Transmedia is going to get big in 2013, which means lots of opportunity for independent transmedia producers. Here are five ways to stay relevant as audiences embrace transmedia:
- Stop trying to figure out what to call it. We’re calling it transmedia. I know you prefer immersive storyworld or multi-platform story architecting, but those are never going to catch on. And yes I know that TEDxTransmedia speaker said no one will use the term transmedia in a few years, but he’s wrong. He’s right, transmedia is just storytelling and we need to be clear when explaining it, but if someone says “What sort of project are you working on?” you can’t say “A storytelling project.” People need catchphrases. I remember when no one knew what the phrases podcast, blog, or social media meant, and then everyone knew and then everyone got sick of hearing them. But they still use those phrases because people now know what they mean. This is the year everyone will get sick of hearing transmedia, but that’s a good thing because it’s the first step to go from buzzword to common usage.
- Stop using acronyms. It’s cool that you’re into MMORPGs and ARGs but have you noticed how most people’s eyes glaze over? We’re trying to get people comfortable with the term transmedia, let’s not throw a bunch of new acronyms at them too. Besides, acronyms are boring and put up a barrier. You know what people like? Games. Live performances. Those sound fun and people know what they are. “Part of our story is told using games.” “Cool, what kind of games?” “Alternate Reality Games.” Eventually you’ll need to use an acronym, just make sure you spell it out first so people feel curious to learn more instead of confused by a jumble of unfamiliar letters.
- No more Vizio charts mapping out your narrative arcs. Yes, you’ve created an elaborate world, but so do most novels, films, and video games. Tell people why it’s awesome in words that try to hook them on the story, not lecture to them on the structure. People only care about the story. For transmedia, the question is: What’s this story about and how do I get each part of the story? If you need a Visio diagram for that, you’re probably working on a Master’s thesis and not a transmedia story.
- Make it easy for people. I know you’re proud that your storyworld is architected to enforce connections to multiple protagonists across disparate technology platforms interwoven by narrative structure that echoes Nordic mythology. But this is not how human beings talk. This is not what stirs people up and makes them want to download your book or app or video. I realize that’s how respected thought leaders talk at conferences, but that’s not how normal people make decisions to entertain themselves. Worry about building an audience first, then you can make it sound as complicated as you want when people line up to hear the secret of your success.
- Don’t be afraid to talk about transmedia. Ask people making movies, books, and games how they’re using transmedia. Creators need to understand that audiences are expecting transmedia elements. Pretty soon it will feel incomplete if someone only has a movie or only has a book. When someone announces they’re Kickstarting a feature film, ask how they’ll be using transmedia. A friend is writing a novel? Ask where else the characters will live besides the book itself. Once people creating media hear from audiences that transmedia is expected, they’ll start applying their creativity toward telling the story across multiple platforms. And if you’re the writer or director in this scenario, ask yourself how your story could be told with transmedia.
What do you think transmedia producers should focus on in 2013?
Mike Vogel is the creator of Phrenic, a transmedia thriller you watch, read, and play. He's directed two independent feature films and written a crime-comedy novel, all of which you can find on his personal blog mikevogel.com.
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Mike, I really enjoyed your point of view and reflections on Transmedia. It’s true when you talk about “Transmedia” with the average person, their eyes roll, their face goes blank and the curtain drops. We need to tell them something meaningful without falling into the trap of making Transmedia an exclusive club that no one else can join; because they don’t speak the secret technical lingo or know the secret technology handshakes.
It’s kind of like the description of “social business.” We throw it out there but nobody knows what it is until you say Amazon and Zappos are good examples. We’ll always win when we can show an example and say “it’s like this or it’s like that.”
Thanks Jeff. It’s an interesting parallel you make between transmedia and social business. Businesses had to adapt to the expectations of consumers when social business took off. And I think transmedia producers will have to adapt if they want to reach a non-technical, non-academic audience too. The good news is, that means more focus on storytelling.
I absolutely agree. People seem to be torn between the inevitable realisation that transmedia is here to stay and running scared. The same as newspaper reporters when blogging first hit the scenes. I think you’re right, the trick is to make creatives see the extra opportunities it provides for their story so then pitches and conversations are all about the story not about the whizz bang technology needed to make it happen.
New to transmedia theory … What elements of a story traverse the platforms — primarily characters, right? Writers, filmmakers, they are telling stories across media, but what about Jay-Z’s album release where lyrics were embedded in daily life? There the narrative was the seeker, the character was the user. Could this approach to transmedia open the field up to those not creating stories?