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Does the media industry use transmedia storytelling for
their own advantage? In the current age of media, transmedia storytelling is an
important technique and the most common tool used for the production and
distribution of media for audience engagement and introducing a greater
experience for media consumers. Transmedia storytelling was first used in 1999
with the release of The Blair Witch Project and can also be known as cross
media storytelling. Since transmedia storytelling is still a new term in the
media industry, there are many definitions out there and not one that all
transmedia enthusiasts agree upon. With the trend and
wide spread of media convergence in todays media industry, the ways in which audiences
interact with them has changed massively. Storytellers now can create a
much better experience for their audience by unveiling the stories and
using new media that combines photos, video and text across multiple platforms.
The last
time you watched your favourite television programme or film, how did you watch
it? Was it whilst you were sat at home looking at the big screen in the corner
of the room or were you watching on your smartphone whilst on a form of
transport? Old media such as newspapers, radio and televisions are becoming
second place and being replaced with new technology such as smartphones,
tablets, smart televisions and gamings. That being said, in todays world there
are a lot of differences between old media and new media strategies that
benefit the media industry.


Reviewing a number of literature techniques upon transmedia
storytelling, there are clearly many theorists who have their own concepts and
definitions of the term. The theorist’s views of the term, “synergistic
storytelling” (Jenkins: 2006), “cross media storytelling” (Dena: 2004), “intertextual
commodity” (Marshall: 2004), “distributed narration” (Walker: 2004), “multimedia
storytelling” (Perryman: 2008). The theorists listed and their view on
transmedia storytelling are individually important because these are all
transmedia enthusiasts and when compared, you can see how related they are, yet
how different they look at the media concept and how certain modes of engaging
are enabled or disabled depending on which perspective of the concept is taken.

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Transmedia storytelling is the system
in the media industry for designing, sharing and and creating a much whole and
better experience across multiple platforms for entertainment, advertising and
marketing. Henry Jenkins is a Professor of Communication, Journalism. Cinematic
Arts and Education. He is the author and editor of seventeen books that are
based around the media and popular culture. Henry
Jenkins writes about how transmedia storytelling is “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. Ideally, each medium makes its own unique contribution to the
unfolding of the story” (2007). Henry Jenkins then moves on to write about
stories that “unfold across multiple media platforms” (2006: 95) and how
transmedia stories unfolds across multiple media platforms, with each new text
making a unique and valued contribution to the entirety. In the ideal form of
transmedia storytelling, each does what it does best – so that a story might be
introduced in a film, expanded through television, novels, and comic (2006:
95-96). Whilst, Thomas (2015: 19) was more descriptive, including the various
platforms we now have available to us. She brought up that “various forms of
media – exhibition screens, mobile phone apps, tablets, the web – that combines
personal narrative with innovative storytelling techniques to invite audiences
to connect to a story across multiple platforms”. This writing will intend to
analyse relevant media and text around transmedia storytelling and also look
at how transmedia storytelling has benefitted the audiences experience of
consuming media and also how the media industry has improved with the
producing, marketing and distribution of media with the advancement of
technology. The literature around transmedia storytelling suggests it controls
the media users and captivates their engagement.  One strategy in particular, transmedia
storytelling, has enjoyed a place of prominence across media and cultural
studies, advertising and marketing research (Fast, O?rnebring: 2015). Geoffrey
Long is a storyteller and transmedia enthusiast at the Media Arts and Practice
program at a school of Cinematic Arts. Long (2011) looked at transmedia storytelling
and identified that it improves audience satisfaction. Transmedia storytelling
has many benefits for media production with, enhanced longevity and commercial
success of story worlds (Hardy: 2011), and more interesting and enjoyable
academic environments and offer more meaningful and authentic ways to better
engage the sensors of learners (Wankel, Blessinger: 2013) and then create “a
whole that is greater than the sum of its parts” (Gambarato, 2012).


Another concept related to transmedia storytelling is transmedial
consumption. Transmedial is a movement across multiple stories, whilst transmedial
consumption describes a practice to this effect. Transmedial consumption refers
to the consumption of a narrative across multiple story modes by its users. In
a study on how media users engage with commercial transmedia texts this
distinction is necessary because users can engage with transmedia components in
isolation. According to Henry Jenkins (2006d), he suggests that this is necessary
in order to attract multiple markets and story modes do not perform a transmedial
function in this context. In other words, consumption of a single story mode in
a transmedia text should be distinguished from consumption of several story
modes in a transmedia text. Use of the term transmedial consumption is an effective
method for clarifying pure engagement with these forms.


One of the most popular film examples of transmedia
storytelling is The Matrix, a 1999 science fiction action film. To this day,
The Matrix defines the term transmedia storytelling and according to Jenkins is
“as far or further than anyone has gone before” (Jenkins: 2003). The Matrix reveals information through
three films, comic books and video games. The various media of The Matrix creates a much
better experience for its audience as they can investigate character
backgrounds and become closer with the Matrix as a whole. While most of the audience will want to consume the contents of a single
platform, experiencing all The Matrix content leads to a much greater,
distinctive type of entertainment and a better experience. The Matrix was built
across four platforms which includes films, animations, comics and games as a
single story which relied on the unique storytelling capabilities of different
media to characterise the narrative. Henry Jenkins observed how a consumer of The Matrix with the complex franchise
of films, comics and games is “always going to feel inadequate before The
Matrix because it expects more than any individual spectator can provide”
(Jenkins, 2003b). The Matrix franchise uses a model which encourages media
consumers to engage with the text through a framework that requires them to
make their own understanding of the media through multiple platforms and
narrative. According to Jenkins transmedia projects such as The Matrix might be
the next step in cultural evolution; the bridge to a new kind of culture built
on information, convergence and migratory consumption patterns (Jenkins 2006c).


Henry Jenkins argues that successful transmedia texts must
create a rich, encyclopaedic fictional universe with enough gaps in the
open-ended narrative for different texts to fill in the spaces (2007). He
explains that the narrative has to offer enough space for media consumers to
want to then fill them in themselves, engaging with the media and contributing
to the story to their full ability. An important point to raise about
transmedia storytelling is that the ability for audience engagement with
transmedia stories and the idea that the audiences can engage more with stories
than they can interact with. Full audience attention and participation is
required for those to fully engage with the transmedia story.

Roos (2012), writes that ‘the audience can only partly
participate, because the arc of the story is almost always defined by the
creator and cannot be measurably changed’. Jenkins
(2006) writes about the format promoting collaboration between creators and
consumers, but a single person or team maintains control in the most successful
cases. However, Beddows (2012) argues that a transmedia story may be treated as
a world which includes both official and unofficial works. Marsha Kinder
is another transmedia storytelling enthusiast. Kinder (1991: 40) found that
television creates “complex systems of transmedical intertextuality between
television, movies, and toys”. She claims that the most successful transmedia
storytelling often develops from spin-offs from successful movies, “perhaps
because the profit is more blatant, even though spinoffs frequently involve
ancillary toys and crossovers into commercials” (1991: 41).


Cross media ownership is when all media products are owned
by one producer. It began in the 1980’s and helped push convergence culture and
media conglomerates in the right direction to benefit the media industry and
consumers when it came to the production of films and television. Cultural
convergence is for describing the appearance of transmedia consumption. Henry
Jenkins describes it as a shift in the logic by which culture operates,
emphasizing the flow of content across media channels (2006b: 323). Henry
Jenkins argues that in convergence culture “every
important story gets told, every brand gets sold, every consumer gets courted
across multiple media platforms.” (2006), and this results in the
producers and consumers being able to interact, and consumers becoming more
active. Transmedia
storytelling and transmedia interactivity are new approaches to telling our
stories and activating consumer engagement. For producers
to achieve audience engagement, they must first achieve transmedia
interactivity. However, transmedia interactivity can be very challenging but
has the greatest reward of audience engagement. Beddows (2012), interviewed a
number of transmedia enthusiasts and they all brought up that they wanted to
feature consumer interactivity into their work.



After analysing the existing literature and text on
transmedia storytelling, I have found explanations for audience engagement and
why the media industry chooses transmedia storytelling as a strategy for
marketing and production. In transmedia storytelling, it offers stories a new
level audience engagement that are not available for traditional stories. With
the advancement in technology and multiple platforms now presented to us media
consumers it allows the narrative to expand and develop, creating a better and
interactive experience for the audience. It is clear from the literature I have
examined that the current transmedia operation structure is well suited to the
current state of the internet. I feel ‘future studies should explore the different modes of
use enabled by transmedia storytelling associated with entry point, mode
preference and level of engagement’ (Beddows: 2012b, 259). Transmedia offers
content to be extended and multiplied across a range of platforms. Audiences consuming
transmedia are also offered an exchange of culture. By conceiving transmedia
entertainment, we understand the real change of technologies in the last two
decades and hope for the future of media and consumer entertainment. To conclude, I feel future
studies and the development of technology and media strategies will impact
media platforms and increase the audiences level of engagement and interaction.

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