So What Exactly is Transmedia?

You may have heard the term “transmedia” thrown around a bit in the last few years. It’s commonly used in connection with small marketing tools like creating Facebook pages for new films, or larger things like companion video games and live events. But what exactly is transmedia and how can you use it to your advantage? Is it simply a new marketing tool?

Transmedia is the use of multiple platforms to engage an audience, build a fan base, promote the work, and perhaps monetize in a new way. This approach used to only be accessible to those with multi-million dollar budgets, but the digital platforms of today allow filmmakers with even the lowest budgets to use the internet (online communities and social media) as a way to promote their film using transmedia. In this way, filmmakers can speak directly with the audience and get absolutely pure feedback. This is an invaluable tool.

Some see transmedia as just an online marketing tool. But it goes beyond a simple brand-extension. Transmedia is truly about creating a story that extends beyond one type of media. It’s about making characters and a story that live independently of any specific form of media: they may exist in films, comics, books, video games and websites, among others.

There are two ways to approach this definition of transmedia. One is that the audience cannot get the whole story without collecting the information from each different format. This approach is most often used with Alternate Reality Games and isn’t really feasible for most projects; it can be confusing and time-consuming as it requires fans to access multiple forms of media to learn everything there is to know. This approach isn’t for the average consumer who may just want to hear a good story and be done with it.

The other approach is sometimes called the “transmedia franchise.” In this approach, the audience doesn’t need to collect every piece of information from all the different formats in order to understand the story. Instead, each different form can stand independently to augment the main story, and audiences will be able to consume each piece without necessarily knowing anything about the other pieces.

They will better understand the characters and the story if they use all the forms, but it is not necessary. You can probably think of multiple films or TV shows which currently use this approach. Some TV shows have “webisodes,” or short auxiliary clips of characters in a mini episode uploaded to the show’s website. Others publish books, expanding the universe their story has created.

Both types of transmedia are valuable, though the franchise approach is the more realistic option in most cases. Consider using this approach to augment your storyline and build a fan base in multiple types of media.

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