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Simon Staffans: 5 Transmedia myths debunked

Freshly back from cross-media fest The Pixel Lab, MediaCity Finland's Staffans decided to set the transmedia record straight

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Simon Staffans MIPTV 2012

As with any new trend, a lot of falsehoods are banded about on the nature and potential of cross-media storytelling. So I thought it was about time to debunk some transmedia myths. Ready?

 

1. Transmedia is the newest of the new!

Actually, no. It might be a new term for a lot of people, yes. But stories moving over different media have been around for ages, from storytellers combining with cave painters and onwards. People have argued that the Bible was the first great transmedia campaign. It is, admittedly, a pretty long-lasting project. Just goes to show what you can accomplish if you properly budget for community management and get the word-of-mouth going!

 

2. Everything will be transmedia and you’ll get bypassed by your competitors in a heartbeat if you don’t do transmedia!

Actually, no. This is a line that can be used to try to tip a sales pitch in a favourable direction, but it holds no truth whatsoever. There is no need for a successful novel to think about transmedia components… unless they make sense and fit the needs of the story or the distributor or the publisher, obviously. Accepting this statement for a fact would lead to a lot of creative minds shutting up shop. From my own experience, I know that you can spend a LOT of time creating story worlds and narrative superstructures, without actually ever getting down to the point of MAKING THE ORIGINAL STORY into something that will appeal to the audience. If transmedia doesn’t make sense in the context of a story – if that story is better as a stand alone novel or film or graphic novel or TV series – “going transmedia on its ass” won’t improve the overall experience.

 

3. Today’s audiences crave transmedia!

Actually, no. I have met many many members of “the audience”. Not a single one of them have told me they’re explicitly CRAVING transmedia. It’s not oxygen, or food, or funny pictures of kittens on the web; you know, all those really essential things in life. On the other hand, of course, a well-crafted transmedia project will give participants and audience members a richer and more fulfilling experience. So while they might not crave it, not in the ”give us transmedia or your dog will die!” way, most audiences appreciate it when it’s there, it fits the concept and it adds value.

 

4. Transmedia is really really complicated and only the gurus can get it right!

Actually, no. If you can tell a story well, you can do transmedia. If you hear someone shopping the “go to the gurus”-line, chances are they’re basically looking to get hired (as they are inevitably ‘gurus’ themselves, of course). Now of course, you should get collaborators aboard, people who are better than you at coding, marketing, filming… whatever it is you need to do. But in essence, it’s all about telling a great story in a great way, utilising any means that make sense.

 

5. Transmedia is just a buzzword!

Actually, no. Even though it’s not the newest of the new, it’s not something that is inevitable for all content in the near future, it’s not something that an audience craves and gets upset about if it isn’t present and it’s not something that need a batallion of self-proclaimed gurus to get right, it’s still some pretty awesome stuff.

Living in a world filled with social media, online interaction, dissolving barriers between different types of media and a growing acceptance that stories actually matter, utilising transmedia storytelling methods when developing, designing, producing, marketing and distributing makes absolute sense. It’s worth remembering though, that just as with everything else – if it sounds too good to be true, it usually is. Go transmedia, but when it makes sense in the context of your content. And if someone sells you the above lines, well, just point them here!

 

Simon Staffans is a format developer for Media City Finland, and a regular contributor to MIPBlog. You can follow him on Twitter here.

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