Friday, 5 February 2010

Lost - the flag bearer for cross platform TV content [no spoilers]

After starting in the US earlier this week, the final series of Lost airs in the UK tonight.

Lost Series 6 Times Square billboardLost Series 6 billboard in Times Square

What started off as a simple concept - plane crashes on island, survivors want to escape, especially as a giant polar bear is present too - has evolved into an amazing 6 season, complicated mish-mash of plots, sub-plots, interlocking characters, time travelling story jumping and (at times ridiculous) cliff hanger moments.

Lost is more than a TV show though, through a whole range of initiatives Lost has become a multi-media franchise arguably unlike any TV show that has come before. Each Lost episode functions as standalone / self-contained content (and was one of the first TV shows to be available on iTunes after broadcast), but opportunities have been created for viewers to explore Lost content in other areas and drill down into it's secrets.

Henry Jenkins describes this as trans media story telling, and whilst he was writing about The Matrix in 'Convergence Culture', his thoughts can be applied to Lost too 'The depth and breadth of the Matrix [Lost] universe made it impossible for any one consumer to "get it" but the emergence of knowledge cultures made it possible for the community as a whole to dig deeper into this bottomless text.'

Lost isn't so much a series that you casually discuss at the watercooler, Lost is a series that you have to discuss at the watercooler to make any sense of it! This enhances the status of Lost as must-see TV, but also turns it into something more than just glossy TV content that is broadcast to a passive audience.

As Gladwell says in The Tipping Point 'It’s easier to remember and appreciate something, after all, if you discuss it for two hours with your best friends. It becomes a social experience, an object of conversation.'

The idea of Lost as a social experience is reflected in the huge volume of both official and unofficial Lost content that exists outside of the individual episodes:

- Unofficial communities like Lostpedia debate and dissect episodes (currently 5949 articles on Lostpedia), whilst channels carrying the programme have launched their own Conversation platforms, like Sky One's UK podcasts that analyse each episode after it airs.

- Official ARG online content like the Lost Experience and Find 815 sent fans on elaborate scavenger hunts across the internet and promised clues and information in return.

- Between series, back stories for characters and plot were filled in with online video content and mobisodes like 'Lost: The Missing Pieces.'

- Secret websites were created to enhance plot features like the Dharma Initiative, the Hanso Foundation and Oceanic Airlines

- Official tie in's like the Lost jigsaws were not just spin-offs but contained clues and hints about things that were happening in the programme

- Other secret tie-ins were published - the novel Bad Twin by (fictional author) Gary Troup featured a story set around the Widmore family and was available to buy from Amazon

- Ronie Midfew Arts (an anagram of Widmore Fine Arts) was established to sell limited edition Lost art, whilst delivering a multi-pieced riddle that needed to be solved (each element of the riddle had a bespoke, random web address that pointed to a new section of the Arts site - starting with

Lost sandwich(click for larger image - Ronie Midfew Lost clue)

- and offline marketing around the series' launch has been esoteric with the creative hinting at storylines (for example the random billboards for Oceanic Airlines that were used to promote Series 4) rather than featuring huge call to action statements (series 6 excepted)

Oceanic airlines LostFly Oceanic billboard

Lost content is distributed outside of the TV series (particularly across the internet) and the deeper people engage with it, the more rewarding it is to watch the series. Unique insight can be gained by playing the games, watching the DVD extras and exploring the microsites. Fan communities can then dissect everything together and make the group smarter than the some of it's parts.

TV viewers can therefore enjoy Lost by just following the episodes on TV, but hardcore fans have lots of other things to do outside of the TV content - Lost becomes a social experience and rewards commitment accordingly. Even if Lost is not your thing, the techniques and strategies used to bring the series to life (distributed content across multiple platforms, the way that every element from jigsaws to microsites adds to the narrative, fan communities bringing people deeper into the series and the way that Lost is 'always on') are good pointers to help approach the multi-platform media world now prevalent.

If you missed the first 5 series then the 8 minute 15 second video below will bring you up to speed.......

.......and as I don't have Sky I may well be waiting for the DVD release before I get to watch series 6 - so please don't leave spoiler information in the comments!

Related posts

Real time Lost! Flight 815 in 24 style YouTube mash up

5 great examples of Lost viral marketing

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Unknown said...

Great post Nick. Currently training in multiplatform/ cross platform content, and found this post useful. Cheers

Beth said...

Www....good link, will defo come in useful on our course Matt! Thanks Nick...whoever you may be!! :)