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Is This the Future of Content Marketing? Transmedia Storytelling Emerges

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As various technology platforms (e.g., social media, apps, tablets, smartphones, and TV) evolve to become more integrated with one another, more customizable, and more participatory, so are people's expectations around their everyday content experiences, according to a study by Latitude.

However, developing interesting and relevant narratives across multiple platforms is a big challenge for content marketers.

To explore this changing media landscape, Latitude asked leaders in the emerging transmedia space about the challenges and opportunities today's storytellers (or content creators) are encountering. In addition, Latitude polled 158 early adopters of technology in 10 countries, and asked them, "How would you like to experience stories in the future?"

Transmedia storytelling typically involves immersive media experiences, in which the elements of a story are dispersed systematically across multiple media platforms, each making its own unique contribution to the whole. Rather than merely presenting the same content via different formats, transmedia allows each medium to do what it does best—fitting storylines into the most appropriate media vehicle (e.g., video, audio podcast, PowerPoint presentation).

Latitude found that audiences have a growing appetite for media experiences that not only allow them to delve deeper into stories but that also bring stories out of the screen, mingling with actual real-life experiences.

Below, key findings from Latitude's report titled "The Future of Storytelling, Phase 1."

Content needs to be smarter

People want content that's relevant to their real-world experiences. Some 75% of surveyed early adopters said content across mobile devices should become more relevant to where people are and what they are doing in the physical world.

The barriers between digital and physical realities are blurring

The divide between digital and real environments is breaking down. Asked to submit storytelling ideas, 52% of early adopters treated the real world as another platform, in which they incorporated networked real-world objects, augmented reality, 3D projected environments, and other technologies into story ideas.

People want to engage with stories

Audiences want more control over their individual content experiences: 79% of early adopters envisioned interactions that would allow them to alter a storyline—by influencing or becoming a character themselves (56%) or by manipulating plot events directly (37%).

Early adopters are also willing to build and support a story that recognizes their ideas:

  • 93% would be willing to submit possible story ideas to content producers.
  • 67% would help fund stories they're interested in (e.g., via a platform such as Kickstarter).
  • 79% would use their social networks or create promotional materials to help get the word out.

Transmedia is more than media-shifting

For early adopters, transmedia is more than duplicating other media experiences: 82% prefer mobile apps that would complement, not just replicate, their TV viewing experiences, whereas 68% prefer apps that help them access content they already watch elsewhere.


Based on the research conducted, the authors present a framework for storytelling, titled "The 4 I's," which consists of four key elements:

  1. Immersion: Delving deeper into the story via supplementary context and sensory experiences
  2. Interactivity: Allowing consumers to become part of the narrative, and possibly influence the outcome
  3. Integration: Having a seamless connection among all platforms
  4. Impact: Inspiring consumers to take action of some kind (e.g., purchase a product, sign up for a service, support a cause, etc.)

"So far, one of the biggest insights for us is that the emergence of new technologies means there's a largely untapped opportunity to allow people to tie stories directly into their own lives—bringing narratives 'out of the screen,' so to speak, often through meaningful connections with characters," said Neela Sakaria, EVP and managing director at Latitude.

"We've distilled our findings down into a few key principles, and our hope is that content creators begin to embrace the idea that the desire for interesting cross-platform experiences isn't as niche as some might think."

"Innovative storytelling isn't just for fantasy fiction, and there are exciting new opportunities for news creators and even retailers to use storytelling principles to engage people more deeply," said Sakaria.

About the data: Study participants were age 12-65, 60% male and 40% female, residing in the US (78%) and elsewhere, including Australia, Germany, Japan, Singapore, Turkey, and the UK. More than three-quarters owned and regularly used a smartphone, and 50% were tablet owners (44% owned both).

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Lenna Garibian is a MarketingProfs research writer and a marketing consultant in the tech industry, where she develops engaging content that builds thought leadership and revenue opportunities for clients. She's held marketing and research positions at eRPortal Software, GAP Inc., Stanford University, and the IMF. Reach Lenna via Twitter @LennaAnahid and LinkedIn.

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  • by Rishi Mon Aug 27, 2012 via web

    Interesting article... while we've seen TV shows engage and immerse their audiences in multi-platform experiences (eg: voting for American Idol performers using their cell phones), we haven't seen much TV-to-mobile cross-platform integration among brands that advertise on TV. For instance, brands should start using direct response campaigns to encourage viewers to send their email address to a short code in return for exclusive coupons. This way, then can gauge the effectiveness of their campaign, measure the ad's ROI, and collect leads for long-term marketing. For more mobile cheat sheets including "10 Tips for Mobile Usability", check out or tips and tricks at

  • by SMEProfessor Tue Aug 28, 2012 via android

    Interesting article, my question is: How do SMEs utilize transmedia content strategy consIderIng limited funds, limited staff quality, revenue generation imperatives, etc? A way out may be to select 1or 2 content outposts such as (facebook, apps, etc) housIng theIr audIence and really communicate effectively on them? SMEProfessor

  • by Colter Diehl Tue Aug 28, 2012 via mobile

    In an era in which we the public feel as though so many things are beyond our control, participatory marketing and storytelling could be one way of feeling as though our voice matters. Smart businesses will capitalize on the opportunity that the current landscape seems to be presenting.

  • by Kevin Fri Aug 31, 2012 via web

    Is "Transmedia" just a more contemporary hook for "360 degree branding" and "integrated media" ?

  • by Jake Jorgovan Tue Sep 18, 2012 via web

    I agree with this article. Finding new ways to engage and deliver story through interactive technology is the future of media. Technologies like projection mapping, augmented reality and interactive touch screens are enabling people to engage with marketing in ways that did not exist a few years ago.

    This is a great article and great news for any company in the interactive media space.

  • by Connie Jordan-Carmichael Mon Sep 22, 2014 via web

    In the ideal form of Transmedia storytelling , each medium does what it does best-so that a story might be introduced in a film, expanded through television, novels, and comics.

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