2012 TRENDS: Transmedia rising – a new language to tell stories

(Read introduction: Coming up next, review of the 2012 media trends.)

Although not new, the concept of “transmedia storytelling” will be stepping out, becoming more than just a buzz word. The MIT renowned media scholar Henry Jenkins is considered by many as the “father” of “transmedia storytelling” as he was the first to coin the term in a 2003 publication.  Since then, the word has been used extensively (although not always with its intended meaning) and the next year will see a democratization and a better understanding of this multiplatform approach.

Comscore released last October Digital Omnivores, a study aimed at defining the “homo-sapiens-digitalus”, the new standard media consumer – in North America, Asia and Europe – that owns and uses several devices.  Accessing content is now concurrently (sometimes simultaneously) done on TV sets, personal computers, smartphones, tablets and a plethora of other connected devices.  This dexterity in usage is creating a pressure for content creators and distributors to provide these digital media-savvy users with engaging content.   As both the user’s expectations increase and the creators abilities develop, the table is set for the surge of a new language.

For the record,  what is the difference between cross-media and transmedia? When creating multiplatform projects, content-producers can choose to tell their story on a given media and compliment it with other platforms providing the users with different experiences on different medias.  This is what many call  Cross-media.   You could also opt for a more sophisticated way of storytelling: by establishing the pieces of the same story on different medias all forming part of a storyworld and contributing to a single narrative experience.  This is what is called Transmedia.   To use a simple analogy proposed by Jeff Gomez of Starlight Runner Entertainment:

“Different media should be considered as music instruments: put together, they form a symphony”.

This being said, developing an in-depth transmedia experience should not be considered an obligation but rather be assessed in terms of RELEVANCE and SIGNIFICANCE. To reuse the musical metaphor proposed by Gomez, this means that one can choose to write a trio sonata, as much as a solo for piano or  a piece for a fully orchestrated ensemble.   To assess the best strategy to deliver the best possible experience to their audiences, content creators and their partners will be  required to develop an ever-better understanding of the objectives of a specific project, the distinguishing attributes of each digital platform and their targeted market.  In one word: a transmedia project cannot be an afterthought.  Be prepared to consider transmedia storytelling as another tool in that already well-furnished toolbox of possibilities offered by the digital media creation & market space.

“Technology and free markets have allowed unprecedented levels of customization, personalization and responsiveness such that a policy of “one size fits all” approach is no longer expected or acceptable”   -Robert Pratten in Getting Started in Transmedia

Image: Robert Pratten


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