Transmedia: 5-Steps to Selecting the Right Platforms

By robert pratten, May 17th, 2010

In my earlier post on Culture Hacker and in my SlideShare presentation created for the Sacramento Film Festival, I described the process for creating transmedia entertainment as shown in Figure 1.
In this post I’d like to focus on selecting the right platforms.

This post is in TWO PARTS.
This is the first part and the second part is at where you’ll find downloadable content such as a nicely formatted & printable PDF of the whole post and an Excel tool for ranking platforms.

PART 1 of 2
Figure 1 The Development Process

In this post, when I say “platforms” I mean the combination of media plus technology and here I’d like to get you thinking about how you might go about selecting the right platforms. Of course there is no universal truth in platform selection – the right platforms are those that best suit you and the project. Although I would advocate that all projects have a community platform but that might not be part of your storytelling.

While keeping in mind the larger iterative development process, I recommend a similar five-stage iterative approach to selecting your platforms:

Stage 1: go with your gut
Stage 2: consider the relative strengths and weaknesses of each platform
Stage 3: support the weaknesses of a platform with the strengths of others
Stage 4: consider the timing of platforms relative to each other
Stage 5: consider changes to the story to bake-in the platforms and timing.

1. Go with your gut
In the first instance, just go with your gut and list a few platforms that you think will suit your story and audience. This first pass will likely identify platforms based on the following:

personal desire or bias
popularity with audiences (including fashions and fads)
ability to collect payment
availability to find funding or sponsorship
popularity with the press & bloggers (at certain times some platforms are more sexy that others)
suitability to the story
resources available.
Now take a closer look at each platform.

2. Determine each platform’s strengths and weaknesses
In determining a platforms’ strengths and weaknesses:

first – consider the experience you’d like to create and which platforms are best suited to it
second – rank a short list of platforms and ensure they create a mix that works synergistically .

Choosing the right platform for the right experience

A senior executive at Yahoo spoke on recently about how Apple asked Yahoo to design an app for the iPad that would be a “coffee table experience”. The idea was that the iPad would be out on the coffee table in the living room when friends visited and the owner would want to pick up the device and share the Yahoo entertainment with her guests. Yahoo tailored its online content to suit the specifics of the iPad – not just the unique form factor but the unique consumption context too.

Device manufactures spend a lot of time thinking about how their products will be used. Learn a lesson from these guys and don’t just partition your story across platforms but take time to adapt it so it works in the context of the device and the audience lifestyle.

Table 1 and Table 2 present possible ways to segment your platforms by the nature of audience participation. Use this type of approach to inform the platform selection around the type of experience you’d like to create.

Table 1 Possible platform segmentation 1

Personal Shared
(Lean back) Watching movie: mobile phone, laptop, slate
Reading: book, mobile, laptop, slate, Kindle



(Lean forward) Handheld game



Kindle (interactive fiction)

Multiplayer game

iPad/Slate? – see comment above

Table 2 Possible platform segmentation 2

Location agnostic Location-dependent
Personal Shared Personal Shared
Web series
Comic/Graphic novel

Motion comic



Pin (badge)


Façade projection mapping[1]

Merchandise Exhibition
Mobile game
ARG (alternative reality game)

AR (augmented reality)

Postcards and flyers

Find the right mix of platforms

Given that each platform will have its own strengths and weaknesses, the goal of this stage is to be objective about why a certain platform should remain in the mix. My approach is to score each platform based on the following criteria:

Revenue gained
Cost (inc. time) of delivering content
Ability of platform to enable social spread of content
Fit to audience lifestyle
Remarkability (uniqueness/coolness/timeliness/quality) of platform or content
Timing of release to audience
The table below shows how these might be scored from 5 to 1 and Figure 2 presents an example from the Excel spreadsheet tool that’s available for download from the Zen Films website.

While the exercise feels a little academic, if you have to justify external funding and justify to yourself that it’s worth putting time into something, it’s worth quickly running through the numbers – you might find some surprising results.

Table 3 Rating a Platform

Revenue Good=5, Poor=1
Cost Low=5, High=1
Spreadability Good=5, Poor=1
Lifestyle Fit Good=5, Poor=1
Remarkability Remarkable=5, Unremarkable=1
Figure 2 Platform Tool Example

3. Have platforms support each other with calls-to-action
Now you know the pros and cons of each platform, you need to find ways to have them support each other. By this I mean that some platforms will be great for spreading awareness but lousy at making money. To combine the strengths of each platform means getting the audience to cross between platforms.

So how do we do this? Firstly it’s important to remember that crossing platforms introduces friction. So rather than assume that audiences want multi-platform experiences, it’s better to ask yourself three questions:

What’s my objective in having audiences cross platforms?
How can I motivate audiences to cross platforms?
What’s the reward when they get there?

The Call to Action

Before I continue, I’d like to introduce a little jargon: the “call to action”.

In web design, the button and wording on a page that asks you to “click here” or “sign up” is known as the “call to action” (CTA). It’s a plea for the user to do something and good designers make these calls-to-action appear to be the default choice – you’re nudged to take action through clear layout, positioning of the button, use of colors and so on.

The term is also used in advertising: “for a limited time only”, “while stocks last”, “a once in a lifetime offer”. These are all calls to action to get you to do something now and not put off your decision.

A transmedia experience needs similar CTAs to get audiences to cross platforms.

What’s the objective?

Part of your objective will be to create a fun experience but it will also relate to your business model. Here are three examples.

Example 1. A transmedia project has a comic book and a web series: the comic book will carry advertisements because it’s believed that print advertising is less intrusive than pre-roll video advertising (because the ads won’t get in the way of the story). The value of the advertising is such that it pays for both the comic book and the web series. Both will be given away for free but the advertiser has been promised a minimum number of comic book readers. Hence, it’s important to get web series viewers to cross platforms to the comic book.

Example 2. A transmedia project has a mix of free and revenue-generating platforms: the free platforms build the audience and the revenue-generating platforms pay for the project.

In Example 2 Your first thought might be that CTAs are needed to ensure the free audience migrates to a revenue platform. But this only provides part of the solution. Table 4 compares the relative audience sizes and revenue potentials across platforms and offers possible strategies to maximize the opportunities. Note that CTAs are used not only to grow revenue but to grow the audience – migrating them to more social platforms and providing spreadable content with CTAs to promote further growth.

Table 4 Assessing your call-to-action: comparing audiences across platforms

Audience Size and Loyalty/Enthusiasm
Casual Audience Hardcore Audience
Big Small
Platform Revenue Biggest

Big Win. Keep the audience here and keep them spending! Refresh content, allow audience to create content (includes discussions, suggestions, live chat). Provide CTA’s to motivate audience to become Hardcore Respect this audience: don’t milk them for money. Use their enthusiasm to grow casual audience. Invest in community and provide spreadable content with CTAs to build wider audience.
Smaller Revenue Small Win. Can a gentle CTA motivate them towards a bigger revenue platform? Provide CTA’s to motivate audience to become Hardcore – more revenue will likely follow. Maximize spreadability of content (see above). Provide gentle CTA to nudge onto higher revenue platforms.

If revenue is important, need a CTA to send audience to a revenue platform How is this platform contributing to the experience? Maximize spreadability of content. CTAs to grow audience and nudge this audience to revenue platforms.
Example 3. In my Lowlifes[2] project, physical and device-specific copies of the content is paid content while web-based content is free. My primary, albeit weak, CTAs are:

the project “logo” that displays three media types – informing audiences that this story spans multiple platforms
the story in each media begs questions that the audience desires to be answered – and expects to find them in the other media; hence enticing them to cross platform.
With Example 3 in regard to moving from a free platform to a paid platform, I’m hoping that the friction of being tied to a desktop (free platform) will encourage supporters to migrate to a paid platform for a better experience more in keeping with their lifestyle – for example, the ability to read a paperback book in the bath!

In these examples you can see that the business model creates different objectives for cross-platform traversal.




Posted in cross-media storytelling transmedia

robert pratten is a transmedia consultant and content creator. He’s also a critically acclaimed award-winning feature film director, writer & producer. In a previous life he worked as a marketing consultant to the telecoms industry and was an internationally recognized expert in the field of Intelligent Networks. Past clients include Nokia, Ericsson, Lucent, Telia and Telmex. Follow at

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