Transmedia, crossmedia, multimedia, plurimedia… What if we had to describe these notions to someone…
by Laurent Guérin , published on 29.11.2010
Transmedia, crossmedia, multimedia, plurimedia… What if we had to describe these notions to someone working in a completely different field. What if we had to break down this avant-guard mumbo jumbo to a notary or a 6-year-old child? Here’s the starting point proposed by Laurent Guérin (co-founder of citymoviz.tv and co-producer of Detective Avenue, who reviews the innovations of the last decade and the new behaviors they entail for 21st century spectators in this article.
The other evening, a notary friend that that I hadn’t seen in 10 years politely asked me what I’d been up to. “I create transmedia programs” I answered, after he’d shared a few of the latest divorce laws that had made the most impact in his field of specialty. “What’s the difference with multimedia?” he asked me. I admit I didn’t have the courage to explain to him that the word “multimedia” was a term inherited from the 80’s and 90’s, from the days of Minitel and CD-Roms, and which has already become obsolete despite its modern connotation; that we now used crossmedia or even, if you’re on board with Henry Jenkins work and Jeff Gomez Productions, the term’s evangelists: “transmedia”.
I summarized the difference between “crossmedia”, inherited from advertizing and the press (same content/message on different media) and “transmedia” (different content for different media, each contributing to the creation of a unique final product) with two simple sentences:
Crossmedia is 100 pieces of a single piece puzzle.
Transmedia is 100 different pieces forming a unique puzzle.
But instead of explaining the word, its origin and its definition with power point slides, I preferred telling him about the context, and launched into a long pedagogic discussion – or so I hoped – of which I will share a few excerpts.
I started telling him that in the past 10 years, technological advances and innovations have revolutionized user behaviors in the field of entertainment: I’m talking about high speed internet, Digital TV, video sharing websites, social networks, mobile phones and smartphones, game consoles accessible to everyone, tablets, so many elements that changed entertainment, information, communication, interaction, sharing, gaming and also buying habits.
I concluded this introduction by telling him that video now represented over 50% of global Internet traffic. According to Cisco, it will represent 91% of global traffic by 2014, and mobile devices will have surpassed traditional computers as the prime way of accessing the Internet.
Furthermore, I told him, traditional television channels have seen their audience numbers dramatically reduce (-15 to -30% depending on the channels) in this same past decade.
“Is it the end of television?” he asked me.
Absolutely not, quite the contrary in fact. Traditional channels have lost audience numbers since the TV offer has completely exploded with the advent of Digital Television. But contrary to popular belief, Internet has not turned spectators away from television. The daily average listening time has even slightly increased to 3h25 per day in 2009 (France).
But, besides being more spread out, the audience is also multitasking. Especially the young audience. And today’s young audience is tomorrow’s mainstream one. The teenager who watches “Pop Idol” while sending text messages, surfing on youtube and publishing a Facebook status is a goldmine. Just as his mother – today’s mainstream consumer – has been hooked on Farmville or his dad, an ex “adulescent” in his forties, doesn’t go anywhere without his Smartphone… All these new tools have only appeared in the last 10 years and people have adopted them beyond all expectations, using them in their day-to-day life. It’s normal. How can they now be satisfied with one level entertainment?
Transmedia programs answer to two obligations: reaching out to the audience wherever it is, and offering a rich and multitasked experience adapted to its behavior.
We can talk about a more “interactive” form of entertainment.
Personally I like to use the term “active contents” to describe this new form of content: content that lets the audience be more active.
I like to talk of spectators, or “active viewers” rather than Internet users or TV audiences.
I consider television, smartphones and other tablets as screens with different properties. The Smartphone is an individual and connected mobile screen whereas television is a collective screen whose “connection” abilities aren’t yet used on a daily basis.
The quickest to respond when it came to reaching out to the audience and offering a rich and interactive experience were, logically, advertisers. The two 2010 hits come from the agencies Wieden+Kennedy and Buzzman for Old Spice and Tipp-Ex, two interactive campaigns that have exceeded expectations. 40 million views in one week and 107% sales in one month for Old Spice. 45 million views for Tipp-Ex in 230 countries for a campaign targeted to France and that was aiming for a few hundred million views…that’s what I call hitting the jackpot!
The first step for TV channels was to set up “catch-up TV” offers in order to satisfy the dispersed, volatile and connected audience who still like to consume professionally made entertainment and remains attached to signatures. For example, “Secret Story”, a “wild card of the TF1 group for the 15 to 19 year old audience” (in the words of one of the group’s directors) attracts more audience through the Internet than through television.
In three years, from 2007 to 2010, almost all the channels have developed a catch-up TV offer. Mediametrie will soon be publishing its first audience results for catch-up TV, integrated in its new “NG”: New Generation Audience Measurement.
The second step is being played out right now. Channels are beginning to integrate cross and transmedia systems into their programs.
TF1, for example, created such a system around its TV movie “Clem” last February. The heroine’s blog was accessible before the prime time airing. After the show aired, the TV audience was invited to view a bonus, a kind of “epilogue” (Clem, 3 years later), available only on the Internet. This bonus generated more than a million views.
Recently, the airing of “Un mari de trop” (“One too many husbands”) with Lorie and Alain Delon, gave way to the creation of the heroine’s blog (modeetconfidences.com) and a fake web-documentary (“Made in Mode”) with the 4 episodes yielding a modest 200 000 views.
A pioneer in this domain, Arte has been innovating by offering extremely interactive documentaries on the internet (“Gaza/Sderot” in 2009, “Prison Valley” in 2009), while Canal Plus tries to recruit new spectators for their self made dramas by offering new online experiences. If you go to the website for “Maison Close”, the latest Canal series, your whole Facebook entourage will be able to see that you’ve become a prostitute and lost your virginity in the pink room…
At France 2, by creating an @franceTVDirect account, the channel offers viewers the possibility of following the greatest events of France Television on Twitter and organizes – among other things – photo contests, also to be published on Twitter.
This can all seem a bit shy, but what an effort on the part of these large institutions, which singlehandedly owned all video entertainment only 5 years ago…aside from movies and rented material, which is another market now confronted to the rise of new technologies and undergoing great transitions…
To go one step further, we have to take a look at what’s being done on the side of our Anglo-Saxon friends.
With its game “The Million Pound Drop” (a kind of reversed “Who wants to be a millionaire”, at the beginning of the game, each contestant has 1 Million Pounds the key being not to loose it), the British Channel 4 has recruited all its contestants through Facebook and Twitter. The claimed goal: to create a buzz and boost “online” activity. But that’s not all: by connecting to the show’s internet website during airing time, you can also play – with virtual money – and therefore go from a passive state (“I told you it’s the Prince of Whales who said that…”) to an active state (you can bet and win live, while watching the show. Season 2 begins on October 25th, you can connect here: channel4.com/drop for those of you who have access to Channel 4…
American channel ABC has developed an Ipad application for its show “”. The application allows for direct interaction with the program (votes, comments…)
The slogan couldn’t be more explicit: “Change the way you watch TV”. One screen in your hands, one screen on the wall.
“Change the way you watch TV”: but audiences haven’t been waiting for new applications to start doing that. Today in France, about one thousand people are “live-tweeting” television programs, from “L’amour est dans le pré” (“Love is in the field”, the tweets are marked #adp by those who are tweeting them) to football matches (#edf), “L’amour est aveugle” (“Love is blind” #laea), “un diner Presque parfait” (“An almost perfect diner” #udpp) and my favorite: “Pop Idol” transmissions (#ns). Some contributions are laugh-out-loud funny. Criticism and jokes: two major behaviors of French live-tweeters.
In other words, spectators are using Twitter to create additional entertainment, on top of the original program…
Anecdotal? Not so sure… During the last World Football Cup, the USA-Japan match generated more than 3000 tweets per second!!!
And even if Esquire considers that only 10% of these tweets were interesting (goo.gl/cUQ9), they nonetheless demonstrate users’ need for interaction and sharing.
These are all examples of multi-leveled entertainment, whether they’re organized by the distributor or on the initiative of our “active viewers”.
The “new contenders”
Of course, thanks to the internet, television channels aren’t the only ones to be able to offer video entertainment anymore… Brands are progressively starting to get involved. This is called brand content or branded content. Two examples out of hundreds: Philips recently invited Internet users to direct their own films with a set dialogue that praises the qualities of its 21:9 TVs (http://www.cinema.philips.com/fr_fr/). BNP Paribas had great success with the creation of a web series (Mes Colocs – “My Roommates”) and its application to different media (advertizing, point of sale displays, pop-up even site in Paris, projections, etc).
We sometimes call these actors “new contenders”, in other words, according to Wikipedia, “companies that try to compete in a new market”. And there aren’t only brands that are entering the video entertainment market, there are also large media groups already active in the radio and press fields (RTL, Lagardère, NRJ,…), the big actors of the web (Youtube, Dailymotion, Free, Msn, Yahoo, Allociné…) and operators (Orange, SFR, Bouygues…), only to name three categories…
“I’m sorry Laurent, but time is ticking, I’ve already finished my third beer, and I still don’t know what you’re doing”…says my notary friend.
He was still there though…that’s the power of transmedia!
“The program that I’m producing right now is a mix of fiction and game, in which you’ll have to help our heroine discover the truth about the disappearance of her sister” I then offered.
“You’ll have access to videos and treasure hunts, daily challenges. You’ll also be able to listen to phone messages left for the heroine, receive text messages from a mysterious indicator, search for exclusive content thanks to flashcodes or consult the Facebook profiles of the story’s characters… You could even be in direct communication with the heroine…”
“Tell me more”…he says, impatient…
“Next time my friend, next time” I promised with a mysterious air…
Co-fondateur de Citymoviz
Produit actuellement “Detective Avenue”, un programme transmédia en partenariat avec Orange, pour le printemps 2011.