Ah, transmedia storytelling – the unknown, yet most known, storytelling technique. Many people claim they don’t know what transmedia storytelling is, but once they hear what it is, things change.

Transmedia storytelling is the practice of designing, sharing, and participating in a cohesive story experience across multiple traditional and digital delivery platforms. Basically, transmedia storytelling is the technique of telling a story across multiple platforms.

These platforms are varied and can include digital media, TV, radio, social media, comics, and more. You get the point.

Transmedia Storytelling 101

This storytelling technique has been around, well as long as we have had multiple media options. However, the addition of digital media has dramatically expanded the platforms, inspiring American researcher Henry Jenkins to introduce the term Transmedia in an article published in January 2003.

Jenkins stated a story must develop itself across multiple platforms. For example, I hear the news on the radio in the morning, then I read about it on my phone, and finally, I dig into it on my desktop. When using this storytelling technique, each medium makes its own unique contribution to the unfolding of the story.

This technique is great for connecting consumers through different formats. It provides a new way of offering valuable content where the user assumes an active role and interacts with the story itself. So, who is using this technique effectively? Mega-productions like Disney’s Star Wars or the Marvel Cinematic Universe extend across movies to so many different platforms. You’ve seen these productions on network TV, Netflix, and in comics and videogames. However, there are a few other examples that some might not realize.

The Matrix

In The Matrix franchise, key bits of information are conveyed through three live-action films, a series of animated shorts, two collections of comic book stories, and several video games. There’s no one single source where someone can turn to gain all of the information needed to comprehend The Matrix universe.

Part of the appeal of the franchise is how it creates a desire for committed consumers to track down information. Easter eggs are planted throughout the live-action films, and these eggs motivate users to find them. This allows consumers to gain further insights into the world.

The audience can then dig deeper into the work and participate in a much richer storytelling experience. Then sharing what they’ve found allows for a greater collective understanding of the overall story.

New York Times

Print editors and publishers often ask themselves how they can utilize digital media to better serve readers and advertisers. The New York Times published Snow Fall: The Avalanche at Tunnel Creek in 2012. This publication set the bar for many other publications wanting to utilize transmedia storytelling.

John Branch, the reporter for the multimedia feature, wanted to provide insight into the tragedy that was the Tunnel Creek Avalanche. The publication integrates videos, photos, and graphics in a way that makes multimedia feel useful rather than just thrown into the mix.

PBS Kids

From tablets and cell phones to gaming consoles to computers, children are increasingly interacting with technology and interactive media. This means creators of children’s shows need to have storytelling down to an art, which many do.

PBS Kids is a great example of a channel that incorporates transmedia storytelling. PBS Kids does educational and entertaining transmedia storytelling for children particularly well. The staff treats the launch of any new series as an opportunity to reach children in numerous ways and on numerous platforms.

Curious George, by PBS Kids, teaches math skills and enhances vocabulary training by utilizing online games and the characters from the Curious George books and television series. The PBS team was able to make learning enjoyable and rewarding for children who were already familiar with the world of Curious George.

Applications for Any Business

Every business has stories to tell, about projects, employees, success stories, and new technology. You tell the stories in blog posts, podcasts, and maybe event printed material, adjusting the information for the medium.

At the heart of transmedia storytelling is a great story. So, where do great stories come from? Listen to this conversation with Laura Buckner.