Not sure what I have been drinking but last two posts are drawing from probably the oldest shared story and one that has been distributed across more media platforms than any other story – I quote from one of the earlier ‘chapters’:

Behold, the people is one, and they have all one language; and this they begin to do; and now nothing will be restrained from them, which they have imagined to do. 7 Go to, let us go down, and there confound their language, that they may not understand one another’s speech. 8 So the Lord scattered them abroad from thence upon the face of all the earth: and they left off to build the city. Genesis 11:1-9 – via Wikipedia


The world of fragmented media is constantly evolving and finding words to describe this new ecosystem of form will also constantly evolve. If a ‘normal’ person is in the cinema they say they are “watching a film”, in front of the box they are “watching TV”, sat around a Monopoly board “playing a game”, holding printed paper “reading a book” – but what do we ‘they’ call that thing that combines all of these? If these were ‘not’ normal people then a wide range of people asked to comment on a cool ‘????’ service might look like –

Celebrating the Multi-Platform Tower of Babel

As an industry (digital, interactive, multi-platform, transmedia?) we have not provided normal ‘users’ with a term they can use. The other 6 billion people on this planet are not going to call the services that ‘combine’  or utilise the use of media platforms, any of the above names, any time soon – so we need to get back to the drawing board folks.

If this were sport and we had just invented a sport that combined ten of the Olympic Track and Field events what would we call it? What about a sport that mashed together swimming, cycling and running in a sequential narrative, what would that be called? More importantly what would we hope the spectators would call it.


As I have mentioned in many previous posts, even creative ‘new’ story producers working on new channels, new platforms and for new user audiences are struggling to agree on a definitive term. A term that actually makes sense for them and their industry ‘tribe’. There are other problems. New emerging producers struggle with what to call their new ‘role’. Depending on which ‘culture’ you come from you will have a different word for exactly the same thing. This thing being ‘stuff’ made on all these new and old distinct platforms. ‘Stuff’ in this context is not specific and represents a pot pourri of utility services, stories, marketing etc:

But alongside this search for a ‘meaningful’ term, we have impatient wannabees screaming “forget all the semantic waffle and lets get on with making it”. But what are we making? Please explain! ‘carefully designed story elements across multiple platforms’? Is that it? Is it about widgets, services, entertainment, money, art, kool-aid, social change, advertising or all of the above? We are in an exciting emergent period of change, of ‘hybrid’ platform story telling yet settling on a specific term such as ‘transmedia’ or any of the other 10 or so contenders to describe it all is very odd.

But here is the problem in a nutshell.

  • Media Agencies & industry bodies use words like Digital, Interactive, New Media, All-Media (!) or Cross-Platform
  • Creative Producers like to make their own words up – Now Media, Cross-Media, 360 Content and recently Transmedia and Experience Design
  • Academics tend towards specificity and have terms such as Hyper Narrative, Transmedia, MultiModality, Pervasive Media, Trans Literacy and other terms unlikely to make it out of dusty tomes such as on This resource site here

Funding agencies tend to go with whatever appropriate industry body or advisory suggests is a term that ‘real producers’ making all this stuff, use or invent. Hence the “new stuff” main fund in Australia is called … ALL MEDIA?! In Canada the funds are labelled everything from New Media (Arts Council) and Bell Fund to several Digital and Interactive Funds and across Europe the mix is compounded even more with the inclusion of broadband content variations – and then we have all the new transmedia funds (rebadged from all the above). It really is a semantic mess which has a knock on effect of slowing down the growth of a coordinated movement – in true non-linear style, re-read my biblical reference above πŸ™‚


Go to any Digital agency and client meeting and expect to have to translate terms such as transmedia (if you have the courage to use it) once the giggling has stopped. In research focused academia they will laugh at terms such as Digital or Interactive as umbrella terms to describe the complexity of distributed story across multiple media channels. Then there are the ‘lets make a buck and get the project out there’ producers who want to make it super simple, real and now and take on-board whatever word is in vogue – that gets them good SEO, commissioned or funded. The ‘get over it, just make the stuff, now’ brigade!


In an attempt to at least ‘frame’ the issue I hastily put together a while ago this ‘structured’ cloud that hopefully provides a starting position on which to ‘begin’ the discussion. (and I am sorry transmedia hype’sters – something that is defined as ‘carefully placed story elements across multiple platforms’ – does not provide any real answer to this problem).

So I used my own judgement (your mileage WILL vary) to try to map currently used and emerging terms across a simple xy chart. The CONTENT Y axis goes from Service (something that is utility, life enhancing but not story) up to Story (as narrative, fictional, or deeper narrative). The ENVIRONMENT X axis goes from Technical (the term is more about the hardware and gadgets) to Form (which is about the structure of the production, the format, the type of content). I then used my best estimate as to the scale of use – some terms are growing, many have declined. Here is the v 0.1 result.

Celebrating 21st Century Media Tower of Babel

Of course you will have your favourites that are missing such as Convergent Media or Hyper Media or even Web 2.0 but I had to choose ones that particularly tried to describe ‘combination’ media channels – in fact something super simple like StoryCombo would be nice simple term for users to recite πŸ™‚ Also if I had time I wanted to do work up my hierarchical version which placed things like ‘transmedia storytelling’ inside the bubble of Multi-Platform – but that would add to the confusion, whereas for now the above is no more than a slightly organised, word cloud.


Different cultures, different languages, different output. Some terms live on, some die. Few people use New Media or Multi-Media anymore. Cross-platform and Multi-Platform also mean different things in different sectors and require translation. But we still have the problem of what we expect the users to call these new forms and as an industry what we call ourselves. Only hardcore niche groups are going to use terms like Alternate Reality Games, it helps define them and in the emerging area of GPS based Augmented Reality and other Pervasive Services users are unlikely to say I am involved in an LBS or Locative Game. Like the kids in the picture above in the absence of a good, usuable term they will simply say it is a ‘TV, phone, out in the street’ thing or most likely if it is highly social and playful the generic ‘it’s a cool internet game’ will still be used.

Are we happy for this to continue? Do we expect 12 year old kids to say they are engaged in a transmedia service, or 60 year old grannies to talk about their great multi-platform story? A book is a book, a film a film, a TV show a TV show, a web site a web site, a social network a social network – and ‘drum roll’, the term for a combination of all of these is ________ fill in the blank.

Only time will tell which term/s will eventually emerge but I don’t expect we will end up with one all encompassing term and form very soon, and no we have not go one yet – until then lets celebrate this new ‘expanding’ tower of babel and happily discuss and wear the “vive la diffΓ©rence” t-shirt.


I don’t often do this but in my recent Multi-Platform Funding Broken article I provided a classification draft to start to look at service types and I copy it here again as it was probably lost in the narrative of that post but is actually more relevant here! Plus I like the idea of combining this with Robert Pratten’s excellent first stab at a labelling system for Transmedia (!) projects

SOLUTION: Although new MP formats are arriving quickly it is important there is a simple agreed way of describing what kind of project it is exactly. Although putting it in a β€˜labelled box’ may sound premature in some circles, without this the problems mentioned above will prevail. The DRAFT list below is a very simple 3 way matrix which can be used to get a sense of the project to help define level of funding for a type of project, any specialist help required before, during and after and a way to manage numbers funding across certain categories – eg: 25% mobile, 30% not for profit, 10% experimental and so on. It is a β€˜get the ball rolling’, debate list.

In Group 1 we have Business Intention – to make a profit or β€˜spend’ (on issues, advertising or experimentation). Group 2 is the type of project, the format which will quickly explain what it is in the same way we would say it is a CG animated short, or a TV detective series this provides a starting point. Finally Group C describes the core distribution technology. How the project is primarily delivered, and of course a full blown MP service would have multiple ones listed here.

Depending on the funding body all may contain significant fictional or user contributed story elements


  1. Commercial – revenue generation through mature digital business models
  2. Marketing – at cost, promotional/marketing/advertising of another product or property
  3. Social Good – at cost, awareness and issue raising or cultural, educational and/or artistic statements
  4. Experimental – a totally new type of project designed to potentially fail, loose money but to learn from


  1. Webisode  – audio or video content delivered as a developing fictional or social series. Often called podcasts, vodcasts or mobisodes
  2. Community Hub – an connected service site dedicated to growing and managing a community of interest around a property
  3. Games Casual – easy to pick-up, dip in and out games, may be massively multiplayer or single player
  4. Physical installation – any project that is rooted or focused around a fixed physical interactive build. The interaction is often event driven.
  5. Social Film or Social TV – a hybrid project combining social media and linear video elements
  6. Games Serious – games that specifically put the user into real world scenarios to fulfil a range of objectives
  7. Location Based Service – telling stories, running services or gameplay in defined, geo-cached, relatively large areas – layering digital elements over the real world using GPS systems or markers
  8. Social Media Storytelling – using a range of existing social network channels to deliver fictional or factual narrative
  9. Games 3D Worlds – goal driven, high production value and extended narrative game formats
  10. Social Virtual Worlds – a virtual shared space where the key intention is to allow users to socialize and create their own stories often around shared theme – different from goal orientated games
  11. One way websites – an obvious category, the infamous static brochure website that can be used commercially or as part of a fictional narrative
  12. others tba…


  1. 2D PC Web – Traditional browser based websites that can include flash, html5 or simple rich media elements
  2. 3D PC  – isometric or full 3D application or browser based game-like engines
  3. Mobile (generic) – well connected handset sized smart-phones but also SMS only based handsets
  4. Tablets (generic) – Larger screen portable, connected devices
  5. Connected TV & Set Top Box – Specific hardware connected to or integrated in large screen TVs or cinema screens that effectively combine TV content and the web
  6. Specialised Consoles – such as large games platforms, media boxes or handheld games devices
  7. Augmented Reality – technologies allowing layering of digital content over the real world, marker or location based primarily
  8. The real world – physical space
  9. TV sets
  10. Cinema screens

So a few quick examples to give the above a little context – the codes here are not meant to be utilized necessarily. A3d is a casual game that will generate revenue delivered on the iPad, C5ac is a socially community driven, awareness raising video that is delivered to both mobile and 2D web and something like an alternate reality game would be delivered across a mix from each – B1,2,3,7,11,a,c,d,g. The interesting thing here is that from a  perspective we can start to breakdown from the outset likely costs which is never a bad thing!