Jul 062012

001_Darwin Walkabouts Pt 4 Litchfield National Park

I was invited to present to a small public group last month on Media Futures up in the Northern Territory here in Australia – this followed an ABC only presentation. I generally don’t do the Futurist thing, I feel uneasy, stepping into tarot, astrology or doom sayer territory, where many factors such as user behaviour, new devices or new format/marketing development are on unpredictable shifting sands. So I prefer to call my approach to future ‘no brainer’ism’. There are some things that are so obvious, in terms of where we are heading, that simple trends analyses will give us some clarity in around a 2-5 year timeframe.

I will let my long 2 hour (130 slide!) presentation speak for itself below but the premise felt pretty unremarkable from my perspective. I am worryingly developing a rather ‘elder-like’ “nothing-new-under-the-sun” attitude. Also some predictions are just too obvious. Making the jumps from smartphones to wearable computing to bionic connectivity to singularity is not what I am talking about here, but a much more near term ‘what will most of us be doing in a few years time’ – but several at the presentation apparently still had their minds blown!? I think that ailment is treatable.

The spine of the rather winding narrative arc was some simple trend extrapolation across four of the key themes and asking questions about their trajectories:

  • Social Share & Online Connection – What is the end result of ‘society’ existing mostly online?
  • On-Demand TV & Everything Else – What does it mean if appointment to view goes away, do we need to learn if everything is on tap, will a million digital campfires light up the landscape?
  • Mobile & Locationalism – We carry the world with us. But what happens when the digital world is layered over the real world?
  •  Transmedia & Content Everywhere – There are no device boundaries. When content is truly free to move across every device, will all our, stories our life memories follow us across our personal media channels?

So on with the show. Predicting Present Futures – a title really based on Marshall McLuhan’s observation

“I don’t know who discovered water, but it wasn’t a fish”

Gary Hayes, Futurist and New Media Evangelist – The media and storytelling landscape is constantly changing but in the last six years we have never seen such monumental change. Gary takes us on a journey from the old days of new media through to the very near future using current examples of the work in ABCs Multi Platform TV team through to other cutting edge examples of Augmented Reality, Transmedia, Social Media Storytelling and Games.
Gary Hayes, an award winning multi platform producer, is currently executive producer at ABC Multi Platform TV and also directs transmedia training unit StoryLabs.us. Throughout his extensive career he has worked across the UK music and multimedia industry including the development of the internet, interactive TV and cross platforms for the BBC. He is a regular keynote speaker, consultant producer in social & transmedia to the TV, Film and Arts industries. He has also been an International Interactive Emmy juror for the past three years. His media innovation blog personalizemedia. com has been in top 10 Media & Marketing for over 2 years and he runs 11 other sites linked from garyphayes.com.

Date: Sat 16 June
Time: 10am – 12pm
Venue: Browns Mart Theatre 12 Smith St, Darwin

Sep 162011


nur·ture – noun /ˈnərCHər/ – The process of caring for and encouraging the growth or development of someone or something

011_Glebe Point Road Fete Sydney 2010

For multi platform storytelling and transmedia to flourish, it’s ‘creative leaders and trainers’ need to use a vast range of techniques to inspire those unfamiliar with it’s highly complex, development process. This post is relevant to all media creators – advertising campaigns, innovation in companies, story development, technical and business research who require expert help to become confident explorers and producers in this new and exciting arena. I realise as I type that the post could become rather large if I included some of my in-depth, traditional training or consultancy processes so this looks at a higher level, at the types of training, networking & development in the transmedia/multi platform content space. Cue the obligatory personal context…

Multi Media Training

When I joined the BBC as Multi Media Editor back in 1995 about half of my initial role was training BBC producers. I had already been producing multi-media content and lecturing at higher ed level for 6 years prior and was partly employed because of this skill. This was a BBC long before any Innovation labs, BBC Worldwide extensions, New Media or imagineering departments and  I and a couple of other producers with BBC training would run one to three day ’emerging media’ workshops for teams of BBC producers. Back in the day this included the Senior Management Board, David Attenborough types and later Tim Haines (walking with dinosaurs) and a multitude of other ‘get it made’ top TV exec producers. The sessions back then started from an evangelical point of view but quickly moved later in the workshops into “OK I’m sold, What can we do together now” (as is the nature of executive producer types!).

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May 252010

…and the truth about ARGs.

Now that transmedia is everywhere and the Producers Guild of America have turned the ‘transmedia producer’ into a bona fide (or at least recognised) professional role one thing that rears it’s cross-media head is, who and where are the best transmedia producers going to come from? I have spent a good part of the last 15 years mentoring & training traditional & non-traditional media types in multiple platform content and now question where the best producers of this multifaceted ‘new’ content will come from – academia, film, book authors, social media consultants, game designers, TV, web developers, radio, advertisers, young, old, not yet born? Read on, a ‘hypothetical’ interview follows 🙂 and this is an opinion piece I cannot put in my book or lecture about!


Firstly what is it and does it actually mean anything at all? It is fantastic that the term ‘transmedia’ is now so widespread across the industry and with the official credit (attached ironically to film primarily) but is it a bubble about to burst – is what we have come to know as ‘transmedia’ in danger of being blown out of all proportion.

Here are some of the problems:

  1. Everyone is a transmedia producer – yes you’ve made a website that is attached to a TV show, your a TP. Created a mobile game that has a line or two from the comic, you’re a TP. No one will police this – is it a truly integrated story environment, does it have clever plot links or consistent characters?. A TP is a decathlete (multi-skilled, hard to get a one word answer about what they do in a bar!), gone is nice and simple mono media, a TV producer makes TV shows, film director directs films. You can be a TP if you merge your story across two or more media areas? But more on this later in the post.
  2. Transmedia as a concept is not focused. OK I know Henry Jenkin’s original definition has been spread around the web but it is a definition that is too broad. Perhaps I should exercise my floccinaucinihilipilification and suggest that something that tries to describe everything is actually worthless? Transmedia like a black hole in the universe it tries to describe sucks in everything that has come before (cross media, 360, social media, augmented reality, pervasive gaming and so on). At the other end of this spectrum citing Matrix or Blair Witch or other brand to justify the ‘field’ as mainstream it becomes apparent that the quoted definition itself is rather vacuuous. To quote Jenkins again from an LA Times article, transmedia – “means telling a story across different platforms, each element of which may or may not stand on its own but contributes to an enriched, dynamic, more participatory and “lifelike” experience.”
  3. We are still in the hype phase. Basically anything cool and different those transmedia types (and I point the finger at myself too btw) will take ownership of. I even heard the other day someone say Transmedia is the new Social media and augmented reality even gets a look in. I am not surprised those still getting their head around the ‘story’ potential of social networks or a cute mobile game find it all rather, dis-jointed. Also the increase in experimental and experiential ‘event’ based marketing suddenly meant transmedia is now inextricably linked with brand extensions (TV, film, product) – anything that is not a linear, branded film or TV show. I think for those who live in the transmedia echo chamber this has been the case for many years.
  4. It feels rather academic. Trans-media used to be an alternative semi-academic term to ‘cross-media’ (trans, from the latin ‘crossing’) but is now used to describe everything, non-linear, interactive, extension, participatory, social, brand, play, multi-platform, pervasive and so on. The idea that stories would be told in different places goes back thousands of years but in a modern media context a rich target for study and theorizing. Along came Henry Jenkins who coined the term transmedia almost a decade after the first basic cross-media incarnation. Henry admirably self confesses as being ‘too busy lecturing and presenting about transmedia, to partake’ of the industrial flavour of transmedia “some of it is not well done yet”.
  5. It is still a teenager. It has grown up before it’s time and become a troublesome big headed teenager without any true home and turned into a dysfunctional orphan at once protectively nurtured by over possessive academics, hijacked by experimental ad agencies and hardly understood by flailing stuck-in-time broadcasters. Originally cross-media was an intellectually stimulating concept – memories of mid 90s, pioneering BBC days also my old friend Brian Seth-Hurst who is “Referred to as “the father of cross platform” Hurst coined the term in 1998 as MD of Convergent Media at Pittard Sullivan”. Earlier definitions just talked about story based ‘crossing platforms’ element but since the exponential increase in social media as a place for millions to dwell it has suddenly had the participatory/social part added and also a suggestion that it is now a more integrated form of storytelling, I suppose I should have added a level 5 to my 5 year old (but about to be removed!) wikipedia cross media definition!
  6. Danger of being hijacked – Alongside all of this we have a ‘clique’ of so-called experts who try to describe something which is so simple on one hand (stuff on multiple platforms) yet so ambiguous on the other (fragmented narrative effervescence)  – time will expose the Transmedia echo chamber I suppose.

Of course I have nothing against the term per-say in the absence of alternatives having created transmedia entities/sites like Transmediadesign.org or lamp.edu.au or muvedesign.com – all transmedia in focus – but lets start thinking about the emperors clothes. Indeed the Producers Guild definition of the TP, however bold in its intention, is still a little ambiguous about the precise elements of the role to say the least

A Transmedia Narrative project or franchise must consist of three (or more) narrative storylines existing within the same fictional universe on any of the following platforms:  Film, Television, Short Film, Broadband, Publishing, Comics, Animation, Mobile, Special Venues, DVD/Blu-ray/CD-ROM, Narrative Commercial and Marketing rollouts, and other technologies that may or may not currently exist. These narrative extensions are NOT the same as repurposing material from one platform to be cut or repurposed to different platforms.

A Transmedia Producer credit is given to the person(s) responsible for a significant portion of a project’s long-term planning, development, production, and/or maintenance of narrative continuity across multiple platforms, and creation of original storylines for new platforms. Transmedia producers also create and implement interactive endeavors to unite the audience of the property with the canonical narrative and this element should be considered as valid qualification for credit as long as they are related directly to the narrative presentation of a project.

Transmedia Producers may originate with a project or be brought in at any time during the long-term rollout of a project in order to analyze, create or facilitate the life of that project and may be responsible for all or only part of the content of the project. Transmedia Producers may also be hired by or partner with companies or entities, which develop software and other technologies and who wish to showcase these inventions with compelling, immersive, multi-platform content.


But this post is not just about the word – there are hundreds of blog posts even now still trying to really get under the surface of what transmedia means and it is too easy to fall down the semantic rabbit hole of terminology and the endless subjective splits between academics, industry and wannabes. Perhaps something more concrete can be found in the ‘transmedia stuff’ itself. What is this stuff and who is making it?

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