Cricket and Transmedia Storytelling

cricket. Since the 2005 Ashes, it has moved from being in danger of becoming a relic of a forgotten era, to a hot topic of conversation, beloved of pop stars (like Lily Allen and The Duckworth Lewis Method) and celebrities and TV presenters… ….and most importantly, lots of ordinary people like you and I. Is it because England, finally, have started winning?  Well, that helps certainly. But I think there’s something more powerful at its heart; the shift in how the world communicates. Transmedia Storytelling Over the weekend I was attuned to the second one day match (oh, Australia, you can have the one day series, it’s like winning a battle after the war has been won). I was listening on TMS, checking the scorecard on the ECB app for the iPhone, having a sneaky glance at the Guardian’s OBO coverage, and also following a few of the cricket commentators on Twitter… It occurred that perhaps the revival of cricket is down to it being the perfect sport for Transmedia Storytelling. Transwhatia Whodeia?   OK, a quick explanation… Transmedia Storytelling is something that I first encountered via Faris (as most folk in the agency arena did), and then through Prof Henry Jenkins‘ book Convergence Culture. What is it? Transmedia Storytelling is about using lots of different media to tell separate parts of the same story, as opposed to retelling the same story in lots of different places. An oft-used example, first suggested by Jenkins, was The Matrix Trilogy; you could just watch the films, but would get more points of view, background etc from comics, computer games, animations etc etc. Read Henry Jenkins’ Transmedia 101 for a much fuller, better description… Transmedia Storytelling & Cricket So we can see from the way I followed the cricket this weekend how the Transmedia theory is clearly at play in cricket. In addition to the places I was attuned to this weekend, there’s the Sky coverage, Five’s highlights show, newspaper commentary and analysis, Cricinfo, various cricket forums etc etc. But why does it work so well for cricket?  I think it’s down to four things which are a fundamental part of the game itself… 1. Duration Cricket takes a long time.  Even the ‘short’ version  like the 50-over game I listened to yesterday takes the best part of a whole day to play. So in an era where ‘appointment to view’ is dying out, people perhaps don’t necessarily want a sport that they have to sit down at a precise time and watch for 90 minutes. A sport where you can duck in and out at any point during five days is very suitable indeed for the way we live our lives and communicate nowadays. 2. Access points You can’t sit and watch five days of cricket on the TV.  It’s just too long for people with jobs, families etc.  So you need a variety of different points of access to suit what you’re doing at the time… Get the score from a mobile phone, some opinion from the Guardian’s OBO, tune into TMS (Test Match Special) on the radio if you’re at work.  Meet a friend in a pub to watch a couple of hours play, talk to other fans on forums about the form of players, or just talk to your friends where you talk to them already (email, facebook, text message etc) You can use any of these different access points whilst the game is still in progress, which makes the game, and your ‘participation’ in it, much more engaging than it was before. 3. A love of information The ease with which data has become measurable and malleable is changing a lot of things in the world (how we listen to music, buy books, see our travel patterns etc).  We know that humans really seem to like looking at data visualisations that augment our experiences. Cricket was always a game of stats and numbers, of course, but now technology is being brought to bear in lots of interesting ways, in everything from the coverage itself (Hawkeye, wagon wheels etc)to the ease of access that everyone in the audience has to the statistics only once available in Wisden. Detailed information in this new exciting, highly visual form helps give the ‘story’ that’s being told an amazing amount of depth, and helps people understand it more.   4. Understanding of the game There’s a lot of depth that in the complexity and techniques of the game; all in all, there’s a lot to get you head around.  Which is what help makes cricket the perfect Transmedia foil… Where once cricket was inaccessible through complexity, the emergence of all of the different access points means people have been much more likely to find a route in that suits them; they can choose the depth of understanding they want to go to, and find their favourite access points in.  Cricket suddenly becomes a lot more sociable, as more people find that they have a ‘route in’ to talk about it.  Cricket is a social object (as Mark testifies to here). It no longer matters how much you know really about cricket; you can still join in a conversation about it.   Accidental Transmedia Storytelling What’s really interesting is that cricket is now big in the UK by accident; the variety of access points which have emerged have not emerged by design. Sky’s TV coverage, BBC’s Radio coverage, the Guardian’s OBO, Crickinfo, the ECB app, forums, the commentators on Twitter, your friend’s commentary on his Facebook status… and all the other access points I’ve missed… …no-one sat down and planned for all this to happen.  Various entities have rights here and there, other organisations reported on things in a particular way, some commentators & producers took it upon themselves to try something new, and people started getting involved themselves. A more restrictive set of media rights would not have produced as a diverse a set of access points for people to have come into cricket. Not only do I think cricket is a great example of Transmedia Storytelling, I think it shows what can happen when you cede control (whether on purpose or not) to people so they can help create a different part of the story. The lesson for companies I think is this: Transmedia Storytelling works best with more access points.  You don’t have to create all of those access points yourself. But in order for other people and organisations to create them, you have to let go of as much control as possible.  ]]>