Aug 232013

Why are TV companies often the worst offenders when it comes to producing original and creative multiplatform offerings? Why are most just serving up brochure websites, the occassional ‘send in your video via YouTube’ or ‘tweet in what you think, we really want to know’? Where are all the great integrated-with-show online, game and mobile offerings, all the innovative 2nd/3rd screen stuff and really resonant social audience contribution? TV Broadcasters are fighting dwindling audiences overall (apart from great golden age US drama & singing talent shows of course) and struggling to come up with great multiplatform strategies to help reach and re-connect audiences to TV shows? Why is this?

Note: this refers generically to the TV industry not any one particular broadcaster…

Credit: Scott Adams

Credit: Scott Adams

1. Succeeding Backwards

Did that once, didn’t work, won’t do it again. Rather than failing forward or more importantly trying something and organically improving it over time, many broadcasters fall into the trap of nervously dipping their toes into new formats, only carry on doing it if it succeeds immediately, if not, do nothing to improve it and then wonder why nothing bites. There is a spiral of diminishing returns if iterative success is what you live and die on. Risk averse – Jobs on the line. Make a mistake and the kids are mortgage are in jeopardy. Best to just keep things stable, solid, not rock the boat, deliver the barest minimum. Surround everything we do in layers of ‘process’ so it looks like we are busy. Sadly many broadcasters are busy making nothing, of real value for their audience.

2. The Silo Wars

TV broadcasters and TV studio organisations are highly political and have set up division and departments that make joined up, original multiplatform projects particularly, nigh on impossible. This is often a symptom of the people structures combined with being judged on your last project not future potential. Also it is important to have a strong group of allies (or reports) who justify and keep you in your position/role, but these roles are part of a tight pre-defined structure. They are like bricks in the wall of the internal divisions set up by senior management to make it easy to, er manage the company. But this sets up many nasty habits. Competition and protection of the mini empires, fighting for budgets, duplication (we can do that too and better) and most importantly from a creative multiplatform perspective – really hard to do projects that cross these ‘locked down’ silos. If it looks good everyone fights for it, if it looks bad no one wants to touch it. Companies who have vertical products (radio,tv,film,books etc) need to build lots of internal bridges or watch all of their products fail.

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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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Sep 292005

Joshua 23 © Gary Hayes 2005Emerging media has always been a generational thing. How many of our mums and dads frowned at the internet? How many of my generation are not really that much into SMS? How many twenty-some-things don’t quite get that ring tone thang? Most of us are bound in the media environment we grow up in, I personally still remember the first VHS’s coming out and vaguely recall the launch of colour TV but feel a bit of a narrowbander – what should we call the new generation?

Well according to two recent studies they will be called the “My Media Generation”. Yahoo! and OMD’s report talks about the appetite for personalized media from the 13-24 year olds and a similar report posted on eContent points out that 83% of 18-24’s demand personalization! This is pretty incredible considering the “no-machine-is-gonna-get-stuff-for-me” attitude that has been around for the last decade or so.

“A key finding from this study is that members of the My Media Generation can fit up to 44 hours of activities in just one day,” said Joe Uva, president and CEO, OMD Worldwide. “Their ability to perform up to three tasks simultaneously, using multiple technologies, allows them to potentially increase their media consumption during their average waking hours. Combine this with the demand for personalization, and there’s a clear message for marketers on the need to personalize and possibly increase the frequency of their messages in order to reach today’s youth.”

I can only suspect that a generation growing in to a media world of too much choice, have decided, that rather than hide from it, actually embrace the need to multitask. In the process though they do in fact reach overload and the only course of action then is to rely on agents get things they want. My recent post on Dawn of Video Personalization talks about how this can be enabled. I will refrain from now on as talking about this generation as some strange new alien form, in fact I totally emphasize with their predicament – having grown-up through emerging media and part of complex advanced media production, I too force myself to multitask. One of the motivations of the ‘agent’ aspects of this blog is too be part of a community of producers helping a media overdosed humanity out.

The report mentions that young people in UK, Germany and Australia (the most active youngsters on the planet) are busy with at least 4 other tasks while surfing the web. The eContent report then adds symptom of this by pointing out that to overcome overload, 60% of consumers are happy to spend at least 2 minutes answering questions to get personalized content. But the older we get the more concerned about privacy and the probable spamming we get:

“Based on the fear of losing personal information, fewer consumers than last year are willing to provide personal preference and demographic information in exchange for personalized content, according to the survey. In 2005, 59% of respondents indicated a willingness to provide preference information, down six percent from 2004. Additionally, 46% of respondents are willing to provide demographic data in 2005, down 11% from 2004.”

Personalizing media does indeed seem very generational. As the TV coach potato moves into the older generation, the My Media Generation now use the TV, as ambient, background wallpaper.

“While young people are increasingly turning to the Internet for content and functions traditionally served by other media outlets, they are still active users of TV, radio, magazines, and to a lesser extent, newspapers. TV serves as a mechanism for escape and entertainment. It is frequently on in the background, and “must see” shows like “The OC” are popular topics of conversation. For comedy, TV is the most popular medium, cited by almost 50 percent of youth, while for fashion, magazines are the clear No. 1 choice.’

What does all this mean for new types of services I hear you ask? It does suggest the future is definitely cross-media, across multiple platforms. The My Media Generation are used to multi-tasking, they are used to browsing and jumping between devices and physical locations. Services that use this, that create story and engage the MMG world, permeate it and play on the fact that as multitaskers they are already running self-induced parallel narratives. As service producers we need to provide them with cohesive, multi-device, multi-media-type experiences – then add the personalization layer on as well, just to make things that little more interesting!

Posted by Gary Hayes ©2005