WTF is “Transmedia Storytelling”

Just like OTT is the new viral, transmedia storytelling is the new online video.

“Transmedia storytelling” is not new vernacular, but we predict it will be the buzzword of 2011… pushing the term “currating” into the archives. I became familiar with the term at a 2010 television/web events in NYC, where large media companies defended their crappy dabbling in online video as “transmedia storytelling.” Some online-video content (Office webisodes) are quite clever.

But only about .05 percent of the audience for a television show will ever see the webisodes buried on some archaic network website… so at least the web “add ons” are not typically essential to the plot. Like the secret code on Fringe intro/outros, they’re additive to the experience… and for hardcore fans. In years to come, the interactive content may be more of a main dish than an optional appetizer.

Now you can learn via AdHack what “transmedia storytelling” is all about. The definition, what makes it work (communal, personal, tangible, discoverable, character development). Anyone doing this stuff particularly well?

As on-demand web video becomes mainstream, large television shows will increasingly win audiences to “online video” “lagniappes”  that rise above the allotted 23-minutes of a 30-minute show. More importantly, they’ll be vehicles to provide engagement with fanatic fans (oh, and provide additive direct ad revenue to a medium that could use some vitamins).

Content producers should be thinking of this content the way retailers think about the high-end or high-volume offerings that are less about incremental revenue… and more about growing the baseline. For instance if you’re Starbucks, you add the TRENTA not to sell a load of them. If you’re a white goods manufacture, you add a pricey “top of the line” product not to sell more of them. The introduction of these items grow your “baseline” or “middle of the road” offerings in indirect ways that are difficult for our executive brain to understand. It’s the dino-brain, folks. It’s all about the limbic brain. It drives most of our behaviors, and is the reason an emotional appeal works in marketing and entertainment… more on that later.

The tricky balance here? The producers of network television can’t well justify investing in this content until an audience exists (and thus a financial marketplace develops). But viewers won’t be attracted to this storytelling extension until it’s more interesting than a silly “Black Ops” boat-racing game for Burn Notice. So it’s a catch 22 that will take years to escape. But we’ll get there.

Your Blog Voice is Hoarse

Your blog sucks. Sorry to be the one to break it to you, but if it’s any comfort… mine does too. So let’s together learn “the art of storytelling and the science of journalism.” A new book promises to help us find our authentic voice and “craft bold content that will resonate with prospects and buyers and encourage them to share it with others.”

Content Rules (part of the "New Rules of Social Media") addresses content strategically and broadly -- from text to videos

Ann Handley and C.C. Chapman just launched “Content Rules: How to Create Killer Blogs, Podcasts, Videos, Ebooks, Webinars (and More) That Engage Customers and Ignite Your Business.” Here’s the book site, and the book on Amazon.

Disclosure: It’s part of David M. Scott’s “New Rules of Social Media,” and my Beyond Viral is part of the same series, although its name is slightly shorter.

I quite like this truism from a review on “Convince and Convert” by Jay Baer:

The inherent tension in marketing is that companies always want to talk about themselves and their products or services. Everyone else, meanwhile, only wants to know what those products or services can do for them. Creating content as a cornerstone of your marketing allows you to truly place yourself in your customer’s shoes, to adopt their vantage points, and to consider their thoughts, feelings, and needs. In short, it allows you to get to know the people who buy from you better than any customer survey or poll ever could.

Here’s a paragraph from the book to which I most relate.

ann hadley
True dat, yo.

But a few nuggets regarding video from chapter 16’s “Video: Show Me the Story”:

  • Video content is 50 times more likely to appear on the first page of search results than your standard text-based content (citing Forrester Research)
  • Stop thinking that you need to make a viral video to be successful… focus on the story you are going to tell
  • When creating videos say yourself, “why would the people I want to reach want to watch this?”

New Storytelling Dimensions: HBO Imagine Raises Bar for Seven Echo & New Advertainment Models

Why is it that online video, while at least 3 years old, offers very little beyond traditional video that happens to be shorter and amateur driven? Certainly the lack of scripting gives us the sense we’re invited guests in the creator’s home, and we develop para social relationships because we can interact with them.

However very little, with the exception of “choose your own ending” has taken full advantage of the medium… until HBO Imagination.

Somebody call 911. Shawty's fire burnin' on the museum floor.
Somebody call 911. Shawty's fire burnin' on the museum floor.

While the site is slow, complex, and confusing, I give it 5 stars for pushing the medium to new levels. I’m at the beginning of my own journey, and I have a lot more to “unlock.” But I was impressed that I could watch an art heist from four different angles… trying desperately to be in the right place at the right time. If you’re inclined to wait for the slow startup time, please comment with what you thought was impressive (or not).

I’ve seen the criticism that it’s a one-trick pony; that I’m not likely to return. But that’s because it occurs on an island instead of embedded into places online where I spend time. Like YouTube (although it was a YouTube ad that finally took me there, after hearing about it several times).

As online-video gives storytellers new devices to allow the audience to explore various paths, the traditional online-advertising executions have some “catching up” to do. They need to explore storytelling and engagement like HBO Imagine, and not rely on typical “awareness to interest to conversion to purchase.”

Seven Echo

SevenEcho is one such company. I’ve had the opportunity to spend time with founder and CEO David J. Russek through a mutual friend, and his vision is unsurpassed in helping entertainers and large advertisers weave mutually beneficial programs. The viewer can receive a customized ad based on product preference, and advertisers can embed their images in a show… then Seven Echo can swap them for another advertiser seamlessly. We meet at the home of Oscar Hammerstein and discuss our vision for this medium in the years ahead, and we both learn (although I learn more).

Ultimately, however, the distribution partners need to recognize the value to their audiences and sponsors. Many of these devices are not allowed on the #1 online-video sharing site, which is still relying on revenue from InVideo ads, banners, and homepage takeovers.

Imagine for a moment an entertainment experience customized to your region or story-telling preferences. Like a sexy blond as your hero? We’ll drop that in. Want happy endings only? Set that preference. Suddenly one story (albeit with lots of “branches”) is your personalized experience, and it’s ad supported because the ads are seamlessly integrated into the story.

This is the kind of initiative that should excite hungry entertainment companies and progressive advertising agencies with a desire to push the creative envelope and give their clients engaging rich-media experiences… instead of a traditional media insertion.