I don't really want to write this post, because I don't really want to have to write this post. But SXSW apparently reared the ugly head of not-being-satisfied-with-the-term-'transmedia'. Again. I don't want to get into a whole thing with this. I thought we were past this. (I founded this blog with what I thought would be the last I'd say on the subject.) I just want to make a couple clarifying points, from my perspective.
Has "transmedia" been coopted to buzzword status? Yeah, sure. People who don't understand its core use it as a buzzword in marketing and such because people in marketing like buzzwords. Does that rob it of its usefulness as a descriptive term? No. The buzzword will fade. The innovative storytelling methodology will not.
If we define transmedia to include things other than single-stories-fragmented-across-platforms-like-the-Internet-a-la-ARGs, does it begin to apply to things that have been around longer than the last 10 years and thus isn't actually something new? Yes. ...So? Does it have to be something wholly new? Can't it just be an organizing term to describe and recognize cool ways to tell stories, such that we can have meaningful discussion about the practice? The new and innovative part is all the new tools we have via technology to do it -- that shouldn't exclude older models of the practice just because they're not new.
Does a franchise = transmedia? NO. This is a misconception. If you license your property out to make a TV show, a game, a toy line, this is not transmedia. These things can be part of a transmedia property, though, if guided by a single cohesive creative vision rather than being licensed out. Don't lump all franchises into what people are calling transmedia to detract from the term. They're different. Pokémon = franchise =/= transmedia. Tron = transmedia franchise.
And why shouldn't multiple stories over multiple media be considered transmedia? Sure, each might be on a single static medium (though more integrated pieces are often added to it to enhance it -- social media for instance). But in a way, that structure is just like an ARG, but on a larger scale. Rather than one story with A, B & C plots over multiple media, you have multiple stories all taking place in the same world -- all with some kind of relationship to each other by virtue of being in the same world -- over multiple media. They may intersect and enhance each other. It's the macro to an ARG's micro, but it uses the same principles.
Here's what it boils down to, for me: If I tell a story in an innovative way that's not restricted to a single static medium and isn't just an ARG, what do I call it? We need a name. That's all transmedia is.
Now can we stop being divisive within our own community and start working together with the same understanding to make awesome stuff?