Though 10 years ago no one really used the word « trans-media », it has now become fashionable. As is always the case when that happens, people have started using it for anything : trans-media is being used a variety of times instead of cross-media, for example.
Cross-media is the capacity of taking some content and exploiting that same content on several media or platforms. For example, if I am adapting Harry Potter into movies, it is cross-media insofar as we are only adapting existing content. Of course, it is an entirely different thing to write a book or to direct a movie, and the amount of work required is colossal. But that does not make it trans-media.
Trans-media is rather a way to adapt a content to many different forms, each of which feedbacks and expands on the original content. For example, a series like Buffy the Vampire Slayer which finds its seasons 8+ adapted under comic book form is a typical kind of trans-media, as the new content reflects on the overall content and expands the general « Buffyverse".
If all of this seems easy, it is in reality still very theoretical and not as clear cut as listed here, but that will do for the purpose of this post.
I have personally had numerous experiences with trans-media before I ever attached a name to it, simply because I was working with Japan. The Japanese manga and anime industry is extremely used to use trans-media and cross-media techniques, and while I was heading Kaze I found myself in situations where I had to bring in all the elements of a license to make it work. As an example, the manga series Nana where the content was (a) an original manga which was adapted into (b) a TV series and (c) a live motion pictures. There was also (d) a spinoff novel, but as the show was musical there were 2 singers attached to the musical universe of the show named (e) Olivia and (f) Anna Tsuchiya. I could expand on the fashion lines developed inspired from Nana or other stuff easily. Each of these feeds and expands on the original universe, just to give an example.
As a matter of fact, I have only ever met with 2 people that have an understanding of trans-media I am fully in sync with. One of them is Anthony Roux (Tôt), the co-founder and creative director of the French videogame company Ankama. The second is Fabien Fournier, the creator of Europe’s leading webseries called Noob which still holds the European record for Crowdfunding in entertainment. I have an endless amount of esteem for these 2 individuals. Not to say there aren’t many other people around the word that equally understand…
Coming next : how handling trans-media in entertainment differs from the usual approach.