Engaging kids to read books ( the paper kind ), is proving to be an adventure for many traditional publishers. In response to tectonic shifts in the way kid’s engage with media, publishers at large are in search of the engagement Holy Grail to compel kids to read ( and buy ) more books.
Transmedia: The Secret Ingredient?
Exploring transmedia approaches may open doors to new ways to engage kids whose lives revolve around online communities, games and social networks. Publishing being a big, serious business, there’s a lot of brain-trust activity working overtime to crack the media consumption code for kids. In the push, there’s some interesting insights surfacing that most anyone interested in transmedia as a storytelling medium might find useful. Here are a few–
Jeff Norton of Awesome Media & Entertainment says publishers would be wise to “think not about platforms, but audiences”. A good story should be be immersive and engaging, regardless of the delivery method. Nowadays, it appears multiple means of getting into the story, via multiple entrance portals, is expected. Peter Robinson of Dubit Research, a cross-media research company, feels “… kids expect a presence for a story across platforms. There are so many ways that kids can consume a story.” Robinson adds this bit, too; “Today’s kids are platform agnostic and don’t care where their favourite stories and characters come from. It used to be the case that books or TV shows launched characters and toys, but now online entertainment is proving just as important.”
Of course, publishers want to get great stories in to the hands ( and heads ) of children to turn them on to the joy of reading a good story. Like me, some kids have trouble seeing the story hidden between book covers– and will lean toward a decidedly non-linear approach to engagement over platforms, versus cracking the cover to see what’s inside. Sometimes, reading just isn’t what I’m looking for, especially if the read looks like it won’t be as interesting as doing some digital spelunking online and elsewhere. As for finding fans of digital immersion tech for publishing, we needn’t flip too many stones; Andrew Piller of FMX Fremantle , amongst others, is sure things are on the right track. For him, stories told via digital platforms is the “creative model which is the future of storytelling”.
Cracking Covers and Codes
Author Patrick Carman, creator of 3:15 and several series for teen readers incorporates transmedia elements to his stories to encourage teens to get fired up about reading. In a recent interview with Dennis Abrams for publishingperspective.com, Carman shared some of his approaches to storytelling with Dark Eden, a book published both as a book and an iPad app.
Carman spills on his approaches: “Dark Eden is designed to reach different kinds of readers. For traditional readers who prefer to read words, the book will give them exactly what they’re expecting ( plus some amazing drawings from artist Patrick Arrasmith, who we were very lucky to have on the project ). But I’m also interested in finding new ways of reaching very wired teens. And let’s be honest. Most of today’s teens are jacked in, wired up, and buzzing on tech throughout a normal day. The Dark Eden app tells the exact same story as the print edition; it just does it in a totally different way. With the app version, a participant enters into the story through a series of maps. Within those images are numbered icons that must be opened in order. There’s no way of knowing what’s behind the curtain of each number until they’re tapped, but every icon unlocks one of three things:
- An audio diary. With these, participants listen in on conversations taking place in the world of the story.
- A video, allowing participants to see firsthand what’s happening to certain key moments of the narrative.
- A journal entry. Taken directly from the book, the journal entries provide bite-sized reading segments.”