How to Storify Transmedia
The company Storify was created on the principle of using various social media outlets as a way to advance a story. Users can create a story through interweaving social media elements and their own written commentary. These social media elements can include tweets, Facebook posts, images from Flickr or Instagram, YouTube videos, and website links. This is an excellent example of transmedia storytelling, or storytelling that crosses multiple formats or platforms. In some instances, transmedia storytelling can be as complicated as an alternate reality game (where the user can affect the outcome of the story), or as simple as connecting thoughts into a collated narrative. Storify is an example of the latter. This website allows users to make an immersive experience for readers, not only through text (like tweets or the user’s own commentary), but also through images and videos. A “reader” of a Storify story is given multiple access points to the narrative. They can read the story as the user has created it, or they can go even deeper into the narrative and follow the Twitter or Instagram or YouTube accounts for the pieces of the story the user has given them. This is why Storify is an example of transmedia storytelling – it can immerse the reader, but it can also allow them access to a deeper understanding of the narrative.
The examples of Storify described below allowed readers across the world to connect to others through the pieces of social media included in various Storify stories. The connection created between readers all over the world is another way that Storify allows for a deeper understanding of some narrative. The news channel CNBC used Storify to allow readers to connect to a story; the Canadian newspaper, The Globe and Mail, used Storify to record Internet users’ reactions to a story; and the Lizzie Bennet Diaries used Storify to immerse readers in their narrative.
On September 20, 2013, two new iPhones, the iPhone 5s and the iPhone 5c were released to stores. On the same day, Tim Cook, Apple’s CEO, joined Twitter. The news channel CNBC followed Cook throughout the day as he visited an Apple store in Palo Alto, CA, and sent out his first tweet via the Twitter for iPhone app. Instead of writing an article about the day’s events, however, they created a story using Storify. This included Cook’s initial tweets, Twitter pictures posted by CNBC correspondents, other Twitter users responding to Cook’s presence on Twitter, as well as commentary that completed the narrative. The narrative comments created by CNBC filled in details about what happened off of the Internet and illuminated facts that would have required readers further research. This commentary revealed that CNBC called Apple to confirm that the Tim Cook account was actually the Apple CEO, and had looked at whom Cook was following on Twitter. The commentary was accompanied by tweets about Cook’s account verification as well as tweets from users who analyzed Cook’s personality based on who he follows. The tweets combed for the story were all from reporters and correspondents of different media channels around the globe. Some work for newspapers and Internet news channels, but others are involved in social media and digital media businesses. CNBC’s broadcast of Tim Cook’s first day on Twitter not only used social media platforms to enhance a fairly mundane story, but it also allowed for interaction and connection between people throughout the world, one of the main concepts of social media itself.
The Pronunciation Book, a YouTube channel devoted to helping viewers pronounce English words, recently began a countdown. Many Internet users speculated that this countdown would initiate an alternate-reality game (which itself is a form of transmedia storytelling). However, at the end of the countdown, the channel was revealed to be tied to the – previously thought – Twitter spambot, horse_ebooks. Both were actually part of a performance art piece put on by an employee of the website BuzzFeed, Jacob Bakkila. Because of the immense popularity of both the YouTube channel and the Twitter account, the revelation that the two were connected and part of an elaborate ruse led to much discussion on the Internet. The Canadian newspaper, The Globe and Mail, reported on this story through the use of Storify. Included in the story were examples of tweets from horse_ebooks; articles discussing the identity of the Twitter account; YouTube videos from the Pronunciation Book; reactions from Twitter users; and a video of the next project for the team behind horse_ebooks, Bear Stearns Bravo. Much in the way that CNBC used Storify to discuss the events of a day, The Globe and Mail used Storify to report on the unraveling of the identity of the Pronunciation Book and horse_ebooks and how people reacted to this surprising news. However, while CNBC used Twitter accounts of reporters, The Globe and Mail used the Twitter accounts mainly of average people. Their use of Storify allowed readers to connect with others from around the world who felt the same way they did about the news. Instead of focusing on the factual information surrounding the project, The Globe and Mail focused on the emotional impact of the story and how those people who were invested in either account reacted to the news. Once again, this reflects how Storify allows users and readers to use social media in the way that it was intended. In this instance, Storify allowed for an emotional connection between Internet users.
The Lizzie Bennet Diaries was transmedia campaign based on Jane Austen’s novel, Pride & Prejudice that began with YouTube video diary blogs of Lizzie Bennet, a graduate student. Each of the characters seen in the videos had a Twitter account and produced tweets that enhanced the story. Because Lizzie Bennet was the narrator of the videos, her opinion was usually the only one represented. Through the tweets of the other characters, viewers were allowed access to conversations and opinions that were not shown through Lizzie’s narration. On the main website for the Lizzie Bennet Diaries, Storify was used in order to organize the conversations between characters on Twitter. At the same time, the Storify stories also included tweets from people who were watching the show. They interacted with the characters, and it was recorded into the story. This allowed viewers to follow different aspects of the story and to become even more immersed in the narrative, one of the mainstays of transmedia storytelling.
Through Storify, users have the tools for transmedia storytelling at their fingertips. The examples listed above amplify the importance of transmedia storytelling and social media in connecting people across the globe.