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.

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 http://www.ibpa-online.org/articles/shownews.aspx?id=2989 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.

Engage with story like the ad guys

A repost of my piece for The Literary Platform.

The need for publishers to engage with ‘story’

Alison Norrington

Author and transmedia strategist

June 25th, 2010

Transmedia in publishing is a slow starter.  There are a series of ‘what ifs’ to consider and to encourage publishers to deliver across a series of platforms other than book is asking them to take new risks (and is also taking them to fragmented places where the marketing department usually hang out  – online, events, games, teasers).

To encourage writers, who currently write with book in mind, to write in new ways for new platforms is going to take time, experimentation and mentoring.  Then, not every book will suit a transmedia structure and not all authors and readers will want that anyway!  So, for those of you who are categorically not interested in ‘story’ from publishers in any other way than on a page – look away now….

Hopefully an interested audience remains and, judging by the response of publishers that I’ve interviewed and consulted to about transmedia publishing, there will be.

Personally, I consider transmedia publishing with book as the primary platform is a great means of introducing fragmented, engaging stories to genres that perhaps aren’t so tech centric – such as chick lit, self-help, and ‘how to’ guides.  Book is an age-old familiar product and if the primary story is well written, transmedia elements can be woven into the strategy and architecture as part of the narrative with the aim of raising enough curiosity to compel readers to ‘click’, ‘scroll’ on other devices and to recognise fragments in their daily online networking sites (Facebook games, emails to inboxes), even to generate their own content or attend live events to add value to the storyworld.


Level 26 was published by Dutton Press last year and was written as a ‘digi-novel’ by Anthony E. Zuiker, the creator of CSI. The main platform other than book is at www.level26.com, where the website is an interactive extension of the book series “Level 26,” and the two combine to form a “digi-novel,” a multi-platform experience that moves the reader from passages in the books to videos and interactive content on the Level 26 website.

Cathy's book

Cathy’s Book, by Perseus, is one of the most discussed transmedia books within publishing circles and its success was partly due, I believe, to the way that it reached out to its target audience (which was predominantly teens who live online!):

– tone of story, (teenage girl asking teenage girls for help)

– relevance of platforms (iPhone app and iTunes audio download)

– roused a large population of user-generated content on Flickr as girls uploaded their own drawings/images

– The book itself includes an evidence packet filled with letters, phone numbers, pictures, and birth certificates, as well as doodles and notes written by Cathy in the page margins.

In true transmedia style Cathy’s Book utilised potential exposure and viral spread by agreeing to include references to the CoverGirl makeup line in exchange for advertising space on the Web site Beinggirl.com. (The references were deleted in the novel’s paperback version).

Media Partners:

There’s no doubt that fragmenting across platforms cuts into budgets but financing an experimental transmedia property can be eased by collaborating with media partners that are already engaging with audiences online.   Taking the concept of ‘book’ as a portal into a multi-platform environment extends the storyworld and exposure for both partners (and will also extend brand by competing for ‘the eyeballs’ in new ways for both parties too).

It’s still early days and whilst publishers are beginning to receive content written for transmedia, in terms of cross-disciplinary projects, I’ve found that the publishing industry as a ‘content provider’ remains one of the least equipped to make the leap to digital.  The bottom line is that ad agencies are using ‘story’ in far more innovative ways than publishers are able to, and with alarming velocity and success.  To date, transmedia has mostly been funded by corporate marketing and advertising budgets, but as brands now realise the potential of engaging consumers with ’story’ a slow shift toward R&D funding has emerged – which is fabulous for content creators and transmedia writers – and a wake up call for publishing!

Producers are building the costs of creating a transmedia plan into production budgets rather than leaving it an as afterthought paid for by the marketing division, but to truly seed and embed a transmedia rollout means to integrate and weave these ideas from the outset.  Publishers need writers to write for transmedia!

Ad Agencies & Transmedia:

Here are some examples of advertising agencies that are adopting transmedia to compliment and drive their campaigns:

Storyworldwide claim that “everything you knew about advertising is BS – Before Story” and state that they “understand that advertising-as-interruption is over” and claim to “connect brands to customers by telling engaging and entertaining stories that audiences actually want to hear.”

Their Agent Provocateur campaign of 2007 launched a site that explored the possibilities of video and storytelling to create an “engaging website that generated return visit after return visit and built a series of exquisite multi-part video stories where two ingénues entered the glamorous and seductive world of a Hollywood mansion and had a lost weekend in a Victorian manor house.”

The campaign was supported by a series of transmedia initiatives that deepened customer relationships (in the hope of turning browsers into buyers), embracing social networking – using Facebook to further explore the lives of the characters from videos.  They went on to use Flickr as a platform to host a competition to design the front cover of erotic novels following their exploits.  These platforms and calls-to-action gave users the opportunity to interact with the brand more deeply and begin to make it personal.

To support the global launch of Calvin Klein’s new youth lifestyle brand, ckIN2U, Story Worldwide was asked to create a comprehensive digital experience that would engage the target audience. Calvin Klein brand had insisted that this campaign would be an interactive expression of the core brandethos, which was ‘technosexuality’ and ‘connection without commitment’ – terms coined by ck.

The Call To Action for ckIN2U was simple.  A question.  Storyworldwide asked  consumers a question that everyone has an answer to: What are you IN2? To support the concept, Storyworldwide created a two-tiered digital programme:

– It began with a global film contest launched in 15 countries, with all participation, viewing and voting occurring online.

– To bring the community together, Storyworldwide then created a global, data-driven brand and social connection site ‘experience’.  Through a highly visual and interactive display, users created profiles revealing what they were IN2, and searched keywords to connect to others IN2 the same things. Personal inboxes allowed one-on-one private messaging to spawn truly connected social experiences.

Another example is Big Spaceship and the transmedia strategy to promote and enhance Sony Pictures’ latest thriller, The Stepfather.

Big Spaceship locked into the movie’s sense of suspense and developed a game for Sony whereby the audience stepped into the main character’s inquisitive shoes.  The storyline follows Michael Harding’s unshakable intuition that his soon-to-be stepfather, David Harris, is up to no good and the game lets you trace the Harding home for clues. But you’ve got to be quick… David is on his way home. And he won’t be happy if he catches you snooping around his things.


It has been reported that the overall objectives and aims of integrating a transmedia approach to advertising is to:

– create brand awareness amongst target audiences

– create a connection between consumer and brand

– allow consumers to participate in a deeper brand experience (both on and offline)

– allow consumers to express, explore and connect to others in the brand community

– build a global database to create a continued ‘lifetime’ relationship with brand users

Every publisher wants to create a connection between the consumer and their brand, to allow deep brand experiences and build a global database (previously the work of the marketing department), but to translate other elements of this into a publishing model:

– create brand awareness amongst target audiences – whilst readers don’t care who the publisher is, to create this type of publishing brand, synonymous with ace experiences will eventually build expectation and loyalty.  Think Disney – nobody cares that it’s Disney, but they are now known for fabulous animation and gripping stories!

– allow consumers to express, explore and connect to others in the brand community – deeper engagement with story and wider opportunities to heighten a storyworld experience is paramount in allowings readers/audience to comment and engage – ‘be’ the character, ‘live’ the story!

If publishers don’t step up and use their product as a primary platform for enhanced experiences then they will most definitely miss their golden opportunity as gaming companies, ad agencies and platform providers are already fragmenting and diversifying – using ’story’ as their tool to drive audience/readers to their products.


// Alison Norrington (@storycentral) is currently writing her fifth novel, the first rom com/chick lit transmedia novel which uses book as a primary platform, upheld with a strong strategy of transmedia architecture.

With two media partners already onboard this exciting project will be published November 2011 and is organically written for transmedia rollout.

Alison is in year 2 of her PhD studying transmedia and publishing. She also blogs and consults to both publishers and authors on transmedia strategy and implementation.

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Transmedia Storytelling – What’s it all about?

A repost of my piece for FUTUReBOOK – a digital blog from Europe in association with The Bookseller

Transmedia Storytelling – What’s it all about?

Transmedia. It started as an academic term, coined by Henry Jenkins in his book Convergence Culture who said, “transmedia represents the integration of entertainment experiences across a range of different media platforms,” Jenkins defines transmedia as storytelling that “immerses an audience in a story’s universe through a number of dispersed entry points, providing a comprehensive and coordinated experience of a complex story.”

As a storytelling mode transmedia is exciting, dynamic and the ultimate 360 approach to storytelling –360content, 360platforms and with the potential for the full 360experience. The basic premise of transmedia is that rather than using different media channels to simply retell the same story, you utilise these channels, their communities and functions to communicate different elements of the story. Its success relies on fragmenting a narrative and making each platform do what it does best which, in turn, extends the life and longevity of the story.  Contrary to some thinking, this practice isn’t device-driven (Kindle, Nook, iPad), but is platform driven as it is the platform that subtly dictates and influences audience reactions, social & behavioural trends and user experiences.  The bottom line is that with a solid transmedia strategy in place everything remains connected by the same central narrative and theme, but each channel excels at what it does best, rather than bending to fit a central idea that’s being repurposed for multi platforms.

Sounds great, right?  So how can it work for publishers? What might it mean for books?  I can tell you what it doesn’t mean. It doesn’t mean Vook.   (Although to use Vook as an element of a full 360 transmedia novel is definitely viable).  It doesn’t mean Enhanced Editions (although once again, these guys offer a legion of expertise and solid, exciting platforms and concepts in adding elements to a larger transmedia strategy).  It doesn’t mean Lulu, Blurb or CompletelyNovel (but they offer options – which is what transmedia likes)!  Transmedia isn’t DailyLit or Keitai.  It isn’t YouTube, Babelgum or even SecondLife.  The truth is, transmedia isn’t any one of these, but at the same time, can embrace and utilise all of them.

The fact remains that successful and credible transmedia novels must focus primarily on story and, without that focus, will be in danger of shifting from a viable ‘immersive experience’ to one of those transparent ‘cross-media marketing initiatives and/or brand extensions’.  The exciting bit is that storytelling and the entertainment industry is on the cusp of something new and exciting and it isn’t only about 3D special effects as in ‘Avatar’.  Transmedia storytelling is about immersion, participation & experiences in an authored environment which will not only attract existing readers, but bring new audiences and modes of fragmentation.

So, what can publishers do now?  Publishers have already begun to embrace the notion of transmedia by casting off those expectations we’ve grown up with – that a story is… text on a page, actors on the stage, special effects on the screen or a narrator reading.  In our digital and connected world it’s now a natural step to dictate how we want our stories; whether we want to read, listen, watch or ‘do’.   Publishers are so close to sitting at that ‘sweet spot’ – they have the legacy of storytelling abilities (not so much in the creation of, but certainly in the professional ‘filtering’ system, publishing, marketing and distribution) alongside the potential expertise of all things ‘digital’.  HarperStudio, Penguin, Fourth Story Media and Perseus, are amongst those that are beginning to seed audiences and engage across a series of platforms. I believe that book as the primary platform is a fabulous means of introducing transmedia to genres that aren’t so tech centric – such as chick lit, self help and ‘how to’ guides perhaps.  ‘Book’ is an age-old familiar, tactile product and if the primary story is well written, transmedia elements can be woven in as part of the text narrative and readers will be compelled to engage with fragments.  Publishers are renowned story gatekeepers but now exist in a time where ad agencies are using the concept of ‘story’, along with branded content, to sell – and doing so extremely well. Publishing can develop as a multi-modal broadcast media by gatekeeping the ‘story’ and not the ‘page’ – by releasing this focus on ‘page’ and adopting a transmedia approach can still keep book as the primary product whilst working with media partners to cast a wide net and offer a series of options for receiving, interacting and engaging with these stories.

No other place exists in the entertainment industry where ‘story’ is deemed as ‘publishing’ – cinemas screen movies, radios broadcast plays, audio downloads are podcast and television broadcast sit-coms and dramas – all of which can make the leap to computer screen, but traditional print publishers are also competing with a host of new online broadcast options – audio stories are appearing on YouTube and AudioBoo, text novels are available on our mobile devices and we can consume Shakespeare in a series of 140 word bursts via Twitter. Only in the last 500 years or so did a distinction arise that cut the musical society in two, forming separate classes of music performers and music listeners. Throughout most of the world music making was a natural activity where everybody participated. Our culture now makes a distinction between a class of performers – the ‘experts’ and the rest of us who pay to listen. This is in marked reversal to what is happening with publishers – publishers were the ‘experts’; the gatekeepers of professional and quality writing and now everybody can publish online. And for free…

Publishers are excited about delivering stories in new ways, but there is also some caution and resistance to change from both publishers and readers, as moving the action from one device to another mid-story raises the risk of distraction. While transmedia storytelling can be an effective way of providing options and adding value, successful implementation requires care and sensitivity. Whether the links between media are cyber bridges, GPS games, QR codes or audio clues, moving a reader from book to device relies on the transition being relevant to the new platform, so that each medium excels at what it does best. Publishers are aware that it could be a few years before the full effects are seen, with new narratives developing organically and finding a receptive audience.  It all goes back to relevance.  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.”

Not every storyworld will work as a transmedia novel, but as accessibility opens doors and presents new options, transmedia will open the gates for enhanced experiences, deeper levels of immersion and a host of options for those lean-back and lean-forward moments. In a nutshell, to receive your stories in the way that you want them!  The bottom line is that some readers and writers are changing their habits and fans are becoming actively engaged in stories. The value of a good story remains and is vital; the question is will you prefer to read, listen, watch, or do?

A link to my piece for WIRED magazine on transmedia storytelling

Transmedia Tales & The Future of Storytelling..

I was delighted to be asked to write about transmedia storytelling and publishing for WIRED magazine, especially as it’s exactly what I’m trying to get to grips with in my PhD.

Transmedia tales and the future of storytelling

I’ve discussed Twitter stories, video stories and blog fictions (including my own – Staying Single) and have also looked at how magazines and film are fragmenting and scattering stories across various platforms.

Here it is..  Would love your comments please..