The powerful ‘power of story’

The importance and power of ‘story’ is the heartbeat, the soul, the life (and potential death) of a robust transmedia IP.

This advertisement by Sky Atlantic, ‘the exclusive UK home of HBO’ summarises our human need and engagement with a fabulous story….


We all spend our lives telling them, about this, about that, about people..

But some?

Some stories are so good we wish they’d never end.

They’re so gripping that we’ll go without sleep just to see a  little bit more.

Some stories bring us laughter and sometimes they bring us tears….

but isn’t that what a great story does?

Makes you feel?

Stories that are so powerful….

they really are with us forever.”

Robert McKee also has some theories on what constitutes ‘story’:

Story is about eternal, universal forms, not formulas.

Story is about archetypes, not stereotypes.

Story is about thoroughness, not shortcuts.

Story is about mastering the art, not secondguessing the marketplace.

Story is about respect, not disdain, for the audience.

Story is about originality, not duplication.

These are all valid and important points, not only in storytelling, but specifically in transmedia storytelling too, and by extending story over timelines and platforms we can only hope that we can begin to create stories that make people ‘feel’, that are so good that our audiences wish they’d never end (what a dream! to be able to write like that!).

Transmedia storytelling has been dubbed ‘fiction without barriers‘ and ‘limitless storytelling’ which I think is a little exaggerated (at least from a strategic planning, scale and scope perspective) – but from an engaged, lean-forward audience I can see how it might appear that way.

On the run-up to my Transmedia Development Workshop at Digital Book World (in two weeks time) I’ll be building on these concepts and theories of ‘story’, and other issues through a series of mini posts, here at storycentralDIGITAL so stay tuned.


14 days to go….



Cultural perspectives – getting it right isn’t just about niche

This post is really a space to show some images that I wanted to share in response to an interesting post by Simon Pulman at

Simon had raised a thought-provoking issue about cultural perspectives and localization to which I’d responded, but wanted to show some examples of a fabulous (and equally thought-provoking) ad campaign that HSBC bank have been running for a couple of years now.

It hinges on cultural perspectives and how there are multiple perspectives on any given subject, so that something can be deemed culturally cool or accepted in one location or culture but then frowned upon or even offensive in another.  It’s definitely food for thought as our transmedia properties diffuse the barriers of geography, beliefs and behaviours.

This began as a response to a tweet from Simon saying, “Part of the role of #transmedia in coming years will be to raise awareness of a property among a wide audience prior to the core release” to which Jeff Gomez had replied, ““Transmedia will also widen core audience bases by offering engaging canonical content designed to appeal to different segments”.

I’d immediately interpreted the “offering of engaging canonical content to appeal to different segments” to mean that story elements told in different modes across varied platforms would appeal to different behaviours or even genres – rom com fans who love to watch movies but not necessarily read a novel, or sci fi addicts who only feel fully engaged if they’re game playing and leaning forward rather than sitting back and watching a movie…  So it was interesting to see that Simon had picked up on an interesting issue of localization.  The post is definitely worth a read as a reminder that the staples of transmedia should continue to include relevance and authenticity.

One of the things I love about transmedia strategy – being able to control what you lose control of and it’s exciting (but kinda scary too) to never be totally certain how that audience are going to interpret or react to the message that you’d hoped to convey!  Transmedia can cater to niche audiences, grouping them globally by interests or mutual goals, but there’s never a guarantee that they’re going to do with it what you’d hoped.  Hence the importance once again of knowing your audience and engaging with them on a level and tone that is genuine and current.  Storybibles? – vital!  What’s your main character’s perspective – the guy in the suit? A follower or a leader?  The stiletto shoe – pleasure or pain?  Knowing your characters, in terms of culture, language, behaviours and social interests? – vital!  Nina Bargiel was thinking on her feet as part of MTV’s Valemont and Savage County but notes that whilst the static content cannot be edited or altered, transmedia allowed different modes of presenting it.   Knowing your target market, your potential audience and underlying message of your story? – vital!

But it’s the comments on this HSBC ad that make me think how sensitive a truly global transmedia property needs to be.  Of course, a little controversy is a great tool for raising awareness and hype, but it’s still food for thought….

“In some parts of the world throwing stones to protect the tribe is obedient and in others it’s disobedient…”

More on the HSBC ‘yourpointofview’ campaign at

Get over to and leave your thoughts/comments….

Oh, and Happy New Year!!

The Digital Nativity… but it’s not transmedia… yet!

This has been doing the rounds.

And it’s great.

Innovative, fun and a tongue-in-cheek slant on how the nativity story might be conveyed in our digital times.  (click to watch it – it’s worth it!)

It’s extremely well thought out and orchestrated – note the date on the iPhone when Mary gets a text from Archangel Gabriel – 24th March (not sure if that WAS a Friday 2010 years ago, but I’m not THAT much of a geek to find out!).  The timings are near on perfect for a 25th December baby.

Google maps locate the spot too.

But I’m disappointed.

In my transmedial playfulness I reacted to the ‘prompts’ and emailed  This is what I said to him..

“Hi Joseph

Looks like you’ll be getting some good news over the next few days – hope you’re ready for it.

As a single parent I want to highlight to you how important the support of both parents is – I know how unexpected pregnancies can be stressful..

If you need diapers I can get you a deal – not sure of postage to Nazareth though – will check online.

Good luck… Oh and a hint … if they tell you there’s no room at the inn.. try the stables!  😉  “

Now, I KNOW he’s busy right now, but he hasn’t replied to me.


My transmedia brain has been hard-wired to respond when I see that somebody has taken the time to reveal an email address…

So, with Joseph’s disappointing UNdigital response I went to Google to register myself.  If he wasn’t going to answer his well-wishers then I was!

But the name has gone.

It’s been taken… ;(

So I followed the lead to Facebook to find his profile and ‘friend’ him – ready for some conversation….

No luck there either.

So I continued watching and found a dead-cert clue.  @Balthazar895 – he’d even begun tweeting.  So I went to Twitter..

and got this…

Then I tried one of the three wise men – @Melchior056

and I found him!!

So then I watch as Melchior sends an email to Balthazar…

So I do too.

I ask him whether he’ll take Frankincense or Myrrh and remind him that he doesn’t have long left to decide.

I get a <MAILER-DAEMON> response – “the email account you tried to reach does not exist.”

As for Joseph?  It looks like I’ll just have to sit and wait for another week and see whether he sends me an email announcing the birth of his new son…

I stopped watching at 2:10 minutes, disappointed.

My only thread of hope that this hugely viral clip might be a transmedia game are the continuation of  Melchior’s tweets.

This is a fun, fab idea and I refuse to believe it’s the end of it ;(

ExcentricPT (creators) are based in Lisbon, Portugal and their website is slick, polished and highly ‘digital’…

The 2:58 video clip has 2,446,726 views in 1 week.

They describe it;

“How social media, web and mobile tell the story of the Nativity.
Christmas story told through Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Google, Wikipedia, Google Maps, GMail, Foursquare, Amazon…  Times change, the feeling remains the same.

ExcentricPT, this might be a seasonal, fun viral that brings a lot of traffic and awareness to your slick website and agency but please don’t tell me that you wasted the opportunity to have a conversation with at least SOME of those 2.5 million viewers!

Watching this space!!

Please don’t tell me this is it…..


Transmedia 3D goggles..

There’s an Irish blessing that says,

“May you have the hindsight to know where you’ve been…

the foresight to know where you are going…

and the insight to know when you have gone too far.”

Now that’s multi-tasking – forget 3-dimension vision for a minute – this is 3-directional vision, simultaneously looking behind, ahead and within – and whether you call it juggling or plate spinning, or even whether you have the glasses – they are the constant reminders of focus for developing a transmedia IP.

Not just writing it, but planning, strategising, developing and producing it too.

So, let’s look 3-ways with the luck of the Irish on our backs…

Hindsight is a curious notion that only has huge value after an event or incident.  In fact, it doesn’t exist until after.


I’m not one for looking over my shoulder. My Mum always told me not to live in the past as it turns you to stone, but there is huge value when considering a transmedia project in assessing where you’ve already been – in terms of storyworld, character growth and drip-feed (perhaps even subliminal?) calls-to-action.  From a writing perspective, as I progress through writing my story I find it vital to refer again and again to my storybible as a reminder of where those mind-mappy tendrils, the immersive moments, the content I want fans to pick up and run with, appear.

Foresight is a gift and something that might have you crossing a palm with silver for.  But a canny producer won’t be relying on a palmreader or tarot cards for their foresights.  From a planning and strategising perspective an on-the-money transmedia writer and producer will have one eye firmly on their target audience – will allow themselves to become immersed in their social media spaces whilst remembering that the best approach to transmedia strategy is rooted in simple, fluid, human behaviours.  I know this might come as a shock, but not everything revolves around Facebook.  There, I said it.  Earlier this year I had a student – a mature lady who wrote beautiful, elegant prose about her garden.  She wanted to use the notion of transmedial play to allow her readers to ingest her story and make it their own.  Dream student and immensely visionary!  She was frustrated bythe constraints of  Facebook for the spread and reach of her story, feeling that the retired communities who were tending their allotments and might enjoy her stories weren’t too visible on Facebook.  So I suggested she go elsewhere.  She began contributing to discussions on forums about horticulture and seasonal gardening.  She joined the community at the Royal Horticultural Society and began to seed (no pun intended!) story strands from a fictional character.  I suggested that she might follow and perhaps add content to Flickr’s Your Kew photostream and she also began to tweet with some #RHA and #gardening hashtags.  No surprise that her story ‘blossomed’ quickly…

Another student at a transmedia workshop I was running asked for some advice about writing an urban story involving real-life references to rapper Soulja Boy.  He’d created his EMCEE profile on MySpace and was garnering some followers in preparation and pre-production mode, but after a little collaborative surfing and brainstorming we soon found Soulja Boy’s urban community with over 243,000 specific ‘Soulja Boy’ fan members.

Of the three visions in the Irish blessing though, it’s possibly insight that’s the toughest of all.  For me it’s an elegant balance combining gut-feeling and informed decision and is defined as;

  • the act or result of understanding the inner nature of things or of seeing intuitively
  • an introspection
  • the power of acute observation and deduction, discernment or perception
  • an understanding based on identification of relationships and behaviors within a model, context, or scenario

A fine-tuning of hindsight and foresight, along with a well-researched strategy, a clear focus on story and a comprehensive mythology will help nurture insight.  The storybible will contain not only a detailed timeline of story, but also a detailed timeline and synchronicity of transmedia production and rollout.  The choices can be daunting, there’s no doubt.  By focussing on story – on the heart of what the storyworld is about and what message it’s giving, and keeping a constant eye on that – the other elements begin to fall into place.  Audiences are already engaged with stories as transmedia, whether intentional or not, consumers don’t seem to generally differentiate between a TV show, a game or a book – when well told and executed it remains the *story* that is shared, discussed, passed on and followed.

Fragmenting *story* isn’t to be belittled.  It’s a painstaking and rigorous process (and the main reason storycentral has been rather quiet of late)!  Our natural responses and organic reactions to reasoning with story take us through a series of processes ranging from meaning, perception, relationship, memory and choices at the initial stages and then right through to relevance, identity, evolution and prophesy at the final stages of comprehension.

Stephen Dinehart (click to view!) eloquently and passionately revealed his thoughts on *story* at TEDx Transmedia a couple of months ago, sharing how he favours classical storytelling over minimalism or anti-structure.  He reinforced this by reasoning that classical storytelling has positive values – virtues of love, hope and belief in the ability to change.  Stephen then suggested that transmedia storytelling is “classical storytelling, ‘squared’“.  And he’s right.  Story holds us together and defines us as humans. Transmedia storytelling has the ability to put us, the audience right into the heart of that story.

So back to our multi-tasking, plate-spinning transmedia producer…  The great thing about transmedia planning, production and execution is the collaborative nature of it.  For all the elements to seamlessly and elegantly slot together requires a conductor to orchestrate the fluid ‘dance’ of a transmedia rollout – somebody to watch, time and co-ordinate those mutually spinning plates and responsibilities.

With a transmedia IP you don’t need to be the sole plate-spinner – in fact it’s hugely beneficial if you’re not.  The beauty of transmedia is that it moves with you, but that initial focus of that Irish blessing for hindsight, foresight and insight will play an important role in your transmedia IP strategy avoiding the lyrics of Beverley Knight in ‘Shoulda, Coulda, Woulda’…

” Shoulda woulda coulda,” means I’m out of time

Once a transmedia IP is launched and is ‘live’ there’s little time or space for regrets due to short-sightedness.  The rollout might depend on you ‘live tweeting’ as a character – which allows a little movement and loose structure.  It might require you to work as a community member to solve a riddle or crack a clue.  Regrets are what will reinforce and help develop hindsight, foresight and insight and there will be fluid spaces for movement and change within your transmedia IP.  However precise, concise and comprehensive transmedia planning will tap into your constantly evolving hindsight, foresight and insight and lead you to write, strategise, produce and execute a compelling storyworld.. ‘squared’.

Just don’t forget your 3-Directional goggles!

Transmedia for Publishers – London Book Fair & Digital Book World

I was recently asked to give an interview on transmedia and how publishers can embrace a seamless, fluid movement of story and audience from platform to platform and enjoy the longevity afforded by fragmenting story.

Looking beyond the ‘buzz’, there is huge value for publishers in fragmenting stories, extending their longevity, scale and scope by adopting a transmedia strategy; by nurturing networked connections with audience and tapping into a market that increasingly demands choice and accessibility.  Demands on our time and attention are everywhere and that’s why a compelling, fabulous story must be at the heart of a transmedia property.  The thing with this too, is that a reader won’t enter a transmedia experience knowing that’s what they’re doing – it would defeat the object and without a huge element of ‘discovery’ transmedia falls flat and becomes a one-dimensional map.  (I’ve found that when people are told to ‘go’ and ‘click’, they tend to shake their heads and bristle.. When they discover that ‘this’ is a part of ‘that’, they’re excited and start to spread the word.)

In a sense, it could be debated that there are few literary worlds that a “reader is going to want to spend a disproportionate amount of their reading time in before leaving them entirely for the next book on their nighttable”, however nobody is asking for a disproportionate amount of time – it’s not a demand, it’s an option.  Transmedia behaviours are built on ARG’s and there are legions of ‘non-players’ who are hooked on Farmville, Bejewelled, solitaire even who might have said that they’d never ‘waste’ time in such places.  An immersive literary world has the power to draw readers in, make them want to unpack their bags for a while.  This ethos, coupled with a transmedia strategy can encourage interaction, conversation and natural behaviours  when readers choose to be a part of the bigger jigsaw puzzle, or simply enjoy the book, for books sake.

It’s great that the London Book Fair are excited about transmedia possibilities, and storycentralDIGITAL will be running an intensive workshop as part of Digital Book World (NY, Jan 2011).   For some magic discount codes don’t hesitate to email at storycentralDIGITAL (at) yahoo (dot) co (dot) uk

TEDx Transmedia 2010 – DARE to WONDER


16 dares in 8 hours!

That’s a tall order for any thrill-seeker but then Nicoletta Iacobacci isn’t your ordinary gal.

Inspired by the ‘one-step-back’ theme of this promo video the idea, concept and theme of the first TEDx Transmedia was born. The step-back of the model on the brink of losing her bathrobe to an expectant art class, the auditioning dancer, the child unsure of the ocean rushing in to meet her – comes across on first view as that moment of being overwhelmed, overpowered, a disabling fear and uncertainty.

But on retrospect perhaps those moments of consideration, of rationalisation, exist for reasons of strategy. As Online Community Manager for TEDx Transmedia I know that there were moments, even 24 hours prior to the event, that uncertainty danced like an unruly DARE in the backrow, but as a speaker (albeit a 5-minute one as opposed to a 25 minute one) I know that the challenge to dare was a thrill in itself.  It was to DARE the attendees, but also to DARE ourselves.

Nicoletta, visionary of TEDx Transmedia, dared us all – attendees, speakers, her team members and ultimately EBU to DARE to DARE.   Frederic Kaplan dared us to ENVISION a future that embraces interactive, responsive gadgetry. David Rowan dared us to INFORM – highlighting the shocking numbers of journalists who have lost their lives because of daring to maintain their voice, refusing to be silenced in the face of political and territorial threat. I dared delegates to LIVE – suggesting that we can control what we lose control of (in terms of content) and allow our content to live transmedially, over platforms and timelines.  Ian Ginn dared us to EDUCATE – to enable our ‘misfits’ in the hope of a more creative transmedia landscape. Tim Ferris’ video sent a series of subliminal messages daring us to LEARN as he talked us through his triumphs over adversity.  His video was inspiring, entertaining and fitting and whilst not completely rooted in transmedia as we know or understand it, clearly reflected the ’embrace something new’ challenge of the day. Stephen Dinehart stood true to his challenge of dare to ENGAGE, and boy, that’s what he did with his passionate and eloquent recital of the importance of narrative and story and it’s ability to uplift and give hope. PhD Christy Dena challenged us to dare to DESIGN with another thought-provoking slant which reiterated Dinehart’s quoting of Wagner.

Christopher Sandberg inspired everybody to dare to MAKE, showcasing The Company P’s crowdsourced projects such as The Truth About Marika, amongst other case-studies.  Caroline Phillips surprised with her dare to HURDY-GURDY, accompanied by a well timed and slickly choreographed video clip of her guitar-playing partner.   Sietse Bakker dared us to PROVOKE, Simon Harrop dared us to SENSE and comedian Maz Jobrani dared us to LAUGH with his video about the complications of being an Iranian American (interstitial perhaps? very transmedia!)  Former Six-to-Start founder, now Wieden+Kennedy creative, Dan Hon dared us to PLAY, with examples of hidden discoveries of  2001 movie A.I’s ‘Jeanine Salla’, then echoing and building on Christy’s perspectives on gamification, followed by a to-the-point list of what ISN’T fun, and therefore NOT play.  Jeff Gomez closed the day with a recount of his turbulent childhood and how strong characters, engaging story and immersive experiences have the power to last a lifetime – to uplift and resonate – with his inspiring challenge of dare to CHANGE.

TEDx Transmedia was a transmedia conference that is very much bigger than the sum of its parts and a true transmedia conference in terms of content and rollout.

Comprising a non-linear narrative of personal stories told from 1st person pov on stage, ‘cheeseholes’ to be filled by discussion in the bar afterwards, and here in the digital realm a week later, a sequence of varied entry points in terms of insights into transmedia, along with a few “rabbit holes” and “back doors”, you might want to call me ‘alison wonderland’ (!) but I’m getting a whiff of Lewis Carroll here.

To try to overly define the vibe, the experience of transmedia, really does become ‘curiouser and curiouser’ as some marketers still see it one-dimensionally as a slick way to grab the eyeballs.  I didn’t see any white rabbits, but to take TEDx Transmedia up on its DARES – to EDUCATE and INFORM, to PROVOKE and ENVISION, to ENGAGE and DESIGN will help keep the Dodo’s extinct, along with the dinosaurs that continue to fail to see the value in extending story over platforms, territories and timelines.

TEDx Transmedia has inspired a small transmedia collective to form DARE to COLLABORATE, comprising a team of creative brains from UK, San Francisco, Finland and Paris that are currently working towards something special (more on this later – but V exciting)!

I’ve jokingly dubbed TEDx Transmedia a ‘microwave’ conference – a short intense burst that has shaken the atoms, inspired movement and created some heat, and it seems we’re still cooling down.   TEDx Transmedia itself is an IP, a franchise which will, with Ms Iacobacci at the helm, extend over multiple platforms and timelines for a long time to come.

Further blogs discussing TEDx Transmedia can be found at

Waiting for the dinosaurs to die…

Have you ever been a pajama panellist?

I have.

I made my Hollywood ‘debut‘ in my pajamas!

At 4am this morning I was ‘Skyped’ in as a panellist at Digital LA’s Storytelling: Social Media & Transmedia panel at the WGA and it was fabulous.  Of course, being a ‘talking head’ on a laptop felt a little strange, as ‘I’ had to be turned to face the audience and then the panellists but the conversation was so good that I soon forgot that:-

a) it was 4am,

b) I’d thrown a warm hoodie on over my pj’s and

c) I was a ‘talking’ head on a table!

The line-up spoke for itself:-

– Juan Devis, PBS, Director of New Media – KCETDepartures@jdevis

– Nina Bargiel, Disney Television Writer, Lizzie McGuire; MTV’s Streamy-award winning Valemont experience and Savage County @slackmistress

– Jay Bushman, Loose-Fish project. Alternative Reality Game creator @jaybushman

– Nathan Mayfield, Hoodlum, Co-founder and Chief Creative Officer.  Hoodlum created transmedia campaigns for Sony Pictures’ SALT, ABC’s LOST and Flash Forward and won the Emmy for Primeval Evolved for ITV in the UK @hoodlumactive

– Annie Lukowski, Working Bug. Director of Road to the Altar, web series starring Jaleel White which used social media to extend the story engage fans between episodes – @workingbug

– John David Heinsen, Producer’s Guild of America, Co-Chair of Mobile New Media Council – @bunnygraph

The conversation rocked – these guys really know the transmedia business and aren’t wasting time heralding their projects AS transmedia, they’re just getting on with creating great content, compelling characters and storyworlds whilst keeping an eye on how their audience not only react, but ARE reacting (even going so far as to tweet in character in ‘real time’ to subtley ‘encourage’ discovery of storythreads or entry points that aren’t being picked up).  Nina was fabulous – a true transmedia writer – who spoke at length about creating spaces for users to create their own content or to discuss/interact with the storyworld or characters and about the delicate craft of writing-in those subtle prompts and entrypoint leads.

There was more light debate over the term ‘transmedia’ and Jay Bushman mentioned that he uses (amongst other terms) platform-agnostic storytelling.  I mentioned my recent blog post about Transmedia Transmafia, hype & hyperbole or buzz & b******t where ‘immersive storytelling’ has been suggested by blog commenters as a refined term. (further comments welcome!)

I particularly liked how Jay Bushman explained his early forays into transmedia – coming from a theatre background, he explained how he’d considered how to merge the two, stating that making a script available online, ‘uploading’ a script only makes the instructions available and not the experience.  He then went on to explain how he turned this into ‘transmedia’ by figuring how he might write that script as an ARG – I recognised that as a ‘eureka’ moment and think it’s a great way to approach fragmenting a storyworld.

John D Heinsen spoke about the importance of acknowledging the reach and spread of transmedia at concept & pre-production phases, urging for allocation in R&D-type budgets rather than after-thoughts on marketing budgets.

Elayne Zalis is another PhD who has been speaking to me on Facebook about her transmedia characters and asked the valid question, “where do you see print in transmedia” to which there were a few shaking heads in the room.  It was suggested that one point of view might be to simply ‘wait for the dinosaurs to die’, causing a small ripple of laughter, but was then backed up on a serious note with comments reinforcing that publishing remains (and continues to be) a gatekeeper of fabulous story and ‘when the publishing world realise their business model outside of ebooks is dead… transmedia is here waiting for them with open arms.” Sounds like an invitation, right?  But publishing?  Transmedia WANTS to play!!!  This is a shout-out!

Writer-to-writer,  I asked Elayne on her thoughts of the panel from a publishing perspective and she said, “as a writer, I feel excited about the creative possibilities that the latest new media open up, although I can’t say that the panellists shaped my opinion about the future of print. I’m part of the baby boomer generation, so thoughts of “waiting for dinosaurs to die” alienate me. I understand the sentiment, but I don’t endorse it, and I hope I’m not considered a dinosaur. I liked the creative energy that the panellists exuded. That’s what I look for now — innovation, wherever it might be.”

And it’s that creative energy, that innovation, that determines fabulous immersive storyworlds and storytelling experiences, not whether they come primarily from film or publishing, ARG or theatre…

I loved DigitalLA.

It kept me awake without a second thought, from 4am-6am and not one second of it was boring!  I have made some great new connections which I hope will be the start of many new, fresh ideas and conversation.

But now I really must get some zzzzzzzzzzzzzzz.