Nov 152013
Gary scratches his head - photo by Rosemary Keevil

Gary scratches his head – photo by Rosemary Keevil

I was invited to keynote at the 2013 Merging Media conference in Vancouver last week and it was great to meet up with the wandering band of transmedia/multiplatform ‘global gliterati’ that frequent these events. All in all a top notch affair, well attended, mostly on the ball  in terms of topics and refreshing to take in the effervescent youthful passion that abounded from the attendees.

My next post will be detailed coverage some of the themes of my presentation but what follows below is something I sneaked into my talk last minute – partly as a response to some of the previous speakers on day 1 and the ‘challenges’ that still pervade this fledgling industry, still, after all these years.

The ‘digital’ brochure-ware website/mobile-app industry is doing fine and dandy – quaint silos inside traditional broadcasters, studios and ad agencies make ‘broadcast interactive’ stuff that is proven standard fare for large sections of the mostly passive audience –  but where are the truly original and/or mature multi platform transmedia services and how will we get there? I then thought of a series of scales on which to gauge and see if we can really get a sense of the State of Play in ‘whatever’ we will finally agree to call this thing.

I presented this section partly interactively (well the sort of magician like interactivity we all sometimes despise) – I asked the audience to shout out where we think we are on the scale and then I pressed the magic button and the needle floated across ala an interactive worm (in fact of course these were all my already set valuations – but anyway most of the time it was within 1 or 2 points!). I did tell the audience by the way, although they probably sussed it after the 2nd or 3rd one 🙂

So the State of Play of the Multiplatform / Transmedia Industry across 10 scales of measurement


001_Transmedia Multiplatform State of the Industry


Language and Grammar – Tower of Babel or Industry Shared – 3/10 – It is critical everyone is singing off the same song sheet for it to be a mature industry, how else can we create a business on something if it is not a shared terminology? Imagine if for example in film we called the editing stage either the compile, the chop, the edit, the merge, etc: depending on who was producing or which country we were in. Chaos.  But as we know in multi platform circles, we don’t have to look far to see the cracks – not only are the transmedia folk stretched from arty fluffiness at one of the spectrum to hard core marketing at the other but there is still across the industry (& academia) no real agreement on what the ‘T’ word actually means. Then on the ‘serious digital production’ side of the fence, whole swathes of the industry who  do bare bones digital ‘cloning’, nothing new, just pure turning the app/site production handle. Every sector from academia to agency to studio to broadcaster all use different terms. 3 out of 10 suggests we have at least another 10-15 years before we settle down into a shared taxonomy – lets hope it is sooner.

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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 or or – 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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Never the Twain

 Posted by on November 22, 2005 at 6:43 pm  Cross Media, Divergence, Transformation, TV  No Responses »
Nov 222005

The current post drought is due to life and conferences taking over. I am currently in Perth with limited connectivity (in the worlds most remote city) presenting at Small Screen Big Picture. Then flying off to Melbourne to take part in a X-Media Lab and prepare for LAMP which is being held from 4-9 December in Sydney. I would have liked to have attended what looks like a great conference in Sydney at the moment Interactive Entertainment 2005 but was pre-booked into ‘old school’ conference. All in all a busy time but as I started writing this it dawned on me the distinct range of media conferences one finds at the moment.

1 – Traditional industry trying to squeeze the last bit of juice from the old models
2 – Academic research and creatives identifying and creating the emerging models
3 – Technical groups – standards & corporate trying to second guess 1 and 2 by making new ‘broadcast/band’ tools and devices that last less and less time
4 – Old new media groups talking about the even older new media ‘good ole days’

OK no. 4 is not really a main one but they do exist. Sadly there is little cross-over with all of them. I have heard from emerging media folk who wouldn’t be seen dead at a no. 1 and also industry folk who regard no. 2 as irrelevant. The same industry folk avoid listening to presentations about no. 2 even in their own conferences as it ‘really scares’ them. I have been to NAB’s and IBC’s where the new media elements are banished to some far corner of a hall, while Sony, Panasonic and Apple and others flog editing and camera gear to advertising financed traditional film, press and TV producers. At the other end we get trend analysts at emerging media conferences referring to these folk as dinosaurs, already dead, yet jumping at the chance to appear on TV or in the paper and play the game.

There are a lot of double standards and confusion – the conference circuit reinforces the divide that is appearing all over the industry at the moment. A few more posts following that try to encapsulate the sudden upswing in the crashing of these two worlds – happening in the ‘real’ industry while conference goers happily carry on sneering at each other.

Posted by Gary Hayes ©2005