Transmedia Requires New Breed of Writers, Publishers

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Alison NorringtonBy Alison Norrington, Storyteller

[NOTE: This article was originally posted by Ms. Norrington as a comment on the article The iPad, Transmedia, and the Future of Publishers.]

This is a really interesting post and it’s fabulous that the [Producer's Guild of America] PGA have recognised transmedia as a skill intrinsic to expanding storyworlds. (although I have been approached and asked why golfers would be interested in transmedia!)

It could be true that “salvation for publishing will come from outside the industry, because inside you can’t see the wood for the trees”, as there is caution and scepticism about transmedia within publishing, however there are also many publishers excited about experimentation and keen to expand storyworlds, too.

For me, it isn’t so much about the iPad, the Kindle, Kobo, Stanza or e-readers, as ‘one-size-fits-all’ won’t work when looking at something as personal as a reading experience. It isn’t so much about focusing on the device, as the platform – and how that platform can enhance and drive the story focus. There will always be relentless arguments about the future of publishing and dedicated ‘serious readers’ will always complain about new technologies or shifting sands. There will also be legions of readers who want bite-sized chunks of story, options to watch video content supported by text and perhaps even to tweet about it as a participant afterwards. They’re the ones who will love transmedia novels!

In terms of truly combining text, video and audio it seems the iPad could change the way we acquire, consume and interact with digital content and it’s interesting that Guy found that some of the apps “demonstrated the real potential for delivering a truly engaging, innovative reading experience” which will be where publishers will see the golden opportunity and create the space for transmedia novels to jump in.

Eric Freese’s iPad review noted that, “Next to its screen size and capacity, herein is perhaps the biggest benefit of the iPad as an eReading device − its ability to purchase and download eBooks from any retailer” brings up the subject of accessibility. In our multi-tasking, fast-moving, short attention span lives, content that is accessible will be easier to discover as word-of-mouse will help to spread snippets virally.

As far as the Producers Guild of America’s latest announcement is concerned, it must be remembered that any transmedia property will only work if it’s supported by an architecture of strategy which has to be rooted deep within genre and audience demographics. Like Guy, I also prefer the definition of transmedia that focuses on storyworld first and feel that a truly credible transmedia project will herald storyworld as its primary focus. Without that focus, it shifts from a viable transmedia rollout to one of those ‘cross-media marketing initiatives and/or brand extensions’.

Transmedia novelists are still organically growing and a new breed of reader, one who embraces the “truly engaging, innovative reading experience”, will require a new breed of writer and publisher too. Transmedia publishing won’t replace publishing as we know it, but will offer options to those who want them. Advertising agencies are harnessing ‘story’ and fragmenting brand presence through social media means, infiltrating and embedding logos and brands within these stories. For transmedia novelists (and publishers) to retain creative control will require more than a repurposing of content. This might give a ‘taste’ of what transmedia can ‘do’, but for it to work on all levels it must be intrinsically built in and not bolted on. There’s no doubt that publishing a transmedia fiction book will need meticulous planning, genre awareness and an ear-to-the-ground for audience behaviours. No reader wants to feel like they’re being sold to. As consumers we are hardened to embedded logos and brand names in magazines and movies, but reading is an extremely personal activity and to begin carelessly placing ‘gimmicks’ within a novel takes something from it.

Here we are – back to strategy!

Transmedia Producers will be the new ‘gatekeepers’ in the same way that publishers will be. Publishers are exposed to potentially fabulous storyworlds on a daily basis and if writers can begin to think transmedially without it being gimmicky, so that it is relevant to the story and the platform, then transmedia publishing can begin to lift off.

Not every storyworld will fit as a transmedia novel, but as accessibility opens doors and presents new options, so these transmedia elements will bring new readers and modes of fragmentation. For me, transmedia opens the gates for enhanced experiences, deeper levels of immersion and a host of options for those lean-back and lean-forward moments. In a nutshell, to receive your stories in the way that you want them!

Alison Norrington is a bestselling chick-lit novelist and practice-based PhD researcher, studying the concept of “story” and ways to fragment and channel narratives across a series of platforms and media, focusing on Emerging Platforms for Writers, Fragmented Interaction & Pervasive Media. She is writing a romcom “digi novel” — a transmedia print, video, web, GPS and gaming story that interconnects whilst also standing alone, enhancing and driving the printed book.

Interested in learning more about using transmedia storytelling and cross-media strategies? Join us at StoryWorld, the only major gathering of industry leaders, decision makers, and transmedia specialists, to explore new business models, innovative partnerships, and fresh revenue streams.

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