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.

Transmedia Transmafia? hype & hyperbole or buzz and b******t

There seems so be some confusion on Twitter lately about transmedia, what it actually IS and WHY it’s so important and the RT’s are coming thick and fast…

andresfox said, “@storycentral who cares about #transmedia an convergence culture, it is just a trend subject?

helionetto asked “Transmedia Storytelling? WTF?”

and fakebaldur stated, “I hate the word ‘transmedia‘. It’s an overblown, pretentious and self-indulgent buzzword. It’s hypertext, damn it. Just like everything else” and followed up with the only difference between ‘transmedia‘ and ‘hypertext’ is in the amount of hyperbole, gas and hot air being emitted”.

And they all have a valid point.

Transmedia is in danger of becoming a buzz word (if it isn’t already).   And never mind about the PGA accrediting the term ‘transmedia‘ – I’ve checked 3 online dictionaries to find that the word isn’t even acknowledged by the English language yet!

So, going back to our Twitterers, they have a point.  What IS transmedia?

A noun? A name of something?

transmedia /tra:ns, -nz  mi:dia (noun) (commonly used as a mass noun with a singular verb)

or is it more of a verb? An experience, something you ‘do’?

transmedia /tra:ns, -nz  mi:dia (verb)

Either way, it’s in danger of becoming a victim of its own success because of the buzz.  In the same way that anything that is overly hyped without amy commercial evidence of success, transmedia is being talked about a lot, but showcased very little in the public/commercial domain.

The amount of ‘transmedia producers’ that are popping up all over web 2.0 on a daily basis astound me!  I’ve been researching Transmedia Storytelling for nearly 2 years now for my PhD and still wouldn’t really consider myself a fully fledged ‘producer’ – doesn’t that come with experience over time?   I was recently invited to be a guest at Seize The Media’s Transmedia NEXT 3-day workshop there were delegates already working on transmedia projects and yet, it seems the hype, the analysis and the buzz are still bigger than the sum of it’s parts.

I feel the confusion is possibly because of the lack of commercial transmedia experiences.  Go to your local pub, wine bar, coffee shop or school gates and ask who knows about The Art of the Heist, The Truth About Marika or Head Trauma.  Check out who’s aware of Cathy’s Book or Level 26.

I can see the blank expresssions already.

That’s my point.

The fabulous transmedia projects are still relatively ‘niche’ – still firmly rooted in ARGs and are so subtley rolled out, so fabulously supported by a strong architecture of strategy and knowledge of audience behaviours, that they aren’t trumpeted about as ‘The Next Transmedia Project’.

They are discrete.



I am pointed toward ‘new’ transmedia experiences on a weekly basis, often accompanied with a PDF or some kind of instructions offering ‘how to enjoy this transmedia experience. Click here to find out HOW’.  Isn’t that like taking years to build a maze, only to supply a map?

One of the huge challenges of scripting and storybibling great transmedia lies in the triggers that move audience from platform to platform seamlessly.  There’s heaps of analysis out there looking at audience behaviors, UX, UI, platforms, primary platforms and narratives and how they all mix into the pot of creating great transmedia.  The fact is that a transmedia experience will naturally move audience, progressing them across platforms – with relevance and almost subconsciously.

The viewers/participants who entered The Art of the Heist by seeing the CCTV ‘footage’ of the Audi being stolen naturally weren’t surprised to see it reported in newspapers, featuring in car magazines.  ‘Players’ who first came across the blog site of characters in The Art of the Heist were drawn to engage with the experience through blog links and might have came across the CCTV footage later.  The point is, at no stage was a ‘map’ supplied.  At no time was the magic blitzed by heralding this as a transmedia experience.

The difficulty, the challenge, the toughest part of scripting great, successful transmedia IS the moving of audience from platform to platform without them knowing and BECAUSE THEY WANT TO. If you’re going to cut into manhours, resources and budget to create a great transmedia experience it should stand on it’s own BECAUSE IT CAN and needs no maps or promotion as a ‘transmedia’ experience.

That just throws cold water all over it.

So, in an attempt to reply to

andresfox who said, “@storycentral who cares about #transmedia an convergence culture, it is just a trend subject? I replied, “nobody necessarily. Depends on franchise, but can expand audience reach, spreadibility & engagement. Tell me more!…”

fakebaldur who stated, “I hate the word ‘transmedia‘. It’s an overblown, pretentious and self-indulgent buzzword. It’s hypertext, damn it. Just like everything else” and followed up with the only difference between ‘transmedia‘ and ‘hypertext’ is in the amount of hyperbole, gas and hot air being emitted”, I suggested, “re #transmedia – lots of hot air, but you gotta scratch the surface to see the value. Not just buzz – ace when done right!”

and I think for helionetto who asked “Transmedia Storytelling? WTF?”  I’ll point in the direction of the fab transmedia examples I’ve just mentioned.

The ‘Discovery’ Channel

With Power to The Pixel looming again I’ve been looking back at my notes from PttP 2009 and realised how much Ted Hope’s presentation has helped frame my PhD research.  He defined six pillars supporting cinema, one of which was discovery and how, by ignoring these pillars filmmakers and producers were isolating the narrative, preventing it from expanding.

Discovery is something that has come up in Robert Pratten’s blog post ‘A Content Strategy for Audience Engagement’  as part of a three-step pattern under the larger umbrella of ‘Engagement’.  Robert has brilliantly defined the three-stages of Engagement as Discovery, Experience & Exploration, explaining that each of these stages occur as readers/audience ‘engage’ on a platform, and then again as they move between platforms.

Discovery has also raised it’s head in conversations I’ve had with the fabulous Jeff Gomez and Mike Monello as we’ve discussed how important it is that audience/readers ‘discover’ or ‘stumble upon’ threads that are, inadvertently, entry points to a transmedia storyworld.  The fact is that ‘brand’ is bigger now than ever before and story is being used to sell, sell, sell.  We have branded content emblazoned in our on and offline worlds and for audience to feel that they’ve ‘discovered’ something without being led-by-the-nose can have a huge and massive impact –both on the experience and the validity of a project/discovery.

Take for example Sex & The City.

First there was the TV series, then the movie(s).  If the Sex & The City tours in New York had been woven in to that first series I doubt that women would have queued up and shelled out $40 for a bus ride to see the cupcake shop or go to the art gallery or the flat where Aidan did something or other….  But for Sex & The City fans who are tourists in New York FIRST and SATC fans SECOND, the ‘discovery’ that there is such a bus tour adds to the experience – the ‘discovery’ of it conjures a fab ‘look what I’ve found’ emotion, rather than a ‘look what they’re trying to sell now!’ feeling.  (Note: the SATC bus tours have been set up by and not HBO).

I can see how this ‘discovery’ vein blurs slightly with the much heralded ‘viral’ strategy – in that everybody wants their project to ‘go viral’, but I believe that the success of this is deeply rooted in the strategy, planning and ‘seeding’ of those loose tendrils of a storyworld that sweep and hook people in as they ‘discover’ them….

For me, discovery IS a part of the bigger picture of engagement and is rooted in strategic planning, awareness of audience behaviours (which should help dictate the WHERE in terms of where to seed these entry points to be discovered).  Audience behaviours/types are mentioned on Robert Pratten’s blog and have been broken down by Richard Bartle where he concluded that there were four player types:

  • Achievers – like to achieve defined goals such as leveling up, gaining points etc
  • Socializers – like hanging out with other people (either as themselves or role-playing a character)
  • Explorers – like discovering new parts of the world
  • Killers (also known as Griefers) – like to dominate and upset others!

and Nicole Lazzaro’s Emotional Goals of Players, identifying four keys to unlocking emotion in games:

  • Hard Fun – players who like the opportunities for challenge, strategy, and problem solving. Their comments focus on the game’s challenge and strategic thinking and problem solving.
  • Easy Fun – players who enjoy intrigue and curiosity. Players become immersed in games when it absorbs their complete attention, or when it takes them on an exciting adventure.
  • Serious Fun – players who get enjoyment from their internal experiences in reaction to the visceral, behavior, cognitive, and social properties.
  • People Fun – players who enjoy using games as mechanisms for social experiences and enjoy the social experiences of competition, teamwork, as well as opportunity for social bonding and personal recognition that comes from playing with others.

These definitions of players/participants, which might translate into audience/readers got me thinking about the issue of genre and novel writing.  I was intrigued to see Andrea Phillips (@andrhia) has begun to write blog a new series – Writing for Transmedia,  as this is something that I’ve been looking at as I write my romcom transmedia novel.  As I consider the pillars supporting cinema, and begin to use them to help frame pillars supporting publishing, I’ve focussed most recently on the ‘engagement’ and ‘discovery’ elements and how the practice novel writing and transmedia writing merge and also differ.

I have my traditional synopsis, character profiles, story timeline, inciting incidents and know exactly where and how my story is moving forward – the character journeys and outcomes.   I’ve also got my transmedia strategy weaved in– my storybible, project timeline for setting up character blogs, live events and lots of other secret things that I can’t possibly divulge yet! 😉

So, then I begin to marry the two.  Which is tough.  I’d written up to chapter 11 as a series of text chapters for the print book, organically weaving in subtle, extremely relevant and immersive transmedia elements from an early stage – (it’s pointless attempting to include them afterwards, for transmedia to work they must be built in from before the start!) Then I realised that I’d started with far too much backstory and have subsequently scrapped the first 4 chapters!  Causing the transmedia elements set up in chapters 1-4 to shatter!  @Andrhia is right – “when you’re writing a novel you have to wrestle with tense and point of view” – but I’m used to that part!  I’ve written 3 print-novels and a blog transmedia novel – I can cope with the wrestling.   She also mentions that she’s been “trying to think very methodically about the tools and advice widely given for writing static fiction to see how it translates to the work I do now”, i.e. transmedia storytelling!  Now, THAT’s what I’m talking about and what I hope to try and get a handle on over the next series of posts here.  (Don’t be surprised to see me popping up on Andrea’s blog and perhaps to see her here, as it seems we’re both digging into the same area at the moment…)!

I participated in Robert McKee’s STORY seminar a couple of years ago and he backed up Aristotle’s theories behind inciting incidents, story arcs and told us how we need to ‘put our characters up a tree….and then throw stones at them’.  I’m realising that Robert Pratten’s visions on engaging your audience and Robert McKee’s theories on story aren’t so far removed from each other in terms of structure.

‘Story’ is everywhere – ad agencies are seeing the immense value of engagement for brands and ‘story’ consultants are appearing at an alarming rate. say,

“Narrative just happens to be how we’re hard-wired. Social media now means that everybody is a storyteller. There’s a new level of discernment along with suspicion for the stories we’re being told. Because we have the power to produce and create our own stories. This fundamental shift is a driving force remaking the rules of branding, marketing, fundraising, sales, and persuasion”.

Which is inherently true, but social media can make everybody a storyteller in the same way that paper and typewriters could…

Robert McKee says:

People come to me thinking about movie trends and how the future of story is going to be in 3D technology and virtual reality, the young especially, because they’re always fascinated with technology.  But not me.  I know that no matter what the technology is, if they don’t have anything to say, and they don’t know how to say whatever it is they have to say,  it really doesn’t matter what medium or technology they’re using.  All I’m concerned with is the quality of the storytelling that inspires the work.  The medium they choose or the technology they use after that is their problem, because in the grand scheme of things it doesn’t matter.  If the future of story is in chalking out pictures on the sidewalk it really doesn’t matter.  What matters is the form, the content and the inspiration and talent of the artist.  Beyond that it doesn’t matter.”

What I like about this statement is that McKee (of course) sees the strength and value, the engagement and power of resonance of a great story.  What I also like is his statement “what matters is the form, the content and the inspiration and talent of the artist,” because in transmedia that ‘art’ isn’t only about the writing but is also the strategy, the production, the awareness of audience behaviours (genre) and knowledge of the entire architecture of what makes a fabulous transmedia experience….

But without that initial engagement, without the excitement and independence of ‘discovery’  (with relevance and value) stories – whether books on a shelf, DVD’s in a store, a live event ‘coming soon to a theatre near you’ or an intricately woven, fabulously written transmedia web-story – will remain unread, unwatched, unexperienced and yet another tumbleweed rolling around in those zillions of parties in cyberspace that nobody shows up to.

@CatBinLady ‘campaign’ driving traffic through strong character ‘voice’

As swiftly as Mary Bale threw that cat into that garbage bin @CatBinLady emerged on Twitter virtually overnight with a distinct voice – tightly woven to the extremely small snippet of info we’ve been fed by the media about “cat bin lady”.

The Naked Pheasant blogged a post today at 12.40pm, mentioning that @CatBinLady had 1900 followers when he began writing his post & rose by 400 in the duration of his post!

So I thought I’d keep a similar tally.  I’ve begun writing this at 19.11 GMT and @CatBinLady currently has 8925 followers – still from only 11 tweets and by following zero!

(19.11 – 8925)

@CatBinLady’s twitter profile simply states “I have momentary abberations. We all do” and goes on to link directly (and cleverly) to the RSPCA’s donate online home page.

Ace!  Inspired!  And bloody quick off the mark.

Buzzfeed –  -seem to think that @CatBinLady IS Mary Bale, “cataloging her daily transgressions and regrets” and “almost feels bad for her”.  Which I find really entertaining as @CatBinLady’s ‘voice’ really is that of an irrational, slightly manic, random personality type with tweets like this…

(19.25PM – 9008 followers – OK it’s taking me ages to write this post – I’m cooking Chicken Tikka Masala at the same time!)

I have no desire to comment about the ‘real’ Mary Bale and her actions or reasons for them – I am far more interested in the public fascination and connection with @CatBinLady’s humorous tweets! It’s a clever combination of the right thing at the right time (to have waited for this story to develop any further would have totally missed the boat and the moment), a strong, distinctive ‘voice’ and a clever mode of ‘storytelling’ – hitting straight to the heart of a character’s personality by ‘showing, not telling’!

Whether this is a stroke of  ‘seize the moment’ genius from the RSPCA, an RSPCA campaigner or, as Naked Pheasant questions, “either a fuzzy heart warming bit of philanthropy from the person who set it up, or an amazing reactive piece of social media from the RSPCA” , I believe that it says a whole lot about the use of story and narrative combined with a current issue and a strong character voice.

So many ad campaigns lack the weight and value of story and narrative and I feel that many adopt the ‘YouTwitFace‘ ‘strategy’ of launching a Facebook, YouTube and Twitter presence, sometimes in multiple character voices, and then building community around that.  That’s not to say that every brand/campaign NEEDS those platforms (individually or together).  The fact is that storytelling is an intrinsic element of human nature and has been for centuries, going back to visual images in caves or hieroglyphics and story connects with us on multiple layers and for many reasons.

BT’s Adam & Jane story has been running for years (since 2005?)

This campaign has introduced us to these two main characters over time, using a slow-burn, drip-feed culminating in a public online vote for what happens next which was launched online earlier this year (OK – that WAS a slow-burn of 5 years, but I’d put my money on BT not planning to embrace the ‘public vote’ like this or that social media would play such a huge part).

(20:05 – 9200, still only 11 tweets)

and for those of you who like statistics – check this out!

That’s 1,649,997 votes for the pregnancy storyline, not to mention all the other story threads that were uploaded and suggested online!  Impressive, right?  Showing that gaining audience trust, engagement and interaction takes time! (maybe 5 years is a little too long, but I believe that a campaign could run on a timeline of 18-24 months easily).

(20.43 – 9328, no more tweets!)

I’m not great at math, but can figure that this is a growth rate of followers at 4.38 followers per minute!

Or, since @CatBinLady’s initial tweet at 15.35 on August 25th, 36.63 followers per tweet!

Not bad on only 11 tweets…..

Now all I need to find out is whether this is an RSPCA campaign or simply a cat-loving campaigner who has the media savvy to send over 9000 people to their donate online homepage in less than 24 hours!  Ad agencies – you need to recruit this person ASAP!  THAT’S what you call driving traffic…

Transmedia platforms? One-size-fits-all doesn’t exist..

Platforms are widely used but finely-tuned in terms of audience demographics and types, modes and genres of conversation.

One-size-fits-all doesn’t exist and any branding trying to utilise this theory will find that they might be hosting ‘parties’ where their audience aren’t hanging out.

More on this to follow, but to summarise anybody attempting the one-size-fits-all approach?

i.e., it takes more than the iPhone app, the Facebook page and the Twitter stream to truly engage, enhance, and be experiential!

Publishers to sell experiences and not products

In the last episode of Mad Men (series 1) Donald Draper had his ‘eureka’ moment when he thought he had to reinvent the wheel.  Kodak had told him it was a ‘wheel’, when in fact it was the circular cartridge to hold a series of slides for a projector.  Don wasn’t happy with trying to reinvent the wheel – it wasn’t a sexy concept – so he took the cartridge home and used it, finally deciding it was more a carousel than a wheel.  Of course, being Don Draper, he wowed the client, sealed the deal and sold consumers the promise of the ‘experience’ of the carousel.  It was a ride, a journey!  You got on and enjoyed the ride, the memories, “travelling around and around and then back home again”.  Draper sold his ad campaign by tapping into consumers personal experiences and nostalgia rather than boring their asses off by trying to invent the wheel.  The guy’s a legend.  Click the image to view the clip It only runs for a couple of minutes and is perfect for a ‘between-the-cracks’ moment (more on that later..)  Please view it – it’s important!

Transmedia storytelling hinges on experience by adding value to a storyworld and immersion into a deeper engagement with the world and characters and it’s something that holds great allure for the entertainment industries – from broadcasters to publishers, filmmakers to ad agencies to game producers.  The bucks are in immersion, engagement and experience right now and the host of platforms and mobility that the internet offers mean that these are exciting times.  Transmedia strategy as a whole could perhaps be seen not so much as the carousel, but more like the entire funfair.  Fragmenting storyworlds across a variety of platforms and mediums is an acutely strategic task and requires a knowledge of genre, audience demographics and platform engagement but, done correctly, can offer the entire ‘fun of the fair’.  Try some bite-sized fun at the coconut shy or the hoopla – it only takes a few minutes of your time and you walk away relatively unscathed.  This could be the transmedia equivalent of a quick Facebook quiz or answering questions on a forum or poll.  You want more of a ‘buzz’?  Then how about experiencing the high-speed exhilaration of the rollercoaster where you ride the incline and anticipate the drop – perhaps the hands on interaction of receiving a call on your cell from a ‘character’ or maybe attending an exciting live event.  Or maybe you’d like a short journey to get up-close-and-personal with the characters – how about trying the ghost train – a themed linear ‘experience’?   OK – to overly try and shoe-horn transmedia into a fun-fair theme has it’s limitations but transmedia entertainment as an experience is where the money is, on the condition that the content is smoking, the writing is classy and the publisher/broadcaster/producer has a water-tight strategy on distribution, platforms and timing.

Enthrill Entertainment is a boutique publishing company focused on bringing thrillers with current content to market using the most innovative means possible and have recently released One Child, written by 5 times bestselling author Jeff Buick and embraces online culture, fictionalizing real events as they happen. Available online through e-reader, on iPhone and iPad this ‘experience’ uses book/narrative as the primary platform, using similar architecture to my Staying Single project, whereby the primary platform was a character blog.  In One Child fictional characters have Facebook profiles and readers can interact online, receiving messages as replies.  In One Child the corporations have websites and WKIO 510 is an in-story radio station that delivers the daily news – and what’s happening in the book.

In seeing the One Child Enthrill diagram for the immersive experience I struck me that it wasn’t so totally removed from my (rather amateur) diagram for my Staying Single project and also resonates with concepts from the Conversation Prism.

Cameron Chell, Enthrill COO, shoots from the hip and, in my opinion, gets it right when he says that he believes this model will attract the best authors; authors who want to be prolific and immerse their readers into the story.  “Not only on the page, but also into an entire experience that can be contextualised in a global event.”  He goes on to say, “This will move the publishing industry from a product industry to an experience industry.  The revenue streams that are available around an experience are vastly larger than they are in just selling a product.”

CEO of Enthrill, Wayne Logan agrees that readers want great content and adds, “They want to understand world events as they unfold. We are changing the publishing model by delivering this content while the stories are still in the headlines.”

I’ve often mentioned how I believe crime, sci fi and thriller are perfect introductory genres for publishers using transmedia as their very nature raises a level of curiosity and engagement as we try to outsmart the characters with whodunnit or why.  But I also believe that transmedia can and will fit all genres and perhaps even nurture the arrival of new, interstitial genres as we tap into that deeper bond, the nostalgia, that Don Draper advocates – perhaps not so much”‘opening the pain from old wounds”, but offering reminders and engagement with experiences that have touched (or could touch) our lives.  Joe Esposito discusses the potential of bite-sized fiction and interstitial publishing ‘between the cracks’ in his post at and he touches on a hugely valid point – that publishers should release bite-sized content to fill those gaps in the day that are currently alleviated by the ‘pick-up/put-down’ games such as Solitaire, Tetris, BeJeweled or Farmville.  Those ‘cracks’ in the day – the few minutes we’re waiting for the train, or don’t want to waste the last 5 minutes of our lunch break by arriving back at our desk early (!) are the moments that a 3 minute YouTube video can fill, perhaps the cyberbridges of novels such as Level 26 or the ugc videos of Pulling Power.  Fabulous transmedia storytelling will engage with readers in spaces where they already ‘hang out’, in modes of conversation that they are familiar with and will offer experiences to deepen immersion and heighten awareness.

We can view the potential of transmedia storytelling as a carousel, or even the whole fun-fair, if we so wish.

We can herald the iPad as the main game-changer.

We can discuss how gaming companies and ad agencies are using the concept of ‘story’ in far greater ways than publishers are currently seen to be.

But, as Don Draper states, “technology is a glittering lure, but there’s the rare occasion when the public can be engaged on a level beyond ‘flash’.”  He goes on to advise how ‘new’ creates an itch but how audiences will nurture a deeper bond with the product through nostalgia.

As he says, “it’s delicate, but potent.”

Which, whether a story hinges on nostalgia or not, is what transmedia most definitely is when implemented properly – both delicate, but extremely potent.