Emma Approved and the Trouble with Transmedia
Reality rarely exceeds expectations, and when it does, it begets expectations for the future. When I watched The Lizzie Bennet Diaries, I did not know what to expect, I don’t think anyone did—not even the creators. It was a wonderful experiment that was wildly successful. But Emma Approved doesn’t seem to be meeting the expectations that follow such success.
At first I thought that I was being overly critical. After being inspired by The Lizzie Bennet Diaries to pursue transmedia storytelling and am now pursuing a graduate certificate in digital media. I’m currently taking Video for Social Media where we are focusing on transmedia, dissecting web series and their online presences. But after private discussions with other Pemberley Digital fans, I was assured that I was not being overly critical. I’ve been hesitant to voice my opinions because I truly admire the creative team and the talented individuals behind Pemberley Digital and I don’t want to burn any bridges, since I want to work in this industry in the very near future.
So here is my take on the state of Emma Approved and some steps that could be taken to make it Audience Approved.
1. Make a clean break between “In World” and “Out of World”
From the very beginning, people were confused. When Emma posts or tweets about a video that’s out of world. When Emma posts or tweets anything else, that’s in world. Why not just make an @EAOfficial account? I understand that they want emmaapproved.com to be her official blog, but many sites use subdomains for their blog. The site is already set up with a separate videos page, why not have the blog be separate, too? It wouldn’t be out of character for blog.emmaapproved.com to be her official site, with the home page a landing page with all of the pertinent info.
This becomes very important now that we have QA videos. Because so far every video posted on the Pemberley Channel and on Emma’s own YouTube channel is considered out of world. But the QA is talking directly to the audience, so is seemingly “in world”—I’ve sent Bernie a tweet about this, we’ll see if he responds.
As Kelsey states in her post:
- … pretending that we (her audience) only know her based off of what she blogs and tweets about (aside from tweeting about the videos, because those tweets are out of world), we know nothing about her personally. We know she’s out to make the world a better place, she enjoys fashion, and she writes blog posts about improving your life.
- But then she answers questions regarding her love life, her father, and her relationship with Alex. Aside from a few snarky tweets, how do we know that Alex is always disagreeing with Emma? Why would we be interested in seeing her father in this documentary? Why do we even know about the documentary since she hasn’t tweeted about it?
I saw the quibbles on twitter last night when Knightley asked for questions, and I thought that it was an excuse for people to gripe, since dissatisfaction with one area can lead to finding little things wrong with everything. And I could see just tweeting to learn more about her and Knightley, but now that there’s a video, it makes it problematic. Because Emma hasn’t mentioned the documentary on her blog.
People have brought up the ethics of Harriet’s application video being up on the channel if it is now in world, but that could be explained away with a tweet from Emma to Harriet asking how it ended up on the channel. Posting video would definitely be an assistant’s task, and it’s within Harriet’s character to accidentally post a video.
2. Clean Up the Online Interface
For a site that is supposed to be the online presence of a go-getter like Emma, I can’t believe that it’s so sloppy. On the surface, the design is lovely, but the footer has broken email links and nothing in the navigation section, and many of the blog posts don’t maintain the layout when you click open the full post—not to mention that it doesn’t have a responsive mobile layout. Additionally, not all of the posts are written by Emma—it actually shows the transmedia editor, since presumably she wrote them using her account. A few code tweaks and these issues would be eliminated, but I wish that they’d been done before the site had launched.
3. A Little More Transmedia Action, Please
imaginarycircus created an excellent transmedia wish list, but there are a couple of things that I would like to highlight:
- STUFF FROM RYAN AND ANNIE’S WEDDING. It’s too much trouble to set up and take fake wedding photos … I’m talking someone’s iPhone photos—and not professional photos. But why not at least goofy tweets between Ryan and Annie the night before and the morning of the wedding when they aren’t seeing each other? How awesome would that have been? Just four tweets would have made a huge difference. It didn’t have to be some giant campaign.
- Snarky tweets from Alex.
- Inspiring suggestions from Emma that are actually terrible and see previous.
It’s these little things that bump up the interactivity. Because twitter is the only way that we really know about what’s going on “in world.” I liked the tweets between Annie and Ryan while he was in Europe. And we didn’t even need a lot, just a few photobooth-esque pics on instagram snapped and tweeted by BFF Emma would have sufficed. Maybe even a tweet with a stockphoto of a shot luge from Ryan, and Alex teasing Emma about its success. People are struggling with getting to know the characters and interacting with them. This would give the viewers a life line. These things can be auto-scheduled, so it wouldn’t be difficult to just make a batch of them and schedule for when they would happen “in world.”
I understand that the team is busy, but viewers are busy, too. I like the show, and I’m willing to use head canons to get me from A to C when B isn’t there, but we shouldn’t have to do that.
I like the show, I like the characters, but I would like it so much more if I didn’t have to do mental gymnastics to make it work, especially when I can see small tweaks that could help to build and enrich that world. I’d willingly apply to be a Pemberley Digital intern to make them.