NYU journalism professor Adam L. Penenberg has written a Nov. 7th, 2011 post for Fast Company about the pioneering work being done by author Michael Grant and his business partner, film producer Alex LeMay. Together these authors are crafting transmedia content for a new novel, BZRK, that is extending the traditional notion of a book.

The result of the collaboration between Grant and LeMay is an interactive transmedia prequel to BZRK. As I've already written about on this blog, six months before that traditional book's February 2012 publication date, the creators launched an alternate reality game (ARG). That game, supported by a reported $1.5 million marketing campaign, unfolds across multiple websites and social media channels. In addition to that online role-playing game (that ended in October 2011), there are web comics, character blogs, social media, and apps for both Android and iOS devices - according to Adam Penenberg "a pastiche of material that can be ingested as a whole or in parts."

Before he began building out this new platform for storytelling, Michael Grant had earned a pile of money (along with his wife he had written books that have sold more than 35 million copies, mostly to teenagers) and one key insight - the business model for traditional books was collapsing in the face of new technologies that were making traditional publishers less relevant and the ways of experiencing stories more varied and participatory. In particular, Michael Grant became convinced that young people wanted to experience their stories in new ways. I have not seen real data to support the assertion (common in transmedia circles) that the audience wants to experience all stories across multiple platforms. However, as Prof. Henry Jenkins of USC has observed: "the technological infrastructure is ready, the economic prospects sweet, and the audience primed" even if "the media industries haven't done a very good job of collaborating to produce compelling transmedia experiences" yet. The big media companies will almost certainly improve their ability to tell (sell?) their stories across platforms. As Michael Grant says, the audience is coming to expect choices - even if they won't partake of all of them: “The whole idea is to let people design their own experience. They want to play the [alternate reality game], don't want to get the app? Cool. Want to get the app, but don't want to play the ARG? We're fine with that, too. Just want to read the book? Any combination of the things that we lay out there, we're happy, [although] we'd like every single person to enjoy the entire breadth of the experience.”


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Randy Finch's Film Blog:

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