Transmedia newspapers

Sunday, May 6, 2007

I just finished reading chapter three of Convergence Culture where Jenkins discusses transmedia storytelling. He focuses on the Matrix franchise and how it basically rewrote the rules for Hollywoods future. It got me thinking on my walk home from the coffeehouse, why aren’t newspapers doing this?

We’re all familiar with the Matrix and have varying depths of involvement with it. Most of us have seen the first film, some the second and third but have any of us played the video game, or seen the Animatrix, or been to Matrix Online? It all represents facets of transmedia storytelling, the very essence of convergence. Danny Bilson explains the transmedia relationship between the Matrix film and its game:

The news is delivered in a parallel fashion which isn’t going to last, in fact, it’s what’s killing the old product. I can get the same Washington Post online as I can from the printed version and it’s obvious which one I choose. A transmedia approach needs to replace the parallel delivery model. Give people up-to-the-minute details online, then print in-depth coverage. Show me how it relates to current culture with lessons and anecdotes, make it enjoyable and interesting and if the package is pretty I’ll proudly display it on my shelves.

Why don’t newspapers live up to their medium? Print isn’t bad, it’s fantastic with huge staying power but you’ve gotta produce something I’m gonna want to keep around. I buy books because I want to savor them and I like the way they look on my shelves. Stop being so throwaway. The print medium isn’t dead but delivering up-to-the-minute news with ink is on life support. The industry really needs to rethink what gets inked and how their readers will savor it.

I’m not suggesting in-depth storytelling should be relegated to print but it kinda makes sense as a starting point. I flat out won’t stare at a light-bulb and read pages of a story even if it is interesting. There are things you can do in print that you simply cannot do online and of you don’t believe me get your hands on a Cranbrook Academy of Art academic catalog.

A perfect example of news transmedia storytelling is the New York Times Magazine. It’s the only time I buy a newspaper and all I really want is the magazine. It’s kind of like a fortune cookie, I don’t really enjoy the cookie but I savor the fortune. The publication provides select stories that are well thought out and insightful which usually draw from the previous weeks worth of news bites. It features great illustrations and photographs. I could get it online through their Times Select but I’d rather not.