It is often said that success on the Web is essentially viral. But the spread of a viral buzz cannot be controlled. Transmedia should be based, on the contrary, on the controlled distribution of content.
If a viral involves fixed and finite content, spread solely by e-mail or by link, transmedia offers content that can be modified and distributed thanks to tools that facilitate their propagation.
In a transmedia programme, the contents are propagated thanks to technological tools and scriptwriting techniques that facilitate participation and collaboration, thereby giving viewers an immersive experience. By immersive experience we mean an intense experience that is more lasting than the effect of a buzz and impels the audience not only to share the content with others, but to take part in its elaboration. Transmedia forges a metaverse, a universe blending the virtual and the real, in which viewers immerse themselves, a participatory universe.
The collective intelligence thereby engendered is subject to certain rules. Viewer participation involves different roles and degrees of engagement.
We can distinguish between four main categories of viewer participation:
[content creators, context creators, passive interested, uninterested]
- Content creators are the most active viewers, though they constitute a minority: they take an active part in elaborating, modifying and spreading programmes. These are the hardcore fans of the metaverse.
- Context creators talk about the programmes, commenting, annotating, passing them on to friends and family: they form the core fan community.
- Passive but interested viewers follow programmes from a distance, watching them often, but more on VOD than “live” during scheduled TV broadcasts.
- The uninterested don’t follow the programmes, though some do know them, or know of them, and keep discreetly abreast of the buzz.
In the commercialization and marketing stage of a transmedia programme, there is no point in seeking to increase the number of active content creators. On the other hand, it is essential to provide the right tools and appropriate content for them to create and relay the programme to the largest possible audience.
It is the other groups we should try to enlarge: we should try to get the passive but interested audience to become context creators, and get the disinterested to keep track of the programmes and to take an – albeit passive – interest in them.
In this way the intensity and duration of a programme’s propagation will permit the largest possible audience to see and hear about the programme at some point or another.