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With readers juggling their tablets, mobile phones, laptops and more as they consume the news, journalists have an opportunity to create a new kind of story.
Transmedia storytelling means dividing chunks of a story across multiple platforms to form one cohesive narrative. Transmedia stories often have audience engagement as a key goal.
Creating an online component to a documentary film, hosting a live event to complement a recent profile on a needy cause, or pairing an interactive website with your book release are all ways to build audience engagement across platforms.
The term “transmedia” has met its share of controversy, as it’s often used to describe the techniques marketing and entertainment industries use to promote new films and TV series (and rake in money).
But whatever you call this form of storytelling, it lets you take advantage of multiple media in unique ways. If you give it a try, keep these tips in mind:
1. KEEP CONTENT UNIQUE
The transmedia project Culture of Coffee utilizes a Tumblr, website, live events, social media, crowdfunding, and soon a coffee table book to tell the story. Rather than repeating the information on different platforms, use different parts of a story to match a platform’s strength and maximize user experience. A project called “Culture of Coffee,” for instance, matches unique story bits with different forms of media. Project creator Metasebia Yoseph traces the roots and traditions of coffee on a Tumblr blog, a website, a coffee table book (in the works), live events, social media and crowdfunding.
2. PROVIDE A SEAMLESS POINT OF ENTRY
Because audience engagement is central to this form of storytelling, make sure whichever platform you’re using gets readers to interact in a very simple way. “Interface is king; nothing kills an ambitious multiplatform effort faster than a clunky point of entry,” Jessica Clark, AIR media strategist, wrote in a yearly roundup of exemplary transmedia projects.
Interactive documentary Reframing Mexico embraces a simple interface to keep the audience engaged. The online documentary features personal narratives with infographics that offer background info on the social, economic and historical stats of the country.
3. PARTNER UP
It’s not feasible to expect one journalist to do it all. Partnerships are important. Several organizations collaborated on the transmedia project Stillspotting NYC, which uses video, interactive maps, audio and in-depth data studies to create one story about the noise levels in New York City.