Shopping by genre or by platform? The ‘chicken & egg’ of transmedia publishing…?

I came across Her Interactive this week, publishers of the Nancy Drew stories and was impressed to find that they offer a ’shop by platform’ option, which retains the focus on where it’s important – the story.  The device, or ‘means’ for the experience is consequential and driven by reader/user choice  and it got me thinking that this could eventually be an option that we take for granted.

By casting off those expectations that we’ve grown up with – a story is… text on a page, actors on the stage, special effects on the screen or a narrator reading – it’s a natural step to dictate how we want our stories; as I mentioned in my recent WIRED UK feature on transmedia storytelling, whether you want to read, listen, watch or ‘do’.  Making such choices will depend largely on what is the most convenient or appealing option.  It depends on your priorities, what your ‘device’ or platform of preference is is and the level of immersion you want from your transmedia ‘experience’.  The question remains, (in ‘chicken and egg’ style) which comes first – what you want (genre) and then how (device/platform)? Or the other way around?  Or does it matter?

Current digital platforms include these, but to truly fragment transmedially we can’t ignore everywhere that words appear – from bill boards to grafitti, business cards to posters (now we’re getting ‘viral’, but hey – isn’t ‘versatility’ key!)

When storybibling, fragmenting and delivering transmedia stories across a host of devices and platforms, it’s not so much about the physicality of each device, more the window that the platform offers, through which to experience the story.  Somebody once said about transmedia that “it’s all about the event”, but if transmedia is going to be the buzz word of 2010 as predicted, considering how we experience story elements is vital and the primary focus, not the individual devices.

It all goes back to relevance once again.  Andrew Savikas coined this on the TOC blog, “The bigger issue I see is that thinking of the problem as “how do we get a textbook onto an iPhone” is framing it wrong. The challenge is “how do we use a medium that already shares 3 of our 5 senses eyes, ears, and a mouth along with geolocation, color video, and a nearly-always-on Web connection to accomplish the ‘job’ of educating a student.” That’s a much more interesting problem to me than “how do we port 2-page book layouts to a small screen.”

It boils down to strategy.  Transmedia as a storytelling mode is both exciting and dynamic but must be underpinned by a solid strategic structure which is built on a versatility and awareness.  On-point strategy is to consider a series of elements such as experience design, social media behaviours and user data and the aim of a successful transmedia roll-out is to engage readers across a series of platforms, offering a story element relevant to the genre/reader environment and the platform.  This is achieved by keeping a sharp focus on the storyworld and considering the context of:

  • reader habitats (digitally and real world),
  • reader trends and behaviours,
  • readers scope for embracing ‘experience’,
  • opportunity for branding/marketing within relevant realms of the storyworld.

All of which will help to develop exceptional strategies to enable positive experiences.

Earlier this year I attended a talk at the ICA in London where interactive GPS experiences, Mediascapes, were being discussed along with ‘levels of immersion and some of the considerations in developing immersive experiences included:

Surface immersion .vs. deep immersion
Information .vs. evocation
User control .vs. no control
Clear rules .vs. no rules
Arbitrary mapping .vs. clear mapping
Linear .vs. non linear
Private .vs. public
Solitary .vs. shared

All of which are hugely valid in considering how your genre readers/audience behave, and how you want them to behave.

Further, on scrutinising the Conversation Prism by Brian Solis and Jesse Thomas I began attempting to adopt the relevance of the prism elements to my transmedia chick lit/rom com project but had to remind myself that this is a prism about CONVERSATION.  For transmedia we need something more than simply conversation, as this is only a facet of the bigger picture of transmedia.  I’m now working on the big picture for a transmedia prism and would love some collaborators!   How about developing an interaction prism, an immersion prism along with an engagement prism to help make the big picture?

I started to mark out of 10 how relevant the ‘petals’ on the prism might be when adapting these platforms to a contemporary women’s transmedia fiction.  ‘Comment and reputation’ scored a 9 (as the ‘over the fence’ gossip and recommendation scores highly with us girls), ‘crowdsourced content’ only scored a 4 as I felt that this would be more fitting in more of a gaming environment.  (No doubt it would be ace to build an online photographic portfolio of my characters lifestyles in London, Vegas and Paris but the truth is, would busy women really be bothered to send in photos?  No, I didn’t think so either.)

Based on my research to date, If I had to choose some elements from the conversation prism that I believe are the front runners when considering the 360 view of a transmedia fiction for women, I’d pick out ‘comment and reputation’, ‘micromedia’, ‘sms/voice’, ‘forums’, ‘social networks’, ‘interest and curated networks’, ‘location’, ‘video’, ‘events’, ‘music’, ‘livecasting video and audio ‘and ‘pictures’.  Of course, this remains a ‘work in progress’ as I continue to write, develop and produce my chicklit/romcom transmedia story, but in the meantime if anybody is seriously up for some brainstorming collaboration on that Transmedia Prism, then please holler…


4 thoughts on “Shopping by genre or by platform? The ‘chicken & egg’ of transmedia publishing…?

  1. stumbled onto your blog and I am loving/enjoying your entries – your mention of using the prism and trying to rate relevance in terms of using in a transmedia project is really cool and interesting. I have only a general interest/grounding in transmedia and started, for fun, looking at webseries that are part of transmedia (or pseudo-transmedia) ventures and trying to develop a transmedia necessity rating – where basically it relates how necessary is that particular piece (the webseries) for understanding/consuming the venture as a whole and the reverse (how important is the rest of the pieces for understanding the web series) – I would love to see how you develop this concept and I am interested to see other methods that exist/are developed to address relevance of pieces in these types of ventures.

    • Hi docwho.. thanks for the nice comments and glad you’re enjoying the posts.
      I feel that relevance is SO key in transmedia planning and strategy! Without a clear focus on ‘why’ an element is suited to be pervasive/immersive across other platforms you run the risk of hosting ‘parties’ at a variety of venues only to find that nobody shows up (= waste of resources/time/brainpower/money).
      Well executed transmedia projects are finely tuned and tightly written – take for example a much touted, (big budget) example – Audi’s ‘The Art of the Heist’ – A3 H3IST which is a great case study but required multiple channel exposure for full impact, rather than each channel living in its own right.
      There are legions of examples of poorly executed transmedia and to make every element an option for ‘drill-down’ takes something from the heart of the story and risks turning it to sand.
      I’m really interested in how you’ve been developing the necessity rating too, to define how key each particular piece is to complete comprehension of the whole venture (and the reverse!). I think that to be deemed as ‘necessary’ each transmedia element needs to both enhance AND drive the story, whilst allowing readers/viewers to enjoy the fragments in isolation or as part of the bigger picture. I’d love to know more about what you’re doing! If you’re interested, I’ve been teaching an intro to Transmedia Storytelling at SAEOnline – and please feel free to join the Facebook Group – storycentralDIGITAL.
      Thanks again.

  2. I work as a development director for a European film company and I lecture in Screenwriting.

    To me transmedia storytelling evolved from an economic necessity to capitalize on projects and increase their life span by developing a world, rather than a story or a character.

    if this model is the way ahead… do you believe that small independent media companies are doomed to become extinct?

    must we seek out other models and be part of conglomerates to survive?
    and in turn that would be hard to find which project all would want to work on,,,

    I am very curious about this subject and would love if you can share your thoughts as well….

    • Hi Jean Pierre – thanks for your input. I think transmedia storytelling came from a desire to open up story to allow engagement and enhancement – which in turns adds huge value!
      Whilst there are clear marketing plusses, I feel this is largely audience-led – (The Matrix, Lost) it is evident that the social qualities of the internet has made creators of consumers. It’s about creating the ‘cheese-holes’ in a storyworld for the audience to fill in with their own content. I don’t believe that small independent media companies are doomed to become extinct, but I do feel that media partnerships are the way forward. I think new models should be constantly sought out by the entire entertainment industry in order to move with the times and stay fresh and if we can share examples and business models with each other it will hopefully tick all the right boxes for continuing engagement AND enhancement.
      In terms of your role as a Development Director for a film company – are you coming across transmedia scripts/strategies? I know in publishing there is the beginnings of manuscripts being written AS transmedia properties. What are you finding?…

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