Interview w/ Ben Yennie About the Future of Transmedia

I’ve been thinking a lot about the word “Transmedia” and what that’s going to mean for the future of media creation and marketing for the foreseeable future. So, when my friend and colleague, Ben Yennie, came to “camp” and do work with me at The Crepe House III in San Francisco, I turned on my phone’s voice recorder and asked him a few questions. What follows is a transcription of our conversation, where we discuss predicting the future of transmedia, the development of VR and AR, and more!

Enjoy. 🙂

Evan Pleger

Follow me, @IndieEvan, on Twitter for more content on digital, emergent, and transformative media.

Evan: Where do you see Transmedia and/or Transmedia storytelling going in the next five to ten years?

Ben: I think we’re going to see a lot more utilization of Transmedia marketing and monetization. I think all mainstream TV and movies will have some transmedia elements in them and very high social media presences. The more successful ones will actually have content that’s exclusively available on separate platforms and devices. Marvel’s actually done a really good job of this, you can’t get the whole story just by going to the movies. You have to watch their myriad of TV shows, and I think they’re even starting some more web-based content now, too.

E: They also have short films released in the extras of the DVDs for the movies that come out.

B: See, I didn’t even know that.

E: So there are, like, eight short films that you haven’t even seen that also add to the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

B: And I was having trouble keeping up with just the movies, god… damn. Anyway, the success that Marvel’s having from this explosion in transmedia content is probably going to be emulated- sometimes successfully, sometimes not-so-successfully- by major studios. Sometimes it’ll be clear that it’s just a marketing grab and sometimes it’ll be actual, good content, like Marvel seems to be doing.

E: I see this happening now. Will this still be the case in 5 years?

B: I think it’s going to become even more of the case. We’re moving further and further away from traditional movie screens more into what are referred to as “second screens” which are tablets, mobile devices, and even computers [being used in conjunction with the main form of content]. I wouldn’t be surprised if Netflix releases an app that integrates with your Netflix account, but isn’t about watching Netflix, it’s about communicating with others who are watching the same thing you are watching, especially on early releases or HBO could do the same thing for, like, Game of Thrones premiere nights, things like that. Essentially the same thing is already happening on Twitter, but it’ll be interesting to see where it goes.

E: So, this second screen environment that you’re talking about… is that five years down the line or closer to ten years down the line?

B: That’s right now. It’s already happening. The second screen environment is only going to grow over the next two to three years. It’ll be a lot more prevalent in two to three years, in five to ten, it’ll be ubiquitous- the same way smartphones are.

E: What technologies do you think we’re seeing now that will persist for the next five or ten years?

B: Honestly, I think the biggest thing that we’re going to see emerging- more in ten, than in five- is virtual reality. It’s already starting to emerge; it’s in its infancy. We’re in the “Pong” days of virtual reality right now. It’s changing rapidly, though. There was just an announcement earlier this week that, I think it’s in the UK, they’re opening a virtual reality theme park that will be the first of its kind. There’s no announcement as to when, exactly, it will open, but the idea is… having real, immersive, interactive, live, virtual reality environments, kind of like an arcade, where you can join a team of four and go fight a dragon with virtual swords. I mean, I would pay to go there. I would pay lots of money to go there and I think that’s going to be how it starts. These virtual reality setups are too expensive and too impractical for [individual/private use], but putting it into a theme park environment works really well.

E: I feel that, maybe, augmented reality would become more prevalent? Because that way, you’re only producing some elements for a live video of the existing environment instead of creating a completely unique one. Do you think augmented reality will be the “layman’s virtual reality”?

B: I don’t think gaming or entertainment is going to be all that well served by augmented reality. I think it will be very useful for informational uses and extremely useful for people like contractors and biologists and I don’t think augmented reality is going to be “consumer” for a while.

E: Or narrative?

B: Or narrative. I don’t think AR will ever be narrative. I don’t think it’s going to be consumer-facing for quite a while, that’s why Google backed off of Glass.

… to be continued in part 2 where we talk about the impermanence of Snapchat, the potential for crowdfunding, and the nature of transmedia storytelling!