DIGITAL MEDIA FROM THE INSIDE OUT: My focus is digital content -- production, distribution, collaboration, innovation, creativity. Some posts have appeared across the web (HuffPo, Tribeca's Future of Film, The Wrap, MIPblog, etc.). To receive these posts regularly via email, sign up for my newsletter here.

Entries in Henry Jenkins (3)


Week's Best Reads - Digital Media Biz, Transmedia & Higher Ed

This post looks at recent trends in three areas that I'm tracking, the overall digital media business, the impact of the internet on higher education, and storytelling forms (transmedia). Please share, and post your comments.


Readers of this blog will remember my post last year when Warner Bros bought Flixster in which I argued that the studios needed to use the data generated by audiences to create relationships that move beyond their historical "wholesale" business model. Instead, we learned, Flixster was turned into a storefront for the studios digital locker project, Ultra Violet, and clumsily at that. 

Now, finally, Flixster is launching "Social Movies Targeting," an initiative that crunches user activity on its sites to predict future trends and to improve targeting for advertisers, according to this interesting Media Post report.

As the web world and the finance world (hell, the entire world) focuses upon the pending Facebook IPO and the enormous wealth being created, it's interesting to understand why. One factor is the ecosystem of startup companies creating apps for the FB platform, as this thorough article by Mike Swift of the Mercury News articulates.

Gunther Sonnenfeld examines what it means to distribute and scale stories across multiple platforms in a series on his blog that you'll find very thought-provoking. I know I did, in part because he positions today's "transmedia" storytelling paradigm within the history of distribution and story formats. 

Legendary investor and entrepreneur Peter Thiel teaches at Stanford. I stumbled across this summary of his lecture (by Stanford Law student Blake Masters)  on "distribution" which is comprehensive and fascinating. This is dense, but may be worth the trouble if you want to understand the critical and changing role of distribution in the digital ecosystem. 

Speaking of distribution, its dominance in the digital universe helps Ben Elowitz make the case for the "Chief Audience Officer" in a world where "Content is No Longer King."

As ISPs start restricting Internet band witch, this post asks, "Is Web TV's Free Ride Over?" Not if the trend towards original web programming continues to gain traction.

The rise of made-for-broadband video content also means an upsurge in M&A activity, exemplified by the acquisition of Revision3 by mainstream cable broadcaster Discovery Communications. 

Two posts that look at crowd-funding trends from different perspectives: "Has Kickstarter become just a storefront?" in which the writer argues that the premiere crowd-funding site is star-struck. And "What does crowd funding mean for the VC business?" asks investor Fred Wilson, and then answers. 


Education is yet one more industry in the throes of revolutionary change as the web and entrepreneurial innovation upend many of the historical institutional verities. 

Last week Harvard and MIT announced edX, a platform for online courses, mostly lectures. This alone is nothing new, with similar initiatives dating all the way back to the first dot-com bubble days. (Here's some perspective in a smart post from

Could online learning, along with accelerator-style education and various web-based continuing education platforms spell the end of the MBA, a cash-cow for many universities? This is a well-reasoned case for just that.

While MIT, Harvard and other prestige universities are porting their lecture content to the web, Stanford is undertaking the real revolution in education, according to an interesting Tech Crunch post, by embracing the "flipped" classroom model pioneered by Khan Academy. 

This surge in web-distributed college courses will only become significant, argues this provocative post, when we "jailbreak" consumers from the full degree. Why can't accreditation occur at the course level?

In another online education move, Washington University's Law School will offer a master's degree entirely online, in partnership with a commercial company, reports the NY Times. 


Fourth Wall's interactive web series "Dirty Work" debuts with a lot of attention, and with a lot riding on it and the platform (pun not intended).

Transmedia is on the rise in television, or more specifically in ad-supported television, according to this post from ad agency JWT., the group that grew out of the NY Transmedia Meet-up, held a "story hack" a few weeks ago, stimulating a flurry of posts by the transmedia true believers (like this one from Queen Spade Creative). This Washington Post story does a nice job of contextualizing the event, and why it's ground-breaking.

Transmedia Storytelling Berlin interviews USC prof and transmedia theorist Henry Jenkins, who is now on a European tour. I would expect more as he makes his rounds.

"Prison Dancer" is a transmedia musical (and YouTube phenom) that launched back in 2007 with a video of prisoners jailed in the Phillipines dancing to Michael Jackson's Thriller. Now you can interact with a 12-part web series, as described in this extensive post from

"Steampunk Holmes" is a new multi-platform fiction project from a group in Minneapolis that looks like a lot of fun, and which just raised $43K on Kickstarter. HT to @randyfinch



My hiatus is over. What follows are four "catch-up" posts in which I attempt to review thought leadership on four topics I'm tracking right now (Start-up Culture; Crowdfunding; Storytelling and Transmedia; and Video/Distribution). PART 3 presents some interesting links about storytelling and transmedia.

It's kind of big news when a guy like 'Carnivàle' show runner Daniel Knauf announces that his next project will unfurl as a full-fledged transmedia property, according to PBS's Media Shift blog, which carries an interview with Knauf. I loved HBO's 'Carnivàle,' a truly warped and wonderful series set in a circus in the Depression.

Knauf's new project "Haunted' is live now. Go to Knauf's BXXweb portal for an intro video, and to register, which allows you to access all of the interactive features. "Haunted" a fictional story that follows paranormal investigators working inside an abandoned house tormented by supernatural events. The storytelling format features multimedia elements such as research documentation and investigators' blogs. Shot with multiple cameras, the project's navigational timeline allows viewers to manipulate how they view the story.

Mobile operator Orange has announced the fall release of a transmedia game/interactive fiction piece called "Alt-Minds", co-produced by Lexis Numerique. It's billed as a mystery centering around a series of kidnappings in Europe that unfolds via computer, smartphones, tablets and social networks.

In many ways, the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) is the apotheosis of the patronage model for content funding, even in its undernourished state (Compare its measly $146 million overall budget to Europe, Canada and Australia, where the federal and state governments invest vastly more in content). With NEA's budget down overall, and an increase in grants to fund digital forms of content production and distribution, traditional recipients like documentaries are feeling the squeeze, as reported by IndieWire.

NY Times profiles 'serious' games pioneer Jane McGonigal, diving into her recently released SuperBetter, which helps people face personal challenges. She came up with it after suffering a concussion. 

O'Reilly Radar interviews Verane Pick of Counter Intelligence Media (with text summary), who looks at transmedia publishing from an agile development perspective. 

Robert Pratten of Transmedia Storyteller posits seven "tenets" of future story worlds, presented at last week's EBU TV Summit in Copenhagen: Pervasive, Persistent, Participatory, Personalized, Connected, Inclusive, and Cloud-based. 

Cynthia Lieberman curates "34 Great Transmedia Storytelling Resources." Some links are basic definitional, others touching on education, gaming, and marketing. 

Finally, I was disappointed that I could not speak on Henry Jenkins' panel at Transmedia Hollywood 3, due to my surgery, but am happy to read April Arrglington's typically thorough coverage here.




• Part One: Shouting “Fire” in the Theatre 

“Isaac Newton didn't discover gravity, he just named it,” one TV writer-producer quipped during a recent conversation about “transmedia.”

And so it would seem, despite a testy flame war over the term transmedia –– or perhaps because of it –– the “transmedia” movement is catching on across the media business. 

“Transmedia” is shorthand for a grab bag of production and distribution practices and audience engagement techniques that have emerged over the past decade, and when taken together, promise a new kind of media experience.

Along the way, practitioners and pundits have applied many terms to describe this type of production –– interactive or participatory media, cross-platform or multi-platform storytelling, deep or immersive media, experience design, story franchises, sequels, packaging, integrated media, 360 production….the list goes on.

What’s new here is the idea that storytellers can create deeper experiences for their audiences when they unfold a story and its world via multiple venues, and when they invite consumers to participate meaningfully in that world –– especially when they do so from the outset of the project.

Whatever the nomenclature, the transmedia trend is gaining traction, fueled by some observable trends:

• Demand. Today’s audiences expect their media to be social, participatory and customized for every device they use, especially the much-coveted hard-core fans who are especially drawn to properties which let them go them deeper into a story or discover something first.

Creativity.  The formulaic is giving way to the innovative, as producers, including a new crop of digital natives, compete to engage fans in their stories over time and space with new approaches and on new devices.

Buzz. Transmedia is becoming the Next Big Thing in both Hollywood and on Madison Avenue with more press coverage, more blogs and websites, more panels at film festivals and commercial conferences and ultimately more pitch meetings.

• Money. Big names in film, television, and games are placing bets on talent with transmedia chops. New studios have been capitalized to produce made-for-multiplatform properties, and proven creative services firms in the space are prepping their own original projects. Marketing dollars now routinely extend anchor properties onto additional platforms.

From Interactivism to Transmedia

I’m excited about all of this activity because for more than 20 years, I have helped artists and companies develop new forms of storytelling across many platforms (movies, music, TV, PCs, CD-ROMs, game consoles, mobile phones, set-top boxes, the Web). The programs I created at the American Film Institute attracted true believers who were fervently trying to reinvent Hollywood in the wake of the digital revolution, a movement that I called “interactivism.”

Which is why I joined a transmedia panel at May’s Digital Hollywood. Whereupon, I immersed myself in the vigorous online fight over “transmedia” nomenclature, definition, and turf.

The hubbub dates to the April 2010 decision by the Producers Guild of America (PGA) to authorize a new credit – Transmedia Producer.”. This credit was drafted primarily by Jeff Gomez, CEO of New York-based transmedia consulting firm Starlight Runner.

Sides were quickly drawn between supporters and detractors of the PGA move. Advocates believed that the credit provided legitimization and would stimulate more multi-platform production. Opponents felt that PGA’s definition was too narrow, and left out many forms of cross-platform projects. Among the most vigorous opponents were producers of Alternate Reality Games or ARG’s.

“Why do we have to define it yet?” asks indie filmmaker Lance Weiler. “Why can’t we just continue to experiment?”  Because, says TV writer-producer Jesse Alexander (“Lost” and “Heroes”), “You have to give it a name so people can talk about it. Isaac Newton didn't discover gravity, he named it.”

Anger finally erupted at the 2011 SXSW interactive conference in March, and then spilled onto the public Internet where a flame war ensued. Take a stroll through some of the posts and comments to decide if the fight matters, or if it is/was a tempest in a teapot:

• A history of tweets on the topic by Londoner Rachel Clarke, using the new Storify tool.

• A play-by-play rundown of the fight from 4D fiction.

• A blog post by Steve Peters, veteran producer of alternate-reality games, in which he swears off the use of the word.

Another by Atlanta-based designer Brooke Thompson, railed against Hollywood “snake oil salesmen”.

• The #antitransmedia hashtag which Peters established on Twitter as a rallying point for critics.

• A Flickr image that features the word “anti” spray-painted over Wikipedia’s transmedia entry.

• An April Fast Company post entitled ‘Seven Myths About Transmedia Storytelling Debunked’  by USC Professor Henry Jenkins, who had pioneered the term back in the early ‘00s. Jenkins said, “Companies are laying claim to expertise in producing transmedia content. But many using the term don't really understand what they are saying.”

• A May Facebook post by GMD Studio’s Brian Clark, in which he parsed the competing tribes and contended that their real distinction was who had creative control. This conversation drew hundreds of comments and has been reposted by other bloggers in several countries.

Ironically, this online kerfuffle has only heightened Transmedia’s buzz, helped to spotlight the breadth of the movement and fed into a deepening appreciation within all segments of the entertainment community that transmedia is the Next Big Thing.

PART TWOMany Paths to Audience Participation for Transmedia Talent

To learn more about transmedia, check out my Delicious account and this slideshare presentation.