Transmedia: Multichannel Storytelling Transcends Platforms

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“Ideally, each medium makes it own unique contribution to the unfolding of the story” (Henry Jenkins, 2006)
Star Wars Media Universe

Who doesn’t like a great entertaining story? Now imagine a story told throughout your daily experience across diverse media types.

While not a new phenomena, transmedia storytelling challenges conventional siloed storytelling by transcending singular form to engage users. Die hard Star Wars or Star Trek fans can testify the many extensions of their narrative story in multiple media forms extend their stories beyond film. The Star Wars experience transcends so many media types and producers that Lucasfilm employs a story cop to make sure elements don’t contradict each other.

Of course, the greatest modern transmedia hit to date was Lost. Both Hollywood and Madison Avenue alike look at transmedia as an undeveloped source of entertainment and marketing engagement.

Top Chef offers a current example of transmedia in our current entertainment marketplace. The show offers secondary competitions online for die hard fans. Bravo is moving to make content available beyond the second screen onto any Internet access device out there.

Transmedia storytelling offers several marketing benefits including many points of entry to reach distributed customers and extending content value across media, which in turn can bolster ROI for content creators. The Skoll World Forum and the Sundance Institute are going so far as teach entrepreneurs storytelling across diverse media platforms.

Transmedia: All Buzz, No Bite?

Seven Core Concepts of Transmedia Storytelling

Make no bones about it, transmedia represents an experimental form of storytelling. It’s sophisticated, and on the edge.

Though research and guidance has been published, and brands like Audi, BMW, and Coke have experimented over the decade, trandmedia offers more buzz and potential than pragmatic case studies. That in turn produces questions about its viability as a marketing medium.

Personally, I don’t think that’s because the transmedia concept doesn’t work. Clearly the media industry produces enough successes to demonstrate consumers will embrace transmedia.

Rather, today’s marketing campaigns are so primitive and message driven. The current mainstream marketer doesn’t have the capacity to develop story arcs that transcend and unfold over diverse media. The talent doesn’t exist in companies to produce this kind of sophisticated storytelling.

Simple does the trick, “Imported from Detroit!”

Frankly, most companies would rather pay their way in through the advertising than cultivate it. That’s unfortunate because in reality, deploying a wide range of video, visual and interactive assets to tell a great story is not that expensive. But business marketers can’t even find the moxie to blog today much less expand their thinking.

One area where transmedia seems to be making more progress is the nonprofit sector. NPTech blogger and friend Nedra Weinreich follows this trend closely.

She wrote a fantastic blog post on transmedia a couple of years ago. In it she says, “In a transmedia story, you are immersed in the plotline either as the main character or as you get to know the characters and their world from many different angles. Often, transmedia stories are told in real-time, with the characters posting to their Twitter accounts, writing blog posts and creating YouTube videos… This type of immersive experience can make a strong impression on knowledge, attitudes and perceptions of social norms, and can motivate action.”

Check out this crazy site Conspiracy for Good. The site calls its transmedia approach, “a pilot project for a first-of-its-kind interactive story that empowers its audience to take real-life action and create positive change in the world. Call it Social Benefit Storytelling.” Conspiracy goes on to makes the reader the hero of the story, fighting for social and environmental justice.

It’s just one example of a very cool different approach to storytelling and engagement that is available to us on the social web. What do you think about transmedia? Do you think this type of deep sophisticated integration holds potential for marketers?

Attending BlogWorld Expo? Join me tomorrow (6/6) at 1 p.m. for Marketing in the Round book signing with Que Publishing in Booth 213.

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  • http://bit.ly/bceuf ericschwartzman

    For marketers, the biggest hurdle is the shift in thinking from “creative advertising” to “editorial.” There’s a reason there’s no Classic Ads channel on cable or broadcast.  Ads need editorial content to host on. Still, most marketers treat social media as a parking lot for press releases and promotions.  The studios and networks don’t have that problem because they’ve been making editorial content for years. They know how to do it.  My guess is marketers are likely to misinterpret transmedia storytelling as an excuse for pushing different versions of the same marketing content over multiple channels.  That doesn’t mean there’s no potential. It means if history foretells the future, markets are likely to miss the real opportunity here (remember the social media press release?) and most companies probably won’t have the endurance to capitalize. Just sayin…

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