This is a post from late 2014 that I will continuously update, with the aim to help people get the hang of transmedia quickly and efficiently. Last update May 2017.
First, a full disclaimer. I’m writing this post not so much for you, dear reader, as I’m doing it for myself. Let me explain.
As I’m increasingly working with people who have no or little experience of transmedia (or even cross media or any of the theories or practices behind multiplatform storytelling), I find myself explaining what it is, what it is not, why it is a Good Thing and what some examples would be… over and over again.
I don’t mind this, since the people asking are most often either paying me or genuinely interested. But often I’ve been thinking that if I could just point people to a resource that told them exactly what I wanted to tell them, and have them read up on that before our meeting or workshop, we’d save soooo much time.
This is that. View this as an introduction to transmedia storytelling, from my very personal point of view – that of a content creator and producer, storyteller, writer, consultant and whatever other name I can come up with.
Transmedia – or Now Media as I’ve come to call it from time to time – storytelling is the art of telling a story or multiple stories across different media platforms, in such a way that the stories are not merely copies of each other but differ. The stories support each other over the different platforms and base themselves in a common story world. Together, they offer the user/viewer/audience a greater, better and more engaging experience.
If you Google ”transmedia”, you’ll be sure to find a number of other definitions. And quite a few debates as well (look no further than here or here (discussions instigated by the late, great Brian Clark)) about what it all means and why, and should we even care, and what should we call it.
Ultimately though, it really doesn’t matter what we call transmedia. I’m firmly of the belief that the term will be gone in the not-too-distant future, as everything becomes just ”media”. But until then, using the term works for me, to keep my head straight when working on projects. And it is also useful for people starting out, to have something to base their research and their first trials on. And, yeah, it is useful when it comes to getting paid for what you do. If you are a transmedia designer, that’s a title and a job – and the better you can define what that it, the better you can ask for proper pay.
It’s never been this easy (or, well, ”easy” 🙂 ) to connect a global audience over a number of platforms via tools that are virtually free and accessible to everyone. I for one think this unique turn of events deserve an own term, at least for the time being.
There are so many examples out there. What you should watch and what you should do research into all depends on what you really want to do. Here are a couple of examples (and many more can be found under the ”RESOURCES” subtitle below)
Why So Serious? is an example you’ll encounter many a time when talking about transmedia. It’s one of the earlier examples of transmedia storytelling as marketing, drawing on Hollywood stardust and funds. It’s enticing as well – showing how you can credibly use different platforms to engage an audience in a great narrative, leading up to a climax.
Guidestones is another example, a bit more recent (they’re currently, late 2014, working on season two) of how to engage an audience over multiple platforms and lead them on a virtual scavenger hunt for more content.
Lizzie Bennet Diaries is yet another example, this time about how to create a massive amount of content and use the possibilities of YouTube series and other social media to monetize content in a way that makes it profitable.
From less of a fiction angle and more of a documentary one, here’s Fort McMoney, an interesting take on how to create an interactive story telling about an issue from a number of angles. The video is from a panel talk on the documentary from the MIPDOC conference:
There are also, of course, a lot of different ways to use transmedia storytelling for other purposes. Here’s a lengthy video from MIT talking about using transmedia for social change.
I know myself, from personal experience, that using transmedia storytelling methods when planning content and media strategies for companies works fabulously. It helps you think outside the box and see possibilities (as well as challenges), good points for call-to-action and interactivity and where and how it would pay off to engage an audience in co-creation or co-production. Want to know more about what I’ve/we’ve done, hit me up – contacts are under the ”About” page.
There are a great number of people to listen to, to read up on, to follow, to take example from… but you could start with these five and work your way from there.
Jeff Gomez from Startlightrunner Entertainment, because he’s an evangelist of the art, who works with the biggest names in the business and travels around the world to spread the word on transmedia.
Christy Dena, one of the few to hold a PhD in transmedia, for her intelligent take on the issues of the field and her interesting projects (and the fact that she, too, travels the world and gets in touch with a lot of interesting stuff).
Rob Pratten from Transmedia Storyteller, since their Conducttr solution is one of the few engines out there that anyone can use to produce and distribute their transmedia project. No surprise to hear that Rob also spends a fair amount of time in planes going across the globe.
Lina Srivastava, since she’s the one that opened my eyes to transmedia activism and transmedia for good. She has a very good grip on that area and is a good person to follow for the latest insights.
Fiona Milburn, since she’s the foremost curator of all things transmedia. Very little escapes her, and she’s constantly sharing her findings and knowledge with the world.
TRANSMEDIA IN 2017
Late last year there was a series of blog posts discussing where transmedia is right now – what’s happened to the term, what’s happened to the practices and how should we view it all today? Read the articles from Andrea Phillips here and from Christy Dena here (and through the Immerse links you can get hold of the other articles as well).
Want to delve further into transmedia? Good. Read this book, and this, and this. And visit this web page, this, this and also this. In August 2015 Rob Pratten updated his “Getting Started in Transmedia Storytelling” here.
That should be enough to get a start. Looking forward to talking to you!