Social Media and New Media go hand in hand in the entertainment industry, but for years what people have seen presented is the same material, be it a commercial, TV program, film or short simply repurposed again and again from big screen to cell phone to YouTube to Facebook. While that repurposed content may be brilliant and entertaining, it has a fairly short shelf life, easily displaced by the next viral fad.

So what is the next step? How does content, branded or not, create enough of a following to sustain a fanbase in the new media climate where people go from format to format with an ease never before seen, and click away quickly when they’ve seen the same things before? One concept that is essential to the creation of evergreen content and extending social media presence to really capture a fanbase is Transmedia Storytelling.

Transmedia Storytelling is a hot concept these days, and even if you haven’t heard the word, you’ve seen it in action. Everyone from the Coca-Cola Company to Showtime to the Obama Campaign use it to cement their messages and branding in social networks and to increase the longevity of those messages.

But what is it?

Transmedia Storytelling is a process where the full story of an intellectual property is told in parallel narratives across multiple platforms; so that each part of that story is tailored to the medium it is presented in. In short, you have a driving platform (like a commercial, TV show or movie) and you tell stories that are related to that core story on your social network portals, or your cell phone rollout, or your video games.

The audience is validated in that when they log in to a social network not only do they get a new piece of a story that interests them, they have a reason to return to that space for new, original content, hooking them much longer to the intellectual property and allowing fan communities to form that can spread the message the intellectual property, creating a lasting, and often evergreen brand.

The most recognizable Transmedia Franchises are some of the media Juggernauts of the 20th and 21st Century: Star Wars, The Matrix, Halo by Microsoft, Heroes, Lost, … and many more that follow these basic principles:

The 8 defining characteristics of a transmedia production (by Jeff Gomez):

1. Content is originated by one or a very few visionaries

2. Cross-media rollout is planned early in the life of the franchise

3. Content is distributed to three or more media platforms

4. Content is unique, adheres to platform-specific strengths, and is not repurposed from one platform to the next

5. Content is based on a single vision for the story world

6. Concerted effort is made to avoid fractures and schisms

7. Effort is vertical across company, third parties and licensees

8. Rollout features audience participatory elements, including:

– Web portal
– Social networking
– Story-guided user-generated content

Guest Blogger Caitlin Burns is a Transmedia Producer and Editorial Lead at Starlight Runner Entertainment. To hear more of her thoughts on media, follow her and catch up on her other blogs through Twitter: Caitlin_Burns

Caitlin Burns
Caitlin Burns has spent a decade working with narrative intellectual property franchises, independent artists, brands and philanthropic initiatives as a transmedia producer. Developing content strategies, overseeing multiplatform story worlds and localization campaigns spanning the globe, she understands what it takes to create a success story. Her work includes projects with Starlight Runner Entertainment including Pirates of the Caribbean, Disney Fairies, and Tron Legacy for Disney, James Cameron’s Avatar for Fox, Halo for Microsoft, Happiness Factory for The Coca-Cola Company, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles for Nickelodeon and Transformers for Hasbro. She has also worked with Sony, Showtime, Pepperidge Farm, Scholastic, Tribeca New Media Fund, FEMSA, Wieden+Kennedy, Reebok and Stratasys.
Caitlin Burns

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