Transmedia Writing

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Stories told across multi-platform media environments — or transmedia stories as they are commonly called on the edge — require more complex writing. A story unfolds across diverse media with readers/viewers opting in to each layer.

At the same time, as writers we want to build an experience that satisfies casual consumers on the first level without requiring them to dig deeper into the media experience.

Writing for transmedia environments invokes a parallel to the classic journalistic pyramid style where details expand as a news story continues. Print journalists are trained to write so that areas can leave the story at any point fulfilled.

However, transmedia requires three dimensional thinking.

In essence, the audience drives where they want the story to go. Our job as writers is to empower them.

Jason Konopinski and I talked about this extensively in one of his recent podcasts.

A story can’t be linear in nature, rather it needs to allow for a reader/viewer to go in any direction they’d like across any media. The Walking Dead TV series — based off the comic book serial — was written to empower back stories with two-three minute webisodes.

Someone may view a TV program, but then read a book, and learn more. Their experience takes a horizontal leap when they visit the web site or YouTube and see outtakes.

Whether it is with photos, animation, comic books, or social media, the experience can go extends, in and out of your story arc, challenging media writers to become more like party hosts than a conventional storytellers.

That means transmedia writers should unfold a story with more than words. In essence, we have to master content creation in a variety of media.

In addition, as noted above, there will be casual viewers/readers, and most of them won’t want to access deeper levels of content. So as writers we need to build layers as rewards for the hungry die-hard fan. One could consider monetizing the story with deeper levels of engagement.

This is much like lead nurturing. In a marketing sense, I would consider the two to be analogous. Moving from the top of the sales funnel to a nurtured, qualified lead to closing a sale.

Consider how many bloggers give away free content, then monetize with deeper media experiences like webinars and books.

What do you think about transmedia writing for consumer media and in marketing?

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  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=501456842 Ken Mueller

    I’m gonna have to use this as a resource with the project I’m working on with the MIT Media Lab regarding this very topic.

    • geofflivingston

      Ha, very cool! What’s the project? Sounds exciting.

      • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=501456842 Ken Mueller

        It’s a study of the history of transmedia storytelling, with an emphasis on the sociological characteristics regardless of time or medium. It’s something I wrote on years ago when I was at the Museum in NYC, regarding early radio.

  • http://twitter.com/maryanneconlin Maryanne Conlin

    I think it is essential in an environment where the reader almost certainly engages and interacts with the message. Good post – requires some deep thinking to apply it!

    • geofflivingston

      I agree, it’s not a message tree, that’s for sure. I hope to experiment with it some more in the future.

  • http://twitter.com/RogierNoort Rogier Noort

    I am no writer, I’ll never claim to be one. I do write a blog, but there is a huge difference.
    Telling a transmedia story is where that difference is most evident.., I believe.
    It takes skill to write like that, proper planning and cooperation too. I do like the idea. Especially when one is able to implement this on a small business scale.

    But, like I said, difficult to accomplish.

    • geofflivingston

      Yeah, I think I’m not there yet, either. I do want to get there, though. As a writer, I like the challenge!

      • http://twitter.com/RogierNoort Rogier Noort

        You could try it out with a single project. Work it out on a whiteboard, see what elements need to go on which channel, would you use audio and/or video to support the whole thing.

        Taking a podcast as a starting point one could move to several blog posts and instagram or pinterest to sustain the story finishing of in a short video.

        Basically, writing a blog post is a (very) short project. Writing a story seems like a huge project (with some or many small projects).

        You could even write it across several blogs, with multiple bloggers.., that’ll be cool. Read one, move to another blog to read the second and so on, a hashtag on Twitter… Some planning…

        Ah well., just thinking out loud…

  • http://twitter.com/KatrinaMoody Katrina Moody

    I love it! It’s another parallel to the idea of “playing with my words” – if you are putting yourself in the audience’s shoes and looking at the past and the future of the content you are wanting and trying to share with that audience, it becomes a way to use your words to create a whole new dynamic.

    I’d love to play with this more, as I’ve only played with this idea a bit … Social Media and the multiple platforms available make it both challenging and exciting to do this all in a larger scale!

    • geofflivingston

      It does seem like a fun green field to get involved in. I, too, hope to play with this some more in the future!

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  • http://twitter.com/jigotwald Judy Gotwald

    Sounds like the rebirth of the serial.

  • http://www.bellyfeel.co.uk/ Krishna Stott

    I think Online Digital Marketing techniques are the missing ingredients that Transmedia and Interactive Storytelling need to move forwards towards the next stage with new innovative business models – talking of GREAT storytellers – if Hitchcock were alive today I think he’d be an online marketeer.!

  • http://www.ubiquitycorp.com/ Chris Carmichael Ubiquity Corp

    Many franchises have adopted this method to further enhance their products. Pokémon is a prime example of this. The franchise spans several different media platforms from a card game to a TV series, with movies, action figures, stuffed animals, merchandise, electronics, and video games all in between.

    http://www.screencast.com/users/ConniejordanMichael/folders/Default/media/0a9e069f-403d-46c4-a3e0-f57f6275b8c6>Chris Carmichael Ubiquity Corp

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