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Multiplatform formats

multiple screens

I talk to people a lot about multiplatform productions and transmedia storytelling and one of the first points we discuss is the plethora of options available to producers.  All too often, multiplatform productions are a last minute addition to a TV show and are rarely more ambitious than a programme support website – merely offering more random detail about the production rather than extending and enriching the user’s experience.

I talk about the glue of interactive narrative elsewhere but I thought it might be worth sharing the list of platforms and their relative characteristics.  I know it’ll be incomplete so I’d really welcome your comments.

There are three broad categories of platform available to us:

  • ‘Broadcast’
  • ‘Online’
  • ‘Live’

Broadcast

My use of the word ‘Broadcast’ in this instance covers media that is distributed after being produced by ‘professionals’ for mass consumption.   I include Internet and post transmission versions of linear media in the online section because of control user have over their use.

Platform Characteristics
General
  • Created centrally
  • Distributed widely
  • Authored
  • Common experience for audiences
  • For consumption
  • Receiving technology cheap and plentiful
  • Largely inactive experience – lean back entertainment
  • Released as ‘event’
  • Mass audiences
  • Complete ‘stories’
  • Formally regulated
TV
  • Wide reach, standard, established, universal
  • Presentation not participation
  • Time-worthy, comfortable
  • Moving images
  • Delivered directly into homes to family and friends
Film
  • Viewing requires travel to cinema
  • Watched with strangers
  • Highest quality pictures and sound
Radio
  • Mostly ‘as live’
  • More niche programming
  • Generally a solitary experience
  • Rolling content
  • Unselfish – doesn’t require full attention
  • Leaves space for audience thought
  • Requires imagination for visualisation (you only imagine what you don’t see)
  • Simplicity, purity – information parsimony
Print
  • Permanent
  • Tangible
  • More demanding to read
  • Requires more imagination but creates a personal experience
  • Needs time to digest, quantity of work often forces reflection
  • Expert analysis, commentary & reflection
  • Long form
Advertising
  • Scale, attractive
  • Easily absorbed
  • Micro-form, pithy
  • Inescapable
  • Purely visual
  • Instant engagement

Controversially, I’d include Twitter and blogging in my broadcast formats because although they present themselves as intimate, they are actually the Internet equivalent of publishing for individual.  It’s still about authorship and mass distribution but access is more personal and the ability to feedback more immediate.

Online

By ‘Online’ I mean interactive digital platforms including computers, mobiles and consoles.

Platform Characteristics
General
  • Used when required (just in time)
  • Interruptible
  • Interactive with user control
  • Non-linear
  • Ability to be highly focussed on audience
  • Always ‘on’
  • Participatory
  • Permanent and Semi-permanent
  • Immediate
Web
  • Optional levels of detail
  • Bite-sized, little if any time commitment
  • Non-exclusive and promiscuous (in the undiscriminating or unselective approach; indiscriminate or casual sense)
  • Semi-permanent
  • Multiple authors
  • Inclusive
  • Democratic
  • Rapidly refreshed
Game
  • Escapism
  • High degree of control – more than simple navigation
  • Requires skill (or luck)
  • Gratuitously hard work,
  • Riddled with user failure
  • Frequent reward
  • Demanding
Mobile
  • Constant access (both ways)
  • Always available on the move
  • Small screen size
App
  • Mobile
  • Location-aware
  • Specialised content and technology
Social media
  • Personal, known communities and affinity groups
  • Networking
  • Full of personal information
  • highly targeted advertising
  • Two-way
  • Contributory
  • Social

Real World

And finally, those things I class as Real World.

Platform Characteristics
General
  • Physical, face to face
  • Fixed in time and or space
Event (such as concert, meeting or performance)
  • Shared experience
  • Unrepeatable moment in time
  • Atmosphere – expectation
  • Unpredictability
  • Physical social
  • Spontaneous
Location
  • Atmosphere
  • Physical history
  • Context
  • Tangible
  • Real
  • Live
  • Experiential – Journey
Person
  • Personality
  • Celebrity
  • Reality
  • Trust – endorsement

The crucial point about this exercise is the recognition that certain formats are better at certain tasks – film and books are great for long form storytelling, the web is unparalleled in offering access to information.  I’m sure there are many delivery methods that I’d missed, but one thing is clear – if you want to be truly multiplatform, there are lots of options and using the most appropriate will transform your product.

 

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