Monday, April 23, 2012

Transmedia – does anyone care?

I’ve had a blog post sitting on my computer, half-written, for quite some time. The essence of the post was that there are only about 200 people around the world that actually care if your project is a ”true transmedia project” or not, the 6.999.999.800 others either don’t care or will never hear of your stuff.

Brian Clark beat me to it though, and in a much more profound and challenging way, in his follow up to last years debate-post over on Facebook; this time, the title is ”Transmedia is a lie”, and it, and the comments, are well worth a read.

I feel the need to write something here on the subject as well; I, contrary to Brian (I think?) still believe there is a use for the term ”transmedia”.  Granted, there has not been a definite definition over the past 12 months, and granted, there has been a severe dilution of the term (if I could get 10 cents for every new ”transmedia producer” I met at MIPTV this year, that was a ”cross media producer” only 6 months earlier, I’d have…. about 50 cents). As a term for working together with other professionals in the field, it has therefore probably outlived it’s purpose – much better to take a longer route and explain the concept thoroughly, including platforms, interaction, plot (if applicable) and so on. Other professionals will see where they can slot in quite easily, while not being confused by differing definitions of the ”transmedia” term.

Also for pitching purposes the term has become next to redundant; what you’re selling is the story. Everything else only serves to confuse. This goes for upwards of 75% of the commissioners, producers and buyers I pitch to. This in turn is quite healthy for you, even though it means harder work: you need to a) make the story good enough to stand on it’s own legs and be sellable, while b) you need to have the transmediated parts lined up so you can answer any questions about them should they arise and preferrably c) have a next-to fool-proof financing plan for these ”extra” parts.

Now, the discussion over at Brian’s note is quite existential at times. It’s a ”what is this and why do we do it and really there is no such thing as transmedia and NO YOU SHUT UP and….”. I.e., it’s all great fun, and something of a necessity. I believe people will float in and out of the term ”transmedia”, while still continuing to create and tell stories interconnected over multiple platforms, under different headings. Nothing wrong with that.

I will, however, continue to use the term transmedia. For this I have two reasons:

It keeps my mind straight when developing and producing content. I have my own definition of what transmedia should be and what I aspire to, and keeping this in mind really helps me brainstorm, create and refine content. 

For anyone entering into this which perhaps is transmedia and perhaps isn’t transmedia, it can be a confusing world. I’d like people to come into it the way I did – with a solid background in storytelling and media, then getting your mind blown away by extremely inspiring people and projects, then gradually starting to pick up on nuances and relevant discussions, implementing the methods into my own work, experiencing what works and what doesn’t, stretch my mind and my imagination and get better at coming up with engaging and doable stuff. This is something I would not have done without a term – ”transmedia” – to hang everything on, to keep my mind focused. Only by embracing a term can we truly understand the critizism of it (wow, that sounded profound :P)

Rant over. Now off to evaluate some transmedia projects….


Lucas J.W. Johnson said...

Simon, well put. I agree with you 100%. I find the term useful in organizing a community and in organizing my thoughts, and as long as it *continues to do so*, it's useful to me in that regard.

Thanks for the post!

Simon said...


thanks for your comment. Yes, I believe the term will remain useful for quite some time...


ihashimi said...

Well I think transmedia will always inspire people and how the social media environment will be. It will be the impetus from nothing to everything.

Unknown said...

I'm beginning to wonder if the mis-use of the term is just an American thing. It does seem to me that most of the European community gets it, and generally doesn't confuse it with marketing/franchising. Hmmm.

Simon said...

I don't know either - even if there are differences between the US and the ROW (Rest Of the World) I find quite a few real and genuine transmedia people in the US as well as in Europe, and also quite a few of the other kind.

Doro said...

Simon, great post. I try to focus on the story and decide then how we're going to tell it. In this way we're trying to avoid becoming to narrow-minded because of definitions. But the term helps to create communities of like-minded people, and that's great! Thinking about wether a project is transmedia or not helps me to improve my own work - so the term is still useful,I think.

Simon said...


absolutely! And in that sense I, as I've said, agree that the term needs framing; it'll cut a lot of corners when collaborating with other transmedia-minded people... but if it becomes an excluding term, then I believe the gain to be had from it will diminish substantially.

KH said...

Back! Simon, I'm back! into the conversation I mean... and yes I did ping Brian Clark for him to continue the Claim because I was SO tired of bullshitters and marketeers with no souls and very poor creativity and no experience what so ever with creation, or even culture ! Wouah ! I have lots of interest for the #antitransmedia movement but I am with you and I am looking at the same think you are looking at, so please continue !!
Then : there are not a receipe for a transmedia production and there will be not, so we better take it as "art" and make sure we treat ourselves nicely and use a lot, a lot, alot, alot of Trust, faith and values...
Will try to write more later ;-)

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