Sometimes a transmedia story comes out of a box, such as Coraline’s Story. But we, Lydia van der Spek and I, think it may come in handy to put the stories into boxes, so we can label them. There are various kinds of transmedia projects and some of them cannot be compared to each other because they are so different. That’s why we came up with the following categories.
- Non-fiction Transmedia
- New Fiction Transmedia
- Spin-off Transmedia
- Product-launching Transmedia
Sometimes it is possible that one case fits more than one category, but there is always one dominant category. Let me tell you a little bit more about these possibilities.
Non-fiction Transmedia tells a true story. A possible outcome is an interactive documentary, just like “Where is Gary?” a Belgian transmedia-project about a swindler who was active throughout Europe. There are very few cases in this category, probably because it is hard to find a real story that is interesting enough to share.
Sometimes a transmedia story contains non-fictional elements, such as interviews with experts. This makes sure that the line between reality and fantasy fades and it makes the story more realistic.
Like the name says, New Fiction Transmedia tells a new and fictional story. But that it’s fictional, doesn’t mean it’s not realistic. Credibility is actually a very important factor in these stories. Often people will tell the story as if it is real.
New Fiction Transmedia projects can have different goals. Often they are made to entertain people, but it can also be used to inform your users about a particular subject or to make them aware of certain problems.
Searches, puzzles and mysteries usually do well, because it gets the user involved. They need to explore things and it makes them curious. The most important thing is to start with an original story that is worth sharing.
A few examples of New Fiction Transmedia are the well-known “The Truth about Marika” and “LonelyGirl15”.
A project that arises from an existing movie, television series or (comic)book, can be classified as Spin-off Transmedia. This way you give the audience something extra to see and to do. You could elaborate a character or a storyline in a way that was not possible in the original story. Spin-off Transmedia is not telling the same story on a different platform, but it’s creating a whole story world around the existing story.
It could be useful that you already have a fan base with people who might be interested in your project. This evident target group may provide word-of-mouth advertising. This means you can increase or maintain your success (e.g. in between seasons). But you need to ensure your concept follows through and your content is valuable, cause otherwise you’ll lose fans.
People already know Spin-off Transmedia Projects are not real, so you don’t have to pretend. However, it needs to fit the original story in a credible way.
The British series “The Thick Of It” extended the character Malcolm Tucker by giving the audience access to his iPhone. They could download an app that transformed their smartphone into the politician’s missing phone. Private emails, text-messages, voice-memos and tweets, every little detail gave Malcolm and the characters more personality. Mission complete.
Transmedia storytelling is often used to promote a soon to be released movie, for example The Dark Knight and Inception. But it can also be used to launch other products. That’s why the last category is called Product Launching Transmedia. At the start, it’s not clear for the audience that it is about a product, or what product it is about. They have a lot of questions about who, what and why. Wanting the answers makes them participate until the end.
The project can not look like, sound like or be like advertising. If it is obvious that the story is about a product, people will become more sceptical. This doesn’t count if you’re dealing with a so-called love-brand. Then you can clarify that it is about a product, because the brand has fans all over the world. The story can enhance the customer-brand relationship. It still can’t look like a commercial, though.
An example of a product launching transmedia campaign is the Vanishing Point Game, for Microsoft Windows Vista.