Evolutionary Entertainment: A 5-stage Development Process for Transmedia Projects

By robert pratten, April 21st, 2010

The key to creating a great transmedia project is to see it as a living, breathing, evolving entity. Even though my preference is always to plan rather than wing it, trying to find all the pieces of the puzzle from the start can be exhausting, demoralizing and may later prove to be misplaced. Right now all media and entertainment experiences are built on shifting sands: better not to be locked in to one particular set of ideas if you don’t have to be.

The figure below expands on the transmedia business model to incorporate the idea of “evolutionary entertainment” – that is, entertainment that evolves. It evolves with time, technology, audience preferences, financing and your story. Adopting this approach will keep you open to new opportunities.

Evolutionary Approach to Transmedia Entertainment

Not only do I suggest that the “live” transmedia project evolves but also that it’s possible to use this evolutionary approach to development.

Five Stage Development Process
I’ve identified five key elements to a transmedia project:

The story
The audience
The (technical/media) platforms
The business model
The execution
The goal is to get all five working in harmony together – supporting and reinforcing each other.

Rather than try to tackle all five considerations in a single swoop, allow your ideas to evolve through multiple iterations – start with a small concept, run it through the all the stages and see what comes out. Now start again, this time taking the outputs from each stage and feeding them into the other stages.

Developing the project in this way makes the process manageable and ensures you think carefully about what you plan to do.

5-Stage Transmedia Development Process

Each of the five stages warrants its own blog post but for now I’ll stick to explaining the process. Also, I know that ideas can come from many angles but I’m going to assume here it starts with an idea for a story.

Stage 1: Story

Start with the story basics: characters, plot, premise, theme, genre and location.

Stage 2: Audience

Who does this story appeal to? Try to identify as many audience segments as you can ranging from fans of this genre to those who will agree with the premise; those who will identify with the themes, characters, genre etc.

Now iterate back to the Story. What might you add to the story to increase its appeal to these audiences?

(There’s an excellent post related to identifying your audience at Dennis Peter’s blog)

Stage 3: Platforms

By “platforms” I mean the combination of media plus technology. So YouTube and iTunes would be two different platforms even if they can both deliver video. A printed book and The Kindle would be two different platforms. A cinema, a living room and an outdoor public are all different platforms.

Almost any technology, medium and place can be used to convey your story but think about your audience again – what’s their lifestyle? Where and how do they hang out? If you’ve got a story appealing to single-parent families is it likely they’re going to attend live events? Maybe if it’s during the day and they can bring their babies but most likely not in the evenings – they have problems with babysisters, cash and free time. Which platforms will appeal to this audience?

Think of your project as a lifestyle choice: it needs to slip into your audience’ lives with the minimum amount of friction.

Now iterate back to the story. What might you do with the story to have it play out better across these platforms?

Stage 4: Business Model

How are you going to pay for this project? You have three main choices:

Premium (only available for sale)
Freemium (mix of free and paid).
Look at the platforms you’ve chosen for your audience – which of them supports free and which supports paid? Look again at your audience – what do they buy and what don’t they buy? Do you platforms and audience support your business model?

Consider the CwF+RtB=$$ equation – which parts of your content can be pirated (shown in the diagram below as “infinite” availability to all) and which parts are “scarce” (not easily or can’t be copied). What content can be easily copied but some audience members might pay on a platform that offers convenience and immediacy (for more on this see Ross Pruden’s excellent blog).

Offering Audiences Reasons to Buy

Now iterate back to the story but this time think about the timing of the story delivery. By this I mean how will the story be released to the audience on the platforms you’ve identified- a free book chapter a week over 12 weeks simultaneous with a paid Kindle version? A free feature film followed by a paid comic book?

How can you develop your story and platforms to better suit the business model?

Stage 5: Execution

Finally look at the resources you have. If you’re an indie you’ll likely have more time than cash – how can you use that to your advantage? How much cash do you actually need to get going on the Transmedia Business Model? What favors can you pull in?

To answer these questions, consider this equation: outcome = probability x impact. It’s usually used to measure risk – how likely are bad things to happen and if they do happen, what’s their impact. But you can use it to make informed choices about the steps you take to implement your project.

For example, you may feel that a feature film has the highest impact – on your career and/or your audience – but what’s the probability of getting it made? Only you can answer that because you know what resources you have available (money, crew, kit etc). If the probability is low – because, say, you need to get a studio to green light the project – then you might think it better to do something with a higher probability of success even if there’s potentially lower impact.

Ultimately you’ll likely have a range of things to implement – a “portfolio of opportunities” – that get you started with some quick wins and lay the foundations of longer term, higher impact successes.

Now iterate through the five stages again and keep honing and refining.

As I said at the start, don’t feel you need all the answers from the get-go. After a few passes through the five stages, start thinking about implementation and give it a go. Then, in the light of that early experience go back to the development process and evolve.


Posted in audience-building cross-media marketing social media storytelling transmedia

robert pratten Robert Pratten is CEO and Founder of Transmedia Storyteller Ltd, an audience engagement company and provider of Conducttr, an pervasive entertainment platform. He has more than 20 years experience as an international marketing consultant and has established himself as a thought-leader in the field of transmedia storytelling. He is author of the first practical book transmedia storytelling: Getting Started in Transmedia Storytelling: A Practical Guide for Beginners. http://twitter.com/robpratten

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