Transmedia for Muggles

As has been widely established, traditional media producers are in trouble. We, as prosumers, are interacting with media in ways not seen before. And, we’re doing it for free. Which naturally means that traditional media owners are desperately trying to find a way to make money off this changing media landscape.

Transmedia storytelling may be the answer.

Henry Jenkins explains transmedia storytelling in “Transmedia Storytelling 101“. In a nutshell, transmedia narratives involve the same story being told over multiple media platforms. Important to a traditional media producer perspective, Jenkins states that transmedia storytelling can “expand the potential market” because there are now multiple points of entry into the story world. In his opinion, transmedia is a worthwhile business venture.

For example, Harry Potter was originally a series of 7 children’s books, written by J K Rowling. However, it has spawned 8 movies, video games across a variety of gaming platforms, including Lego Harry Potter, and then there’s mobile apps, further books, a theme park, and various other tie-in media. As a Harry Potter fan, I do have to admit to owning/using a large proportion of these.

Harry Potter
Harry Potter (Photo credit: Profound Whatever)

This Wall Street Journal blog explains the new addition to the Potter universe: Pottermore. Writer Nick Clayton quotes Jeff Gomez (Starlight Entertainment CEO) as defining Pottermore as a “communal storytelling engine“. He goes on to say that Pottermore will: “officialize and galvanize a massive fan base into a single location, and then service their wildest dreams”. This supports Henry Jenkins’ claim that more entrances into a story world will correlate with a larger potential market, and hence, a greater potential for profit.

In ‘Pop Cosmopolitanism: Mapping cultural flows in an age of media convergence,’ Jenkins (2004, pp. 114-140) talks about how the interaction between corporate convergence (a bottom down force where media ownership is becoming more concentrated) and grassroots convergence (where media users are becoming increasingly empowered in their ability to interact with media) to cause global convergence which propagates pop cosmopolitanism, or the acceptance of ideas from difference cultures.

So it seems we can assume that transmedia is not just about big blockbusting media successes, but also the sharing of local and international content between cultures. For example, the growing influence of manga, or Pokémon.

This interview with the aforementioned Jeff Gomez highlights this importance of youth in modern media culture, also mentioned by Jenkins (2004 pp. 114-140). He calls transmedia interaction a “lifestyle experience”, which supports the idea that transmedia narratives are the future of media experience.

Transmedia narratives, judging by multiple sources, are set to revolutionise the way we interact with media. Media will not remain purely consumable for much longer, instead mutating into an interactive experience within a complex story world. The Matrix has done it, Lost has done it, Harry Potter has done it...

It’s only a matter of time before content, local and international, becomes interactive and highly accessible to all.


Jenkins, H 2004, ‘Pop Cosmopolitanism: Mapping cultural flows in an Age of Media Convergence’, in M. Suarez-Orozco & D. Qin-Hilliard (eds.) Globalization: Culture and Education in the New Millennium, University of California Press, Ewing, NJ, pp.114-140.


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