– FEBRUARY 15, 2011
Who doesn’t love How I Met Your Mother? It’s almost impossible not to laugh at Barney’s womanizing ways, idolize Lily’s style, imitate Robin’s tough-girl attitude, snuggle up to Marshall’s marshmellow-ness and sigh at Ted’s hopeless romantic tendencies (whether in frustration or envy is up to you).
I first fell in love with this show a while back – the characters, story (the telling of the story) and the antics hooked me for life. However, what has kept me engaged as the story line continues (and at times drag out, I have little patience, people) is the show’s use of transmedia storytelling.
What’s transmedia storytelling? Here’s my working definition: It’s a method of storytelling that engages audiences on various multimedia platforms, both independently and simultaneously, to help tell the story while creating a sense of intimacy and connection with the audience.
The nurtured connection between the audience and the story/characters across several platforms is what makes transmedia storytelling so powerful. It draws the audience into the character’s reality – MacLarens feels like your neighborhood bar, Slapsgiving is a running inside joke, the continual search for “the one”…well who hasn’t been there? By creating a world that includes the characters and the audience, HIMYM has been able to continue into it’s sixth season (and hopefully seventh) with a dedicated fan following.
So how did the show use transmedia to keep the world of HIMYM going?
In addition to the traditional TV show that chronicles Ted’s wife-hunt and the lives of him and his friends, the show’s writers have done a brilliant job of interweaving books, websites, products and phone numbers into the script and then into the audience’s reality.
- Ongoing references to Barney’s pick-up guide, The Playbook, and his code-to-live-by, The Bro Code, are not only interwoven into the show’s script and story, but are also physical books (authored by Barney/Neil Patrick Harris) that fans of the show (or fans of picking up women) can buy at the local bookstore. Now every move, maneuver and manipulation that has served Barney well with the finer sex is available for purchase.
- HIMYM has done a great job of taking the show’s antics, jokes and interests into the real world through live and searchable websites. Everything from celebrating Not a Father’s Day (a Barney-created holiday for the childless) andSlap Count Down (a website created by Marshall as a scare tactic) are real and functioning websites that audiences can visit and even purchase products from.
- Additional multimedia content available online has also encouraged fans to stay engaged with the show. From The Wedding Bride movie preview to photo montages, plot points in the show are now at the public’s fingertips.
- Social media has also played a big role in the transmedia HIMYM experience. Barney has his ownTwitter and blog, in addition to episode guides and fan pages on Facebook.
There are more examples of course (that’s what makes this an ideal case study), but in a day and age where we are consumed by technology and where we expect to be active participants not with but within a story, it makes sense that traditional storytelling formats are embracing new forms of technology and discovering how to best reach and engage an audiences to keep attention, build loyalty and ultimately be renewed for another season.
Personally, I’d love to see HIMYM take transmedia storytelling to the next level. The epic search for Ted’s wife would lend itself nicely to messageboards, facebook campaigns and third-party websites and products.
What do you think? Is HIMYM using transmedia storytelling effectively? What could they do better? Chime in below.