Cross Media Methodologies

Cross Media Methodologies

Adventures in Storytelling pt. 7 – Cross Media Methodologies

By Brian Seth Hurst

“Welcome back.” A phrase that has been used in television since it began. But these days it has a whole new meaning when it relates to a persistent active and dynamic community built around a television property. When the show is not on the air, its life and the life of its fans can continue across a number of distribution platforms.

Previous posts presented examples of cross media production includingNBC’s Heroes 360 Experience, The Jericho Experience, ABC Family’s Primetime Emmy® winning Fallen Alternate Reality Game, and Showtime’s The L World. These examples are really just the beginning of a growing trend that may actually provide new programming genres: part drama, part interactive mystery, part game, part social network. And, though these examples are anchored in television, new and compelling storytelling can begin on any platform — Comedy Central’s Lil’ Bush was born on mobile and there are many examples of original programming born or reborn as both linear and cross media programming on broadband including Prom Queen, Kate Modern and Quarterlife.

Mapping out and producing cross media programming is a challenge. And, just as television production companies specialize in producing television, there are new cross media production companies teaming with television and film producers that are the experts in the planning and production of cross platform storytelling. It is challenging, but as production processes in film and television have become standardized over time, so too will cross media methodologies.

In most cases now, it is a chaotic world of experimentation – like the early days of any medium – but speaking for cross media producers I can say that we are rapidly and of necessity quickly finding our way. We are responsible for defining not only what is possible on each platform but what story or content will live on those platforms while remaining true to the creator’s and producer’s vision and the audience. After all, the audience has to have an authentic and engaging experience regardless of platform. If it’s too complicated, or not complex enough, not true to the story, not organic, or they feel manipulated we will lose them. We have to be more audience-centric than your traditional television producer. We really need to know who they are and how they behave with technology and each other. We are profilers of a sort, mapping and predicting their behavior with content, technology and each other. Finally we are responsible for selecting the right technologies, partners and best of breed vendors to execute the vision. And like any production we must remain on time and on budget.

When dealing with a specific show we begin the process with a strategy. Traditional producers might call it preproduction, but to Cross Media producers it’s that and more. It’s blueprinting. It is an audience experience “flowchart” of how fans will move through and interact with the story. We found it necessary to create a workflow methodology that maximizes efficiency, facilitates integration, communication and quality assurance… but leaves plenty of room for creativity and the “secret sauce” that makes it delicious to the audience. And so our planning stage — whether we are coming in before a show has even been produced or coming in after the fact — has to have a process.

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Brian Seth Hurst is CEO of the Opportunity Management Company, Inc. a cross media strategy and production company. Hurst served two terms as Chairman of the Producers Guild of America New Media Council (’03-’05) while simultaneously serving on the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences Board of Governors. Currently, he is Second Vice Chair of the Television Academy and sits on the National Board of the PGA.