the first episode. As someone who signed up for the online game – the treasure hunt – well before the launch of the TV series, I will say that it was not a project overly keen on taking the audience by the hand and leading them to new pastures. The whole was not explained – at least not in a form I understood – leaving me quitting playing after a brief while. I have since picked it up a couple of more times, but again been baffled by one thing or another. My attention span is usually a bit longer than 15 seconds, but if I do not get the feeling that “I will understand this very soon”, I do tend to wander off.

There are many other examples, ranging from neglecting proper marketing for a project to not keeping in line with the story’s own overarching mythology; anything that confuses an audience detracts from the experience and the message, and would need to be rectified.

Clarity therefore: the single thing that can help turn your potential disaster into a project people love. Use with abandon!

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