Arment Dietrich

Transmedia: Is User-Generated Content the Future?

By: Arment Dietrich | February 26, 2014 | 
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Transmedia: Is User Generated Content the Future?By Jason Konopinski

About a year ago, I began a pretty deep dive into the world of transmedia.

In fact, I even wrote a post right here on Spin Sucks talking about how transmedia techniques could be used to great effect by content marketers and brand storytellers.

I also interviewed experienced designer and transmedia storyteller J.C. Hutchins as part of my Riffing on Writing podcast series.

Before we get too much further into this — yes, I know it’s been months and months since I’ve recorded a new episode, and I’ve been itching to pick up the microphone again. But I digress.

Transmedia: A Single Definition Doesn’t Exist

There’s been some disagreement between different “schools” about what transmedia is — and what it isn’t.

At its core, transmedia storytelling uses multi-platform media environments to carry a completely immersive narrative experience. For the modern content marketer, this will sound familar. Content creators are always trying to find ways to deepen the user experience, educate an audience, and ultimately, create a legion of passionate, screaming fans.

This might surprise some of you, but I have a geek streak that runs pretty deep. {Editor’s note: That’s not surprising, Jason.}

When it comes to the fantasy worlds of J.R.R. Tolkien, I get a little giddy. Tolkien’s storyworlds have been faithfully reproduced in video games, numerous films, and spawned a healthy amount of fan fiction and art paying homage to the originals.

With the exception of the fan fiction, these all fall under the artistic and financial control of the Tolkien estate, thanks to royalties and licensing agreements. What began with a series of epic novels has evolved into a fictional universe fed by different media formats.

This is the Hollywood-based model of transmedia: A world is explored across multiple “texts,” all of which can be sold to audiences separately. Each iteration is a different touchpoint for the brand.

Sounds an awful lot like content marketing, doesn’t it?

Convergence and Content

For me, transmedia is taking a completely different trajectory as content forms converge.

During the past several weeks, Gini Dietrich has explored brand journalism in depth. As we look at the continuing evolution of content marketing and new media formats, the theme I’m seeing is the convergence of media into a single experience.

It’s one thing to talk about touch points for a brand using widely available media formats. Some audience segments will respond more positively to video while others prefer in-depth written content.

But when we talk about how someone engages with a piece of content, we have to draw a distinction between interactivity and co-creation.

Each morning, I engage with a variety of content delivery systems.

Spin Sucks posts come directly to my inbox — and I click through that email to land here on the site. My brain is engaged through the perspectives offered in each post. I interact with my fellow Crazies in the comments, adding to the discussion at hand.

The content — i.e. the blog post itself — remains static. I interacted, but I didn’t co-create the content by reading, sharing, or commenting.

User-Generated Content

Co-creation, on the other hand, might look something like Betabrand’s Model Citizen initiative.

It’s a brilliant incentivized execution of user-generated content (UGC).

Here’s how it works:

  • If you have never shopped Betabrand before, simply uploading a photo directly to their site will net you a time-limited 10 percent discount. The interactive tool will let you place the Betabrand logo anywhere in the photo.
  • If you are a repeat customer and upload a photo of yourself wearing some Betabrand duds, that simple action nets you a time-limited 20 percent discount.
  • The photos uploaded become part of the Model Citizen Wall of Fame — and get integrated into their site as real-life model shots. Real people — brand loyalists — wearing Betabrand clothing, instead of just some model.

Pretty neat, huh?

Betabrand gets some real-life examples of people wearing their stuff, and all those people uploading images get to say they took over the Betabrand homepage for their 15 minutes of fame.

Betabrand is building their brand through fan engagement and participation — everything from crowdfunding new clothing lines to letting ordinary people submit Betabrand product ideas to their ThinkTank.

I see it as the new face of transmedia for business: Co-branded and co-created content that turns customers into research and development idea generators.

Image courtesy of EYESthatHEAR

  • You are faceless! Come back, Jason’s face!

  • Great post Jason! I stay with: Co-branded and co-created content -the new face of transmedia for business.

  • My face is back! My face is back!

  • ginidietrich  My face has made its triumphant return. Can we have a parade?

  • jasonkonopinski ginidietrich with tickertape!

  • Dear Jason: The entire world knows you’re a geek. Love, your editor.

  • belllindsay  *smooches*

  • jasonkonopinski I have to admit I probably couldn’t have used “User Generated Content” in a sentence until I received the book “Age of the Customer” by Jim Blasingame and agreed to participate in a blog campaign for it. But now I know! And I suppose the perspective I can lend to this discussion is more one of a customer who likes (loves!) to create User Generated Content. — I do think there is a different (additional?) level of customer who creates UGC than the “loyal screaming fan” — I think brands should also try not to neglect the fans who aren’t necessarily all over social media, but who will still tell their neighbor/friend/sister/whatever that they love the product and recomment it … there’s a line in the book (paraphrasing as I don’t have it with me) —  “face to face was the original social media” — maybe that’s something that those of you who do this as professional talk about all the time but it really resonated with me. Great post!

  • Not sure I would consider Betabrand example transmedia because it is hosted on their site. Now if users were creating Betabrand videos not connected with the business, and were staging Betabrand get togethers on their own, and were doing Betabrand style skateboards, action figures and graffiti. And Betabrand was OK with all of that…and even condoned it. Then I would consider it.

    Doesn’t take away from the great participatory user support of the brand. I more view what they are doing as an engagement campaign. No different from retweet or share to get a deal.Transmedia is not co-creation.The basic philosophy is really open source content. Set it free and allow fans to do with it as they wish. Including piracy.

    Here are some great presentations http://www.slideshare.net/goonth/presentations though my friend Gunther now disassociates himself with the term Transmedia because it is like the word Natural in food it doesn’t really exist in reality. The Paramount pictures setting Batman free turned out great.

    When the Dead were around before Jerry died they had this nailed down. They let people record concerts, sell t-shirts and band related stuff at concerts…..until…the beancounters said they would lose rights to their logos if they let this continue….which led to parking lot goons arresting and confiscating anything with a Dead Copyrighted logo….and that changed the mood around the band considerably.

  • I always learn something new (and yes, geeky) when I read your posts, jasonkonopinski – this is really interesting!  

    Just wondering if I’m the only one who is reminded of Tim Curry/Dr. Frank N. Furter by the term transmedia? 😉

  • BillSmith3

    Interesting piece and subject matter I have to read further about. I’m sharing this far and wide. Thanks for writing this jasonkonopinski .

  • BillSmith3 Thanks, Bill!

  • lizreusswig xoxo

  • BillSmith3

    jasonkonopinski BillSmith3  My pleasure.

  • Howie Goldfarb  this is a great slideshare!

  • I did a lot of work putting together some transmedia strategies and as ‘buzzword’ as it has now become TRUE transmedia campaigns are really exciting to put together. Definitely an art and science though and takes a really good understand of your market, their behaviors (both how they consume media and their motivations to do so on an interactive level), and a fair amount of foresight.

  • LauraPetrolino Howie Goldfarb  I’ll need to chew on this a bit. Gunther and I have had some really interesting discussions in the past. Super smart dude. 😀

  • This is why I love this blog! I learn something new every day on it.  🙂 
    Transmedia sounds intriguing. It honestly sounds a lot like what Disney has been doing for years. Taking a branded idea and incorporating many different versions of this experience. For example, their movies instantly become attractions in Disney World, their cruise lines, etc. Am I right or no? 
    Thanks for the link to their site, too! They really do look very intriguing.

  • Buzzwordy it may be, but social media was a buzzword before it was a daily part of everyone’s life from grandma to your 10-year-old nephew.

  • jasonkonopinski

    AGSalesworks Thank you!

  • LynnMcConaughey

    Along the lines of comments from Howie Goldfarb, the heart of Transmedia is creating or propagating a story across multiple media (or entertainment) platforms, not only having participation from fans or consumers on one platform of the brand’s choice. As well, I think of it as creating/nurturing immersive narratives that are basic enough to resonate with
    a wide audience but compelling enough to provide the opportunity for growth and
    personalization among your target audiences. The story should have no end, except that which your fans or consumers imagine and act out. How to create the story? Data can play a big part, whether from polling, measuring social and traditional media trends, or crowd sourcing, to name a few.

    Thanks for the though provoking post. Whether labeled Transmedia or something else, multilayer storytelling is the future!

  • AGSalesworks

    jasonkonopinski You’re quite welcome, happy Friday!

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