Transmedia (which you can read about on Henry Jenkins’ blog or on Wikipedia — since Jenkins is the man who came up with the term you might want to start there) is basically the idea that you can create a world with many different stories coming from it — and that those stories can exist in all sorts of media. Films and television are only two of them, but if you think about having the characters in those works also tweeting as if they were real, or exploring other characters from those worlds in a graphic novel or short story, or any of a dozen other forms of media (think songs, think fan fiction, and then keep thinking). I have been telling anyone who will listen that transmedia storytelling is the way that we’re going to survive in the future media/content creation world. Wouldn’t it be cool if we could present ourselves, not as editors of films, but as editors of the XYZ franchise? Yep, I know the world and the characters in XYZ world so well, that you want to hire me for all of the manifestations of that world. The same with writers, directors, actors, etc.
So the conference was interesting. But something that one of the participants said really piqued my interest. Jennifer Holt, who was the sole academic on the panel and who runs the Media Industries Project at UC Santa Barbara, said the following fascinating thing. “People don’t want to own media anymore.” People, she said, want to view (and, I assume, rent), not own.
This flies in the face of the prevailing wisdom of only two years ago, which said that people wanted to hold onto their media, that they would rather download music and films than stream them. But that is clearly no longer the case. I prefer to listen to music on Spotify, rather than download it to my iTunes library. I prefer to watch movies on Netflix rather than buy the DVD or download. So it’s not only physical media that is dying, but bits and bytes on my drives. Yeah, I like to download things on occasion, or for my classroom use, but I confess that I’m an outlier. The DVD of Matrix that I lent my daughter is still sitting in her internal DVD drive. Not only does that mean that I don’t need it to watch, but it also means that she doesn’t have the need of her DVD drive. Mix CDs are gone. Playlists are in.
And, old industry distribution models — buh bye.