Defining & Debunking The Modern Storytelling Experience


This interactive white paper was created to take a closer look at transmedia storytelling and explain the basics of this modern storytelling technique as well as provide insights and understanding of how this form of storytelling can be applied across multiple industries.


Kenny Lauer is Vice Presdient of Digital Experience at George P. Johnson (GPJ), an event experience global marketing agency. He spends a lot of time playing with the concept of Remote Engagementwhich means, he gets to play with the coolest interactive and engaging technologies. His goal is to help companies collapse distances and connect people. He calls upon social media, game mechanics/dynamics, virtual technologies, storytelling, touch screen, gesture tracking--all to support a customer strategy to build long-term engagement with audiences. Contact Kenny on twitter (@KennyL). Meghan Gargan is a digital trends and social media strategist and researcher. She enjoys immersing herself in all transmedia worlds and analyzing those experiences to figure out how it will impact a wide variety of industries. Her background in editorial, PR and interactive media allows her to do a complete evaluation of an interactive experience and how these techniques and tools can be used to leverage brands, products and services. Contact Meghan on twitter (@meghangargan) or at Kristin Youngblood is a creative producer. She has a passion for the visual stategy of good design. Having worked in positions of PR , marketing and photography, she loves creating things with smart composition and impact. Discovering new ways industries and companies incorporate development, interactivity and design spark her key interests. Contact Kristin at John Hartley is a front-end web developer and video producer based in Columbus, OH. With a background in broadcast media, John is trying to find the best way to reach out to people through the web. He hopes to work at a small digital agency in the first few years out of graduate school. You can find John on Twitter @johnbhartley or at


George P. Johnson: Henry Jenkins, Provost’s Professor of Communication, Journalism, and Cinematic Arts, Univeristy of Southern California Jeff Gomez, CEO, Starlight Runner Entertainment Esther Lim, Digital Marketer and Transmedia Specialist Todd Purgason, Group Creative Director, and Ted Bramle, Creative Director, JUXT Interactive

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you’ve heard the term transmedia thrown

around, but what does it mean? Does anyone know? Here’s what we do know...

Transmedia storytelling is changing the way:
• • •
Henry Jenkins officially defined transmedia in 2006 in his book “Convergence Culture: Where Old and New Media Collide,” as a story that “unfolds across multiple media platforms, with each new text making a distinctive and valuable contribution to the whole.” More specifically, Jenkins defines transmedia as incorporating different mediums to disperse content and tell a story that creates collective action rather than passive consumption. However, in order to be successful, each platform must be utilized to do what it does best. Whether it’s sharing video content, engaging users in a conversation, crowd-sourcing material or working in teams to solve a complex puzzle or mystery, each piece of highly customized content is created specifically for that platform and not repackaged or repurposed for distribution. Transmedia storytelling plays into the reality that today’s consumers are hunters and gathers of information. By seeking out content, transmedia stories create a deeper and richer story experience for audiences and reveals new information or insight into the story universe.
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audiences engage with content marketers are distributing content stories are told and consumed


A STORY UNIVERSE can be defined as the created world built with emphasis on consistenty, credibility and believeablity (within a specific storyline) in order to successfully immerse a transmedia audience.

Incorporating different media platforms allows a transmedia telling to create multiple entry points into a story universe, allowing audiences to participate, engage, collaborate and share with the technologies they like best. Additionally, this approach allows each piece of content to fit into the greater whole of a story, adding new details and insight - thus making it a more valuable piece of information. The greatest difference between transmedia and other interactive storytelling techniques is that traditional multi-platform storytelling simply repackages information (book to movie to video to graphic novel). Transmedia storytelling focuses on each platform distributing new story insight through multiple platforms, specifically choosen to add greater value to story content, rather than retelling the same story in a different format.
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the idea of transmedia isn’t new or revolutionary.
In fact, many people have been participating in this kind of multiple platform storytelling for a long time. Franchises such as The Matrix, Lost and Star Wars are some of the most common and well-known transmedia narratives. Today, popular TV shows, movies, books and games can been see incorporating a transmedia strategy even at the most basic level.



For example, TV show How I Met Your Mother, in addition to the weekly 30 minute program, features a Barney Stinson blog, Twitter feed (@broslife), published books as well as creating external websites (including a video resume) that align with plot points within the show – a basic transmedia integration.

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the industry is starting to see a shift...

from fictional transmedia entertainment to non-fictional transmedia marketing. The recent Mattel campaign to reunite Barbie and Ken is a prime example of using multiple entry points into a story with a marketing strategy. The campaign included transmedia implmentations such as micro sites, Facebook and Twitter accounts for both dolls, a partnership with a NYC bakery and candy store, and ads from Ken to Barbie on the Times Square Jumbo-Tron. All of these efforts lead to a voting poll where audiences could vote on whether or not the dolls should reunite, which they ulimately did on Valentine’s Day 2011 thanks to the public’s votes. Other brands with successful transmedia strategies include Old Spice and Starbucks.
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So, what does this mean?
Consumers have an expectation to not only consume stories, but to engage and collaborate, which means storytellers from all disciplines need to incorporate a transmedia approach in order to compete for audience attention and engagement. “In this day and age, particularly for young people, they are growing up essentially to be so in tune with their multiple screens and so intuitive with what they are going to communicate and to receive information and narrative that they are coming to expect that narrative content will meet this way of way communicating back to them.” – Jeff Gomez, Starlight Runner Entertainment


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Got it?
So here’s some basics you need to know about creating a transmedia story. There are two primary transmedia storytelling models that narratives typically follow:

Franchise and Portmanteau.
Franchise transmedia model is defined as multiple platforms creating a collection of individual experiences. An example of this model would be The Matrix. In between each feature film a slew of additional content materials including graphic novels, video games and memorabilia were released with sub-storylines, emphasis on new characters and exposing audiences to a richer understanding of the story world to help keep fans engaged.

Comic Books

expanded character

Franchise Transmedia
multiple platforms create a collection of individual experiences

Web Video Series
the prequel

Feature Film
the main story


expanded moment in time

expanded backstory

Computer Game


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Portmanteau Transmedia

Twitter Audio SMS Blog Flyer Video

Image Event


Portmanteau transmedia model is defined as multiple platforms contributing a single experience. The Mattel campaign example used above demonstrates this kind of storytelling where each piece of content was released and consumed simultaneously to enrich the experience of the Barbie and Ken brand.

In addition to picking a model that suits a particular purpose, or mixing and matching the two, other factors to keep in mind are your target audience, engagement strategy, production timeline and the story arc. Getting Started in Transmedia Storytelling by Robert Pratten is a great resource for transmedia beginners who want to learn more.
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Everyday it becomes clearer expectations have shifted.



Instead of a “one to many” communication flow, businesses and brands are encountering a “one to one to many,” which is ultimately brands to influencer/fan to influencer network and friends. This is where the benefits of a transmedia story truly come into play. Creating content that is interesting, engaging and share-worthy ultimately opens the experience to a large network supported by loyal fans who want to see the project and the story succeed.

So, what you’re saying is….
Transmedia is more than just an experience, it is expanding audience options and the opportunity to co-collaborate, speak to key influencers and to extend possibilities of a story in a way that has never been done before. Yes, crafting a transmedia story is a lot of work and can be time consuming, BUT it does pay off – in the form of long-term consumer engagements, viral content assets and well-crafted, immersive story worlds.

As the need for interactive narratives and community engagement grows, so too will the demand for transmedia experiences. Already this kind of multi-platform storytelling is beginning to saturate the marketing/branding and activism sectors. Industries are finding that creating a compelling, immersive story universe is proving beneficial when trying to establish a meaningful experience and relationship that truly resonates with audiences.

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Debunking the Myths and Stereotypes

Transmedia is a fad.
Forms of transmedia storytelling have been around for a long time – some even citing The Bible as the first example of storytelling through multiple platforms (written, oral, visual). Storytelling “mash-ups” have existed and been consumed long before the term was defined. As new media innovations continue to expand to the masses, storytellers in every industry will have to engage audiences in order to have their message heard through the clutter.

Transmedia only taps into cult-audiences.
Until recently, transmedia was most commonly associated with the science-fiction realm, which brings to mind images of gaming conventions, live-action role playing and ultimate geek-dom. However, that’s a short-sighted look at transmedia. This modern storytelling technique is really about tapping into someone’s super fandom. Those who are passionate about a sports team, a movie franchise, a TV show or a brand is the same as those who love Star Wars and Star Trek. According to Jeff Gomez, the goal of transmedia is allowing fans a more detailed access into the things and stories that they love.

Transmedia is the same as integrated marketing.
Many people associate transmedia as similar or part of an integrated marketing campaign, but there are some major differences between the two. An integrated marketing campaign relies on slightly tweaking packaged content and distributing through multiple channels. Transmedia requires each piece of content created specifically with a platform in mind that clearly and effectively engages consumers on multiple levels. For transmedia, it’s about creating a layered story with highly customized content that specifically speaks to an audience.

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Transmedia: Debunking the Myths and Stereotypes

Transmedia is an Augmented Reality Game (ARG).
Many transmedia stories do tap into the ARG mindset or incorporate an ARG into the overall story universe. However, this platform is not a necessary inclusion in a transmedia narrative. Since ARGs can be time consuming and expensive, many transmedia experiences are finding new ways to engage an audience through social media platforms and internal communications software. “One aspect of the developing ARGs I found problematic was an over reliance on puzzles that interrupted the flow of the story. The more I worked with this kind of narrative, the more I became interested in the qualities of story spread across multiple formats and channels, and less with the interactive riddles and puzzles.” – Jay Bushman (Well Played 2.0: Video Games, Value and Meaning, pg 15)

Jay Bushman


The Hunt was a transmedia event experience created by George P. Johnson for Cisco’s Global Sales Experience. This particular case study did use a fictional ARG to engage audiences and build buzz around the event.”


“Low Lifes” was a fictional transmedia experience created by Robert Pratten not using an ARG. Pratten relied on YouTube, text, social media and images to tell his story.”


Transmedia is only for entertainment.
Within the entertainment sector transmedia has been used for a long time and done very well. However, transmedia capabilities are not soley limited to the entertainment industry. Ultimately, any branding, marketing or event experience is about the story at the core. Creating interactive narratives where fans can freely engage with a product, service or entity they like gives transmedia a wider reach when it comes to how stories are told and the messages they convey.
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Getting Started in Transmedia Storytelling, Robert Pratten (2011) Your Life is a Transmedia Experience (slideshare), Jenka Gurfinkel (2011) nce-6609259 Transmedia Rising (white paper), JWT Intelligence (2011) Transmedia Storytelling, A Think Lab (by Dr. Pamela Brown Rutledge), Transmedia Experience (tumblr), Meghan Gargan (2011) Transmedia Storytelling 101 (blog), Henry Jenkins (2007) _101.html Transmedia Storytelling: Business, Aesthetics and Production at the Jim Henson Company, Geoffrey Long (2007)


Convergence Culture, TEDTalks, Henry Jenkins Transmedia Missionaries, Henry Jenkins The Hunt (case study), JUXT Interactive/George P. Johnson


Convergence Culture: Where Old and New Media Collide, Henry Jenkins (2006) 814742815 Digital Storytelling: A Creator’s Guide to Interactive Entertainment, Carolyn Handler Miller (2008) nment/dp/0240805100

Interactive Resource Guide

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