Media has been a powerful tool in terms of influencing the audience across all geographies and cultures and as the horizon and the reach of media increases, so does it medium. However, with the increase in media and medium opportunity, there has been a risk of information fragmentation across media which might harm the ultimate objective of the company or the author as the target audience may not receive the intended message from it. Hence, there has been a growing need for increased integration within the forms of media distribution and specifically loop in the audience in a way which keeps them addicted to the original narrative, and hence it gave birth to the term transmedia. In the age of media convergence, Trans-Media as a process of distribution of a common storyline through different elements across different multiple media platforms is prevalent. Justifying the contribution of Trans-media towards innovating the literature, Pietschmann, Völkel, and Ohler, (2014) has stated 'Trans-media storytelling involves unfolding narratives across multiple media platforms, with each text making a distinctive and valuable contribution to the whole. Trans-media initiated in late 1970’s when the use of technologies was newly introduced in storytelling. Until the 1990s, the wave of the internet made it possible for people to invent new ways of telling similar stories with different semantic and interpretation (Hayati, 2012). Another explanation regarding Trans-media growing popularity in recent decade is provided by Graves and Falicov, (2011), where Trans-Media are mentioned as encouraging interactive, participatory and communicative engagement of users at multi-platforms.
The methodology is a description of ideology, methods, and procedures applied in the course of research (Saunders, Lewis and Thornhill, 2009). With the aim of exploring users’ consumption of Trans-media across multiple story modes, the current section is framed to provide a brief outline of research involved in fulfilling the aim. Starting with developing the theoretical development and justification of process involved, the positivism research philosophy has been undertaken with a view to generalizing the user’s experience of commercial Trans-media text. The present research was a type of qualitative study where an inductive approach for identifying the patterns of usage of Trans-media text has been performed. The research questions postulated for the study includes investigation the patterns of use of commercial Trans-media text and Identification of ways of media engagement in commercial Trans-media text. The research questions have been answered through the appropriation of qualitative data. The data collection procedure involved in the present study includes documentary analysis and in-depth interviews.
Documentary Analysis has been used in this study to collect documentary evidence regarding the growing Trans-media popularity among users. The documents reviewed in the present case includes peer-reviewed journals, articles, books and relevant web pages. The documentary analysis has analyzed the growing consumption of Trans-media by undertaking the case of popular series of Game of Thrones as a franchise example. Further, the documents have been used to do follow a trend of analysis of how transmedia has grown and influenced various franchises across the world by gaining an immense fan following and market share. There is also documentary evidence on the basis of which it can determine as to how the consumers engage in the commercial transmedia messages by the companies. Another important factor for which the documents have been analyzed is to determine a pattern of usage by the audience as well as the authors in terms of mediums of transmedia.
The in-depth interviews have been used in the present study as a primary data collection method. The in-depth interviews have been conducted consisting of 12 pre-established questions regarding the engagement of users with Trans-media text. While the first two questions were for the introduction of respondents, the remaining 10 were framed to extract’s user’s consumption of Trans-media text, their willingness to read stories at the different platform and the influence of multiple Trans-Media platform on respondents. The In-depth interviews assisted in present research in several ways. First, it helped in extracting the respondent’s own views and knowledge regarding growing Trans-media text. Secondly, it helped in assessing its overall impact on respondents as viewers. Thirdly, it has provided a picture of Trans-media text evolving as having a commercial role in Media section.
Transmedia has been growing its branches in fields ranging from entertainment to education, wrapping the audience as well as the fanfare on its way. However, the concept of transmedia may seem fragmented from a bird’s eye, slowly and systematically, it has been integrating with the mainstream media, commercialized campaigns and various branding practices. The evolution of transmedia has given birth to various nodes of communications through which the author of the content can communicate with the audience, can make the audience communicate with the fans, and make the story communicate itself with other storylines on different storylines. This poses one of the biggest challenges for the transmedia designers as engagement of the audience is very necessary and should be accommodated on every extended platform of the narrative. A narrative can be considered as the root of the tree through which every medium is feeding off from, hence, to build up a whole environment around a single narrative, there needs to be a strategically aligned mediums at its disposal. Beddows (2012) has defined the space between the target audience or the subjects and the objects which are reflected in the transmedia storytelling are networked, hence are interactive. To define a pattern of such interactions is a complex task and hence cannot be represented in a simple linear form, but it has been proven that the networked space between the author and the story mode is the most critical spatial momentum for the desired outcome of the narrative. Espen (1997) have given a simplified the interaction into a linear and multi-nodal model to show the flow of communication from the author to the audience (figure 1) and answer the pressing question of how are the patterns of use of commercial text in the transmedia environment.
Figure 1 Simple Linear and Multi Linear Transmedia Story Transmission, Source: (Espen, 1997)
An analysis of the above model will give a clearer picture as to the transmedia helps in developing a storyline through multiple entries and exits points and even help in developing a pattern for its usage in the commercial space. The components of the above model can be modified according to the narrative and the execution of its story in the commercial space. Taking Game of Thrones as an example, the model can be modified into both the linear and multilinear model to identify the patterns of transmedia approaches. The first entry point is the book called ‘The song of Ice and Fire’ and then came the adaption of that narrative in the form of the TV show called the game of thrones, which capitalised on the potential viewers in the market which had to hear the buzz about the book but reading it altogether was a tedious task for many. Further extension of the narrative came in the form of graphic novels. The aura behind the fan frenzy was carried forward by the social media on different platforms based on different catchphrases that the audience like during each episode. The transmedia experience continues in the form of board games, tabletop wargames, video games, social media games, and collectible wargames. Implying the linear transmedia model to such a vast expanse would mean that the target audience would have entered this environment as an avid reader, stayed a long time under the textual media of the books and made an exit as a fan who has watched every episode twice, has been an avid follower of the social media campaigns, and probably even owns a couple of merchandise of the same narrative and in the end, has his/her own theories and extended storylines to the original narratives. This can even be termed as fandom which will be discussed in the later stages of the essay. Whereas the multilinear model will include an entry and exit of the audience at every step of the transition. With the increase in the fan following of the show, it can be interpreted that the mere audience of the franchise is slowly turning into a fan audience and hence being retained by the original narrative due to the power of transmedia. Figure 2 illustrates the growth of premier ratings of the TV show over the years and it points towards a more dedicated audience rather than just the one time viewers. Bolin (2007) has emphasised on the fact that digitisation has been a crucial phenomenon is re-engineering of the media landscape, affecting areas like production, distribution and the way the audience receives the information from the authors. This gives rise to the complexity that even the multilinear model cannot simplify as there are multiple entry and exit points for a user using various social media platforms and technological resources.
Figure 2 Game of Thrones Premiere Ratings Over the Years, Source: (Business Insider, 2017)
Taking the above example alone, and implying it on the multilinear model of transmedia, the audience now has a wider reach to access the online books of the author, the TV show can be watched on many mediums beside that of the television and lastly, social media helps in transfer of information at a lightning fast speed so as to keep the audience hooked to every little evolution in the narrative. Examples of it can be seen on Twitter campaigns as the micro-blogging website helps in disseminating small pieces of information and make them ‘viral’ in a couple of hours only. This has various implication on the usage patterns of the audience. Firstly, the focus on traditional mediums has been declining and the distribution mediums have become more mobile, such as Netflix and Hotstar which offer content on the go on the people’s handheld devices. Secondly, the audience themselves is not limiting themselves to one narrative alone as various media franchise are expanding their own horizons by creating spinoffs of the original series. Various examples of it can be seen in the form of Westeros (extended version of The Song of Ice and Fire), Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find them (a side narrative to the Harry Potter franchise), Hobbit (A backdrop of the original story of Lord of The Rings) etc. In such a pattern, it is difficult to determine a single entry and exit point of an audience as the speed at which the transition takes place is very fast.
Commercial transmedia texts offer a wide variety of mediums for both the authors as well as the audience to diversify their communication practices. Authors, in such a context, is defined by any company who is interested in engaging their audience through a strong emphasis and organization of their content, which in turn creates an economy of scope for the company and further economic benefits (Davis, 2013). However, the ways through which users engage in in commercial transmedia content is altogether a different conundrum for a company. To understand this phenomenon Cliff (2017) has pointed the term of convergence to establish ways through which the consumption of content takes place from the audience’s end using the multiple media modes. Convergence is the flow of content through various media platforms, having an integrated approach and focusing on the original narrative of the content alone. The major purpose of convergence is to fulfill the entertainment and knowledge need of the consumers and it has been seen that the audience would go to any length to acquire the experience that they want. A converging phenomenon takes place within the same franchise, the same applications, and within the same company. Taking the previous example again, it can note that Game of Thrones as a TV show has been produced by HBO and hence, further promotional campaigns and merchandising have been under their banner only, giving rise to a unified narrative, but a more expansive experience audience. This sheds light on the fact that the audience tends to stick to one narrative that they adore but like to experience it on different levels as well. More examples of it can be seen in the Marvel and DC franchise which started as a comic series, evolved into cartoon feature films and now are becoming blockbuster hits in the film industry. One of the most prominent examples of it is the Batman franchise which has a narrative lasting for almost seventy years and yet, every evolution of it in the media world gets an equally enthusiastic attention and appreciation.
However, to reach that level of convergence, there are various factors that come into play, which takes the audience in the loop of a media frenzy. Jenkins (2009) have given criteria like spreadability of a fiction content which determines as to how much the audience is ready to share that content. The second factor is the continuity of the franchise which determines the lifeline of it, helping in determine whether the franchise needs to continue with the original narrative or has to be multiplied further into extended storylines. The third factor is the immersive experience that has to be provided to the consumer to inflate the popularity of the franchise, one of the examples that can be seen here are the theme parks based on a different franchise such as Harry Potter. The fourth factor revolves the fact that the authors and content creators are free to deviate from the core narrative if they feel appropriate, hence this gives a wider grip to the authors to play with the narrative, both in the real world and in the fictitious environment as well. All the above-said factors have various implications on the consumer behavior of transmedia. A more spreadable narrative will even provide a more immersive experience to the audience and a more immerse experience will lead to a greedy audience and hence increasing the lifeline of the franchise.
A more detailed determinant of the consumer engagement can be bifurcated in the form of a nominal media consumer and that of a ‘fan’ following of a franchise. Jenkins (2006) has described fans as the individuals who are deeply involved and invested in the entertainment loop of a narrative or a franchise and do not view it from a lemans perspective alone. Fans tend to develop a lifestyle around a narrative which gives them a more immersive experience themselves as they invest their time to gain a social recognition for their dedication. Transmedia works in a very different way on such fans as compared with that on the nominal audience or viewer of the narrative. Fans even tend to follow the liner transmedia model mentioned above as they tend to experience every phase of the franchise spread across every media platform. This even gives economic benefit to the company as the fans account for high brand loyalty as well. This is because fans tend to create a deep emotional bond with the company’s brand, the franchise as well as the products related to it The in-depth interviews also leads to the same results as the knowledge and the awareness levels of fans are higher than that of any mediocre viewer of the brand or franchise. Fans are also highly aware of the intrinsic developments in their franchise, ranging from rumors to celebrity based news, with active participation in the chat forums and social media campaigns. Hence the consumer approach to transmedia commercial text also differs as to which viewer group they fall in, as Berg (2017) reported Game of Thrones has increased its fan base to 16.5 million across all social media platforms combined, and a 10% increased viewership of 8.9 million people for the latest season. All of this in times where only one out of five shows get increased viewership ratings. This depicts the effect of transmedia across cultural as well as geographical boundaries.
Imagining a world without the superheroes becoming the part and parcel of our lives is difficult to imagine, and all this has been possible only because of the advent of transmedia. It has been seen in the above essay that transmedia is not a recent concept but has been around since quite some time where the madmen of advertising gave their best efforts to fill the lives of their audience with franchises. It has been seen in the above essay that transmedia has become a very crucial part of the lives of the audience as well as the authors. The text above starts with the definition of transmedia defining it as the interconnectivity of the narratives across different media sources. Further, the research methodology for the same has been determined which states that two methods have primarily been used for the research, that is the documentary analysis and the in-depth interview methods, with more stress on the former one. The longest section of this essay, that is the discussion focuses on addressing the research questions of pattern usage and consumption behavior of the information disseminated by the transmedia. Two models of transmedia communication have been analyzed, that in the liner and the multilinear model of story-telling and how they are either being obsolete or cannot be accurately determined by the growing technological evolutions for the consumers. The second research question has been answered from the point of view of convergence and how the consumers tend to stay loyal to the original narrative while experiencing it on different platforms and media sources. The second discrimination has been made on the basis of types of consumers, that is the fans and the nominal viewers and it has been concluded that the information consumption patterns of the fans is extremely different from that of any other nominal viewer or reader of the franchise.
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