Photo : At the Bar at the End of the Universe Lille (Dernier Bar avant la Fin du Monde), how to balance out geek culture concepts.
What fundamental difference is there between handing content in a standard way, and handling content in a trans-media way ?
There are of course many answers to this question. But I believe the main both theoretical and practical point is the following : everything must be centered on the content itself, and not on media, any more.
In the traditional approach, there usually is one original content source (ex : Harry Potter is born from the novels). This content oftentimes becomes famous with this original source and many different companies (if we are talking of the commercial sector) pick it up to license it. They then adapt it to their particular media - which is generally linked the nature of their corporate business (ex : Warner picks up Harry Potter to make movies from its original source, the novels).
In the entertainment business, there are a variety of media into which the contents are frequently adapted such as books (including comic-books), movies & TV, video games, music, concerts and other public events, boardgames, merchandising items of all kinds… The stronger the content, the more chances it has of being carried onto many different media.
However, all of those media are generally carried on by different companies, or different divisions of the same companies. The coordination between them is oftentimes loose, and everyone is working from the same content so they are basically « adapting » something with a very limited capacity for expanding the content itself. In this approach, the media is the center of everything - the content is fed into it and comes back out as something close to it, pending its obligatory adaptation (everyone easily understands that narrative requirements for books and movies are not the same).
The trans-media approach differs widely insofar as content becomes center to everything, replacing the media at the core of the business.
The content is thought from early on as something that will exist on several media. There is no longer an original content, but a core content created by the combination of all media : some of it is originally revealed on one media, some on another. This depends on how things are thought through by the content creators who decide which parts of the universe and storylines must be revealed through which media, taking into account the unique narrative advantages of each.
As a result, it is not so important wether your job is to sell a book or a DVD, what matters is everyone is collaborating to the same global work and every contents add to it. Trans-media universes are ever expanding : each new source reveals a part of the whole, and the audience must go through all of it to fully know everything.
Most people think that Kazé, the anime & manga company I founded in France and Germany, is a DVD company, simply because the most visible part of its production are DVDs. They couldn’t be more wrong.
Kazé is a company who handles a very specific kind of content, one it didn’t create : Japanese pop-culture content. This has beel the company’s core and expertise for a long time. Around this content Kazé has a DVD label, a manga publisher, theatrical releases, a music label (Wasabi records), a TV station, a VOD network, merchandising… It became a company for which the only common point of all products resides in the content.
I believe it is this experience which allowed me fo first formalize this specificity in trans-media. Though the models provided by other people that created their own content and which I will expand on later provide much better examples.
Next : How to create a trans-media universe ? Or some reasons why trans-media dynamics are still not widely used.