Transmedia Storytelling

Posted: April 19, 2010 in Entertainment, Social Media, Television, Websites
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I mentioned USC Professor and Author Henry Jenkins in a previous blog post, Advice From The Experts, and his work in ‘spreadable’ media. He also penned another term that has been adopted by the entertainment industry called ‘transmedia storytelling.’ Fellow APOC student Susan Lin did a book report on Jenkins’ book “Convergence Culture: Where Old and New Media Collide” where he explained transmedia storytelling as  “a process where integral elements of a fiction get dispersed systematically across multiple delivery channels for the purpose of creating a unified and coordinated entertainment experience.”

Jenkins also said that “to fully experience any fictional world, consumers must assume the role of hunters and gatherers, chasing down bits of the story across media channels, comparing notes with each other via online discussion groups and collaborating to ensure that everyone who invests time and effort will come away with a richer entertainment experience.”

This concept was already being executed by members of the Hollywood community and in a recent panel discussion at NewTeeVeeLive, on Bridging the Gap Between Television and Online, former writer and executive Producer Jesse Alexander was thrilled that Jenkins had developed the term. He said that he now had a name to call the concepts that had worked so successfully for the TV show, Heroes.

Members of this panel included moderator Chris Albrecht, from NewTeeVee and the panelists included Jesse Alexander, Former Writer and Executive Producer, Heroes; Bill Gannon, Director of Online Operations, Lucasfilm; Jeff Gomez, CEO Starlight Runner Entertainment; and Greg Goodfried, Co-Founder, President and COO, EQAL.

The main points of the panel discussion were as follows:

  • Many television shows, including Heroes, Alias, and Lost have been very successful in developing content and extending it across several media platforms.
  • Transmedia content is not just the television show; it’s about creating a good strong story, developing good characters and producing solid content that is placed on different platforms. The goal is to share the franchise in places where interested people will find it.
  • Creating a culture around the franchise is the key to the success in this space. Reaching people on different platforms is very important.
  • There must be trust between the corporations and the creators of the show. The creators and producers of shows must be willing to open up their scripts and future episodes, so that content can be developed and released at the appropriate time.
  • Defining metrics for success is tricky in the transmedia world. All panelists agreed that expectations should be managed around online platforms. Greg said that if you can get 20,000 people to go online after a television show, it’s a good thing. If you’re streaming a live event and 1000 people watch it, it’s also a considered a success. If ten to fifty people go to the live event, and they all shoot video and post it online then it’s another success story, since these video may reach thousands of people online. He said if you add up all these impressions, the numbers will be big enough to be considered a success.
  • As companies move forward in the transmedia space, they must decide how to best measure success.
  • Jesse said that web content in the transmedia world must be compartmentalized. Each element must be able to stand on its own, but it also must be connected to the other parts. The success of this rests on having one visionary, who has a strong sense of telling the story across the different platforms.
  • Whenever you ask the audience to do something, there must be value for them.
  • People are now moving from one media platform to another effortlessly. All panelists agreed that this is the future of the industry.

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