Starting this week, MediaWave presents a multi-part series on the state of Transmedia collaborations in Australia. With the assistance of Screen Australia's Mike Cowap, I interviewed producers of traditional and cross-platform projects about a series of issues including:

- The benefits of a Transmedia approach.
- The pros and cons of putting together your own team or working with an agency.
- Common pressure points in the transmedia team.
- How to ensure productive collaboration.
- Deciding on a native transmedia project or a multiplatform marketing strategy. |

Collaboration Between Traditional and Digital Media: Why, Who and How?

This series is aimed at screen content creators considering collaboration with digital experts in order to deliver their IP across multiple platforms, or to use newer storytelling methodologies.

First, we will look at why you might choose to enter this space. Then we will profile potential members of a multi-disciplinary team, assess what they can contribute and suggest who will be doing what. 

We will go on to evaluate different ways to source members of the team and then through a series of interviews with experienced practitioners, we’ll identify some of the issues they’ve encountered when working in multi-disciplinary teams. 

Finally, we will discuss best practice to ensure a productive collaboration.  

Why Collaborate?

The simple answer – to reach bigger audiences by distributing your content on to the new platforms.

Recent advances in technology have seen an explosion in opportunities for storytellers. Interactive storytelling techniques are used to give the user a richer experience and the content in all its forms is distributed across a plethora of devices. Few individuals have the full range of skills and expertise to develop and produce projects that take full advantage of these tools and techniques. 

Collaboration between multi-disciplinary teams is the only way to ensure the full skill set is being used. However, these team members may come from very different backgrounds and work cultures meaning, like any good relationship, work is required to ensure it all runs smoothly.

Specific areas for collaboration might be a digital marketing campaign or a full transmedia strategy around a feature film or television show.  It might be a partnership between a writer and game developer to deliver a gaming experience with added layers of meaning, or it might be a true transmedia experience devised exclusively for online consumption.

The whole media landscape is in a transition phase. Audiences are being engaged in a whole lot of new ways.

We have spoken to people from both sides of the rapidly disappearing digital divide - the “linear” producers who have embraced transmedia and the digital natives.

Over the next few weeks, you can read a selection of their responses to the key issues around transmedia producing.

Straight away you can see the quandary that most producers face at the start of a project - how far to go with interactivity and who to go on the adventure with?

A quick tour of the landscape.

There are a few terms that are used in this space, that can be used interchangeably or perhaps in the wrong context.

Transmedia – this is generally taken to mean a project that is developed from day one to be distributed across a range of media in a unified way, with a strong element of audience participation. While some of the elements may be satisfying on their own, the user gets a much richer story experience by accessing the project on a range of media. For example, a linear version of the story on one platform may be supplemented by parallel narratives on another. 

Multi-platform production – generally taken to mean a project that is delivered on a one or more platforms, which are not necessarily unified within the storyworld. An example might be as simple as a feature film that has been distributed across a range of platforms (cinema, TV, online). While some platforms may have an element of interactivity (for instance, users can leave comments on a catch-up TV platform) their actions won’t enrich their experience of the story in any way.

Gamification – Generally taken to mean the translation of a linear narrative into the medium of a game.  It is often used in the commercial world to simply mean techniques of getting buyers engaged in “leveling up” behaviour. A simple example of gamification of a story would be when a game element is part of a transmedia project. Users could take the role of one or more characters as they immerse themselves in a game landscape.

Alternate Reality Game – (ARG). A version of gamification that uses real-world environments (for example, a streetscape), which is overlaid with visual story elements, generated by a mobile device.

Key Question – is it native transmedia or multiplatform marketing?

This might seem to be a fine distinction, but it can help you understand where we are at in 2012.

There are not too many native transmedia projects around at the moment, although there are plenty coming down the pipeline. The form is still finding its best expression. Practitioners are skilling up to deliver compelling transmedia content to emerging audiences.

On the other hand, we are seeing lots of multiplatform productions, many of which are driven by marketing strategies. Multiplatform marketing is intended to simply get more eyeballs for the project. So a feature film should have a website, a Facebook page, a Twitter stream and a mobile app as a matter of course, to get more people to watch the film on its primary platform.

These projects are sometimes called “Transmedia”, but if we apply the audience engagement/enrichment test, clearly they are not.

Examples of multiplatform marketing are campaigns for the Dark Knight (Why so Serious?) Prometheus (the Weyland Corp) or closer to home, for the TV series Scorched.

So it’s important to know what you want your outcomes to be – a transmedia project, intended to engage an audience across a range of platforms, or a multiplatform marketing strategy, designed to bring the audience to the primary platform (sometime known as creating “transmedia extensions”).

Another key difference is the duration of the project. A transmedia project demands a long-term commitment to keeping the content flowing and audiences stimulated and engaged. A multiplatform marketing project has an end date. The importance of this distinction will become clear as we look at the teams and the workflows.

When you are clear about the objectives for your project, the next task is how do you decide what expertise you need and work out how to find it.

Next week: Put together your own team or use an Agency?