I just love my tète à tètes with Roxie Munro. We always seem to encourage one another to dig deeper, to think more clearly about what we are doing and who we are serving.
Our latest chat had us defining the terms "transmedia" vs. "crossmedia." We even threw in "multimedia" just to round out the discussion.
These terms seem to be used at times interchangeably, at other times to express entirely different things. Even at the Oct 2012 StoryDrive Conference on "Transmedia Storytelling" at the Frankfurt Book Fair, presentations flitted from creating story worlds to promoting content through subsidiary merchandising to everything in between.
Surely they can't all be one and the same?
So I did my homework -- read a bunch of books and attended a ton of workshops -- and I talked to a lot of people, including Roxie. And here's my take on how we should be using these terms...
Transmedia Storytelling is when a story exists on several platforms, BUT on each platform a different aspect of the story is being told. Taken together, all story strands create a story world, but each story can hold its own on its own. It can be a complete experience alone or become a broader experience as part of the greater whole.
Example: The Matrix. Three movies plus two official gaming environments plus several comic books. A particular character walks off screen in movie 1 and into the gaming world where more of the Matrix story is revealed and lives side-by-side movie 2, in which this character plays no role at all. Then, as if stepping out of the game world and back into the screen, she reappears in movie 3. That's transmedia storytelling, without question.
Crossmedia, on the other hand, is when you take a story, like Roxie's Doors or Beware Mme la Guillotine or The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr Morris Lessmore, and apply it, with some adaptions to fit the format, to another medium.
Roxie's Doors is a picture book and an app. The two are different products, obviously, and the creative content is treated differently in each, but the story is largely the same in both media.
Beware Madame la Guillotine is currently a storyapp and an interactive eBook and is in development as both plain-text eBook and dual-language print book. The purposes for each of these publications is slightly different as are their target audiences. But the story remains the story from format to format.
This is also true for Morris Lessmore. Though the animated short, storybook app, picture book, and augmented reality app all boast special elements thanks to the various capabilities of each medium in which the story resides, the story itself doesn't really change. There are no new story strands or plot lines or characters.
These are all fine examples of crossmedia storytelling, the purpose of which seems to be to get quality content to the reader/users where they most wish to enjoy it.
Multimedia, to round out this discussion, means using more than one medium in the same place, i.e., bringing multiple media to a single device. An interactive eBook wherein the main character accesses a particular YouTube selection, or sends a tweet or posts to Facebook is a prime example of multimedia storytelling if the videos and tweets and posts remain unchanging and essential to the storytelling in their proscribed form. If, however, the main character has his/her own twitter and FB accounts and is posting and tweeting outside the story, perhaps as a way to engage with fans and/or provide story clues or back-story, etc., that would be transmedia storytelling.
And then there is merchandising, which is not storytelling at all, thank you very much. It falls into none of the above categories. But is being referred to, wrongly, and by many, as "transmedia" or "crossmedia." (The same people also tend to use these two terms interchangeably. Again, in my opinion, wrongly.)
Example: Star Wars. You have the movies. Then you have the myriad books which tell different stories connected to the greater world, like what happened to Princess Leia and Han Solo. This is transmedia storytelling. But then you have the Princess Leia doll. That's merchandising. Then you have the book version of each movie: crossmedia. Then you have the game that takes you to some galaxy featured in the movies, but expands on the story of that galaxy to create a whole new story: transmedia.
What do you think? Have I got it right? Roxie?