The transmedia debate continues to rage across the planet. Is it simply a marketing gimmick? How will it be defined? How should it evolve? Who should drive the direction it takes? Is this even the right language to describe these experiences? . From what I have been learning, transmedia storytelling is simply a narrative that crosses two or more media and usually involves some kind of interaction or even co-creation with its audience. It is not the same storyline being reused over and over again in a book, movie and game, but when each media tells a unique story all set in the same world. It is a dynamic and rapidly developing form of storytelling that impacts marketing, every form of media, and the way we will experience entertainment in the future. This issue of From Search to Screen will try to summarize some of the latest developments and transmedia hot spots across the world for inspiration and education.
The UK & Australia
I follow the #transmedia hashtag on Twitter and have a Google Alert set up so send me all the latest transmedia news, and there are two countries that come up over and over again as a source of current trends, Australia and the UK. It is from these two regions that visionaries such as Christy Dena, Anita Ondine and Neil Richards hail. These parts of the world both boast active transmedia Meetup groups and include training opportunities such as Transmedia Next and Power to the Pixel. Some amazing resources for indie cross media producers include Screen Australia’s transmedia production bible template and All Media Fund, and NESTA’s Digital R& D Fund in the UK. The screen media creators in these regions have a reputation for cutting edge, quality product and are a natural fit for this new kind of storytelling. One of the experiences I am interested in that is technically coming out of the UK is Pottermore, the new extension of the Harry Potter books.
Now I am sure one of the reasons I don’t get a lot of European transmedia tidbits is the foreign language issue. My searches all tend to be in English. However, I have come across a few very interesting events and thought leaders from this part of the world (such as Germany’s Inga von Staden). Here we can see many of the film festivals have run interactive components for a number of years, including Rotterdam and Cannes. Many of the European broadcasters and film authorities have been allocating production funds for new media for longer than in US. And this year, the European Union’s Media Program (which includes funding for transmedia through its “interactive” stream) is expected to increase its financial support despite many national governments tightening budgets. Interesting cross platform projects from here include Collapsus by Amsterdam based Tommy Pallotta and the Conspiracy for Good which was created by Stockholm’s Company P (enabled by a good dose of corporate sponsorship from Nokia).
The United States
The most visible transmedia in the US has come from the big studios (such as the Dark Knight Why So Serious campaign) or as branded entertainment (such as the new Old Spice guy or Test Subjects Needed from Wrigley’s Gum). It is home to the father of “transmedia storytelling” Henry Jenkins and other leaders in the field like Lance Weiler and Jeff Gomez. The United States is the source of new tools like Robert Pratton’s Conductrr storytelling engine and the gamification platform Gamify.it (both in beta). The Tribeca Film Institute also announced funding for interactive storytelling earlier this year through its non-fiction new media program. I wish I could attend the Story World Conference & Expo happening in San Francisco this year. I’m sure it would be a major intensive on all the newest developments in transmedia.
I may be biased, but it seems Canada is a great place to be an indie cross-platform storyteller these days. We are one of the few places in the world that has funding for new media that is NOT tied to a TV series or film, in the form of the CMF Experimental Stream nationally and the OMDC Interactive New Media Fund in Ontario. We are also home to exciting organizations like Merging + Media in Vancouver and the CFC Media Lab and X-Summit in Toronto as well as active Meetup groups in both cities. Siobhan O’Flynn, Lucas J.W. Johnson and Jill Golick are some of the notable leaders in this community.
Our Transmedia World
The bottom line is that no matter where you are on the planet there are interesting and exciting developments going on in all media. Stories are coming at us from all directions : TV, the Internet, the publishing industry, films, videogames, advertising, alternate reality games and even more than we can yet imagine I am sure. Beyond simple entertainment and marketing, this new kind of storytelling also offers the chance to deeply engage an audience and affect actual positive change in the world (such as with the Conspiracy for Good). Wearing both my marketing and screen media creator hats, I can see there are many exciting and inspiring possibilities for anyone who wants to tell a good story in the future.
This article has hopefully given you quick glimpse into some of what is going on in transmedia globally. It is by no means an exhaustive list. Please send me any tidbits you think I may have missed so I can add them to my regularly updated transmedia resources page. I am also very interested in the actual language being used in and around this topic and am in the midst of compiling a transmedia search market research document, which should be completed later this month. It promises to add an interesting perspective to the debate. Contact me if you are interested in receiving a copy.
Do you have any other questions, resources, tips or insight about transmedia, cross platform entertainment and marketing? Please post below or send them via email to annelise(at)veria.ca or on Twitter @veriatweet.
Next Issue: An Interlude with Brent Friedman
Or Revisit the Last Issue: Keeping It Real: Best Practices for Authentic SEO