The New ‘360 degree’ Storytelling Creation to Distribution


Everyone knows their TV and Internet are on a crash course with each other and when these worlds collide, the way we experience entertainment will never be the same. It won’t be too much longer before we’ll all be checking our Facebook, and other time sucking web accounts, for photos and video messages from our friends, while simultaneously watching our favorite TV shows and VOD movies. These viewing experiences will also continue on our mobile devices, out of home networks and into live events.

We increasingly demand a 360 storytelling experience that breathes life into these new, integrated platforms by allowing us the opportunity to participate in our favorite TV shows, online games and other digital content. While technology will continue to be a key component of this new entertainment experience, applications are useless without the spine and structure of a great story, characters and a relevant and entertaining message.

The 360 storytelling sphere of possibilities is merely shallow hush unless each and every digital venue delivers platform specific, customized content that tells a story that reaches, entertains and retains audience loyalty. Future success depends upon STORY STRUCTURE, KNOWING YOUR AUDIENCE and STRATEGIC DISTRIBUTION.


We can agree there is already a morass of content that is difficult to manage. Tomorrow will be even more of a challenge as more content, and on more platforms, comes into the fold. Whether we’re talking about brand ideas or entertainment properties, it’s crucial to structure stories that cater to audiences wherever they choose to experience your story.

This is especially true if we consider that, in the 360 story environment, the point where the viewer enters and exits your story is constantly in flux and is left entirely in the viewers’ control. However, if you structure an engaging story with the 360 environment in mind, you can provide a more entertaining experience that (1) stands out in the growing sea of content and (2) creates deeper levels of engagement. Before you begin to think about the technological applications and distribution options, here are a few key questions to ask yourself:

  1. What is my story?
  2. Who is my audience?
  3. Why will my audience care?
  4. How can I build emotional connections between my characters and my audience?

Knowing your story is only half the battle. Knowing your audience and the ways they want to receive your story is of equal importance.



Your audience has always been in control of your messaging, but now they are equipped with the digital tools to demand everything be completely on their terms.  Understanding your audience, the way they speak, the terms they use and places they like to interact with each other is as important as a solid story structure.  Two key factors to remember about audience in the 360 story environment: (1) Every audience is different and (2) Audiences will continue to fragment across multiple platforms.  Here are three main types of audience today:

1. Passive, lean back audience

2. Engaged, audience

3. Active, lean forward audience

The traditional TV viewer is considered part of the passive “lean back” audience, as they enjoy a great idea or story, but don’t feel compelled to participate past the emotional involvement of the story.  The engaged audience will be watching and following along on a related website or checking Twitter and Facebook for related conversations.  The active “lean forward” audience (think LOST) is hungry for the opportunity to co-create your story.  They are participating with other fans, uploading content and providing your story with additional distribution.  In the 360 story environment it’s about audience loyalty. If you don’t supply your rabid fans with interactive tools like widgets, websites, mobile applications, and games, they will look elsewhere.  One of the great opportunities, with respect to the lean forward audience, is the ability to test different 360 storytelling elements to see what resonates with the fans.


Transmedia Storytelling Explained

The story of traditional branding and marketing, set against the backdrop of this nerve racking, yet exciting paradigm shift, makes yet another exciting plot twist. “360 storytelling”, “Multi-platform storytelling”, or Transmedia storytelling, as it was coined many years ago by the great MIT/USC professor Henry Jenkins, is moving away from the fringe and into the limelight. While the nomenclature continues to evolve, the idea remains consistent: Great Story + Strategic Distribution = Loyal Participants.

Some of us have been reared on this type of storytelling, while others are realizing its power through sheer necessity. Right now there is more content being produced and distributed every single minute, from every part of the globe, and across multiple platforms, than at any time in history.  How does a brand or entertainment property reach out and retain peoples’ attention and create loyalty?

In traditional branding, (1) determining the customers’ journey and (2) identifying the number of touch points where your brand will intersect with peoples’ lives, were important first steps in successfully managing a brand’s message. We’ve moved beyond the need for a great idea and unrelenting brand messaging and into a new era where:

  • a compelling story is the only way to guide customers through this new crowded landscape and
  • a strategic and relevant distribution strategy is the only way to encourage engagement and ultimately create loyal participants.

When people watch their favorite TV shows, it’s very common for them to be engaged with another activity – they’re online or using their mobile phone to supplement their involvement with the story. This is yet another reason why it’s so crucial to have a strong narrative that holds on all organic platforms. There are simply too many entry and exit points for the audience these days to approach things any other way. Rest assured, this type of storytelling is here to stay. Coupled with emerging social media and mobile technologies, Transmedia storytelling techniques will become the spine of every successful branding campaign in the very near future.

Transmedia Storytelling Is Gaining Popularity

The born digital generation is accelerating the popularity of this storytelling trend in marketing because this demographic expects their branding and entertainment to be completely:

(1) on demand

(2) on their terms

(3) authentic

Transmedia has been popular in filmmaking and TV for awhile and it is quickly gaining popularity in other forms of branding and media. “The Lord of the Rings” franchise and MTV’s “Valemont”, are prime examples of large scale Transmedia projects. For example, the “Valemont” fan can watch the show and, to get their complete “Valemont” fix, can use their mobile phones or log onto the website for extra pieces of story and content. This evolution in storytelling creates the need to carry a narrative across multiple platforms and technologies, and sets the stage for an engaged group of people to interact, share clues and ultimately become communities of loyal participants.

If your story lives with them, they live your story. Later this week we’ll take a deeper look behind the technology that is bringing this new paradigm to life and make some predictions about the future of Transmedia storytelling in marketing and entertainment.


Distribution takes on many new and exciting forms in the world of 360 storytelling and needs to be strategically mapped, based on the specific needs of your story.  The bad news is, audiences will continue to fragment across an increasing number of platforms.  The good news is, the audience may be one of the best forms of distribution for your story through social networking and video sharing.  This factor becomes even more interesting, considering that 1/3 of all online videos get shared.

Traditional platforms like TV won’t disappear or lose out to online and mobile, but we’ll get to a point very soon when all these platforms hold an equal footing.  The distribution efforts of loyal fans and participants will become even more apparent in this transition.  Distribution channels in the 360 story environment may include:


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