Does the media industry use transmedia storytelling fortheir own advantage? In the current age of media, transmedia storytelling is animportant technique and the most common tool used for the production anddistribution of media for audience engagement and introducing a greaterexperience for media consumers. Transmedia storytelling was first used in 1999with the release of The Blair Witch Project and can also be known as crossmedia storytelling. Since transmedia storytelling is still a new term in themedia industry, there are many definitions out there and not one that alltransmedia enthusiasts agree upon. With the trend andwide spread of media convergence in todays media industry, the ways in which audiencesinteract with them has changed massively. Storytellers now can create amuch better experience for their audience by unveiling the stories andusing new media that combines photos, video and text across multiple platforms.The lasttime you watched your favourite television programme or film, how did you watchit? Was it whilst you were sat at home looking at the big screen in the cornerof the room or were you watching on your smartphone whilst on a form oftransport? Old media such as newspapers, radio and televisions are becomingsecond place and being replaced with new technology such as smartphones,tablets, smart televisions and gamings.
That being said, in todays world thereare a lot of differences between old media and new media strategies thatbenefit the media industry. Reviewing a number of literature techniques upon transmediastorytelling, there are clearly many theorists who have their own concepts anddefinitions of the term. The theorist’s views of the term, “synergisticstorytelling” (Jenkins: 2006), “cross media storytelling” (Dena: 2004), “intertextualcommodity” (Marshall: 2004), “distributed narration” (Walker: 2004), “multimediastorytelling” (Perryman: 2008). The theorists listed and their view ontransmedia storytelling are individually important because these are alltransmedia enthusiasts and when compared, you can see how related they are, yethow different they look at the media concept and how certain modes of engagingare enabled or disabled depending on which perspective of the concept is taken. Transmedia storytelling is the systemin the media industry for designing, sharing and and creating a much whole andbetter experience across multiple platforms for entertainment, advertising andmarketing. Henry Jenkins is a Professor of Communication, Journalism. CinematicArts and Education. He is the author and editor of seventeen books that arebased around the media and popular culture.
HenryJenkins writes about how transmedia storytelling is “a process where integralelements of a fiction get dispersed systematically across multiple deliverychannels for the purpose of creating a unified and coordinated entertainmentexperience. Ideally, each medium makes its own unique contribution to theunfolding of the story” (2007). Henry Jenkins then moves on to write aboutstories that “unfold across multiple media platforms” (2006: 95) and howtransmedia stories unfolds across multiple media platforms, with each new textmaking a unique and valued contribution to the entirety. In the ideal form oftransmedia storytelling, each does what it does best – so that a story might beintroduced in a film, expanded through television, novels, and comic (2006:95-96). Whilst, Thomas (2015: 19) was more descriptive, including the variousplatforms we now have available to us. She brought up that “various forms ofmedia – exhibition screens, mobile phone apps, tablets, the web – that combinespersonal narrative with innovative storytelling techniques to invite audiencesto connect to a story across multiple platforms”. This writing will intend toanalyse relevant media and text around transmedia storytelling and also lookat how transmedia storytelling has benefitted the audiences experience ofconsuming media and also how the media industry has improved with theproducing, marketing and distribution of media with the advancement oftechnology. The literature around transmedia storytelling suggests it controlsthe media users and captivates their engagement.
One strategy in particular, transmediastorytelling, has enjoyed a place of prominence across media and culturalstudies, advertising and marketing research (Fast, O?rnebring: 2015). GeoffreyLong is a storyteller and transmedia enthusiast at the Media Arts and Practiceprogram at a school of Cinematic Arts. Long (2011) looked at transmedia storytellingand identified that it improves audience satisfaction. Transmedia storytellinghas many benefits for media production with, enhanced longevity and commercialsuccess of story worlds (Hardy: 2011), and more interesting and enjoyableacademic environments and offer more meaningful and authentic ways to betterengage the sensors of learners (Wankel, Blessinger: 2013) and then create “awhole that is greater than the sum of its parts” (Gambarato, 2012). Another concept related to transmedia storytelling is transmedialconsumption. Transmedial is a movement across multiple stories, whilst transmedialconsumption describes a practice to this effect. Transmedial consumption refersto the consumption of a narrative across multiple story modes by its users.
Ina study on how media users engage with commercial transmedia texts thisdistinction is necessary because users can engage with transmedia components inisolation. According to Henry Jenkins (2006d), he suggests that this is necessaryin order to attract multiple markets and story modes do not perform a transmedialfunction in this context. In other words, consumption of a single story mode ina transmedia text should be distinguished from consumption of several storymodes in a transmedia text. Use of the term transmedial consumption is an effectivemethod for clarifying pure engagement with these forms. One of the most popular film examples of transmediastorytelling 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 throughthree films, comic books and video games. The various media of The Matrix creates a muchbetter experience for its audience as they can investigate characterbackgrounds and become closer with the Matrix as a whole. While most of the audience will want to consume the contents of a singleplatform, experiencing all The Matrix content leads to a much greater,distinctive type of entertainment and a better experience. The Matrix was builtacross four platforms which includes films, animations, comics and games as asingle story which relied on the unique storytelling capabilities of differentmedia to characterise the narrative. Henry Jenkins observed how a consumer of The Matrix with the complex franchiseof films, comics and games is “always going to feel inadequate before TheMatrix because it expects more than any individual spectator can provide”(Jenkins, 2003b). The Matrix franchise uses a model which encourages mediaconsumers to engage with the text through a framework that requires them tomake their own understanding of the media through multiple platforms andnarrative. According to Jenkins transmedia projects such as The Matrix might bethe next step in cultural evolution; the bridge to a new kind of culture builton information, convergence and migratory consumption patterns (Jenkins 2006c). Henry Jenkins argues that successful transmedia texts mustcreate a rich, encyclopaedic fictional universe with enough gaps in theopen-ended narrative for different texts to fill in the spaces (2007).
Heexplains that the narrative has to offer enough space for media consumers towant to then fill them in themselves, engaging with the media and contributingto the story to their full ability. An important point to raise abouttransmedia storytelling is that the ability for audience engagement withtransmedia stories and the idea that the audiences can engage more with storiesthan they can interact with. Full audience attention and participation isrequired for those to fully engage with the transmedia story. Roos (2012), writes that ‘the audience can only partlyparticipate, because the arc of the story is almost always defined by thecreator and cannot be measurably changed’. Jenkins(2006) writes about the format promoting collaboration between creators andconsumers, but a single person or team maintains control in the most successfulcases. However, Beddows (2012) argues that a transmedia story may be treated asa world which includes both official and unofficial works. Marsha Kinderis another transmedia storytelling enthusiast.
Kinder (1991: 40) found thattelevision creates “complex systems of transmedical intertextuality betweentelevision, movies, and toys”. She claims that the most successful transmediastorytelling often develops from spin-offs from successful movies, “perhapsbecause the profit is more blatant, even though spinoffs frequently involveancillary toys and crossovers into commercials” (1991: 41). Cross media ownership is when all media products are ownedby one producer. It began in the 1980’s and helped push convergence culture andmedia conglomerates in the right direction to benefit the media industry andconsumers when it came to the production of films and television.
Culturalconvergence is for describing the appearance of transmedia consumption. HenryJenkins describes it as a shift in the logic by which culture operates,emphasizing the flow of content across media channels (2006b: 323). HenryJenkins argues that in convergence culture “everyimportant story gets told, every brand gets sold, every consumer gets courtedacross multiple media platforms.” (2006), and this results in theproducers and consumers being able to interact, and consumers becoming moreactive. Transmediastorytelling and transmedia interactivity are new approaches to telling ourstories and activating consumer engagement. For producersto achieve audience engagement, they must first achieve transmediainteractivity. However, transmedia interactivity can be very challenging buthas the greatest reward of audience engagement. Beddows (2012), interviewed anumber of transmedia enthusiasts and they all brought up that they wanted tofeature consumer interactivity into their work.
ConclusionsAfter analysing the existing literature and text ontransmedia storytelling, I have found explanations for audience engagement andwhy the media industry chooses transmedia storytelling as a strategy formarketing and production. In transmedia storytelling, it offers stories a newlevel audience engagement that are not available for traditional stories. Withthe advancement in technology and multiple platforms now presented to us mediaconsumers it allows the narrative to expand and develop, creating a better andinteractive experience for the audience. It is clear from the literature I haveexamined that the current transmedia operation structure is well suited to thecurrent state of the internet. I feel ‘future studies should explore the different modes ofuse enabled by transmedia storytelling associated with entry point, modepreference and level of engagement’ (Beddows: 2012b, 259).
Transmedia offerscontent to be extended and multiplied across a range of platforms. Audiences consumingtransmedia are also offered an exchange of culture. By conceiving transmediaentertainment, we understand the real change of technologies in the last twodecades and hope for the future of media and consumer entertainment. To conclude, I feel futurestudies and the development of technology and media strategies will impactmedia platforms and increase the audiences level of engagement and interaction.