13 Reasons Why: The Transmedia Universe

Be ready to analyse the transmedia universe of 13 Reasons Why, a new series on Netflix and, whether you like it or not, one of the most viral series at the moment, thanks to its success amongst the young audience. Hardly surprising, as it is based on a best-seller.

We gave it a chance and it didn´t let us down. But when we really fell in love was at the time we discovered the narrative universe behind the series. First of all, we need to make clear that it is not the expansion of the series, as the Transmedia Narrative has its origins in the book.




YT Channel / Audios


TV Series




Special Show












User generated content



Jay Asher´s novel serves as the narrative core, and it expands through “audios”/videos shot by the main character, which have been recently adapted to an on-demand television content thanks to Netflix.

At the same time, the series also expands through an array of transmedia content like the original soundtrack, a documentary about one of the main topics of 13 Reasons Why and a complete Instagram strategy where the characters have their own profile.

And as every successful transmedia universe, both versions are topped off with a great amount of user generated content.

If you feel curious about discovering all the content*, continue reading.

*This post refers to the content available in Spain.


The Novel: Th1rteen R3asons Why


Th1rteen r3asons why is Jay Asher´s novel published in 2007, (yes, a decade ago) in the United States. A pretty tough story about “the need of a sincere friendship”, although it ended up being much more than that.

The book had its own transmedia, a website where readers could make comments and a recreation of the audios referred in the narration.

It was such a success that it was recommended by The New York Times, a huge achievement taking into account that the genre is young-adult and that it is an auto-conclusive story and not a saga. Furthermore, a new edition has been published including extra content and an alternative ending to the story.

Nevertheless, after it was published in Spain in 2009, the novel has been discretely enjoyed by the youngsters. Until now, that thanks to the TV adaptation, the books are running out in the libraries and it is an Amazon best-seller.

Spoiler! Novel synopsis

You can’t stop the future. You can’t rewind the past. The only way to learn the secret . . . is to press play.
Clay Jensen comes home from school to find outside his front door a mysterious box with his name on it. Inside he discovers a series of cassette tapes recorded by Hannah Baker – his classmate and crush. Only, she committed suicide two weeks earlier. On the first tape, Hannah explains that there are 13 reasons why she did what she did – and Clay is one of them. If he listens, Clay will find out how he got on the list – what he hears will change his life forever.


Audio: Hannah’s Reasons


Amongst the transmedia content of the book, we would like to highlight the audios that can be found on this platform. A recreation of the tapes recorded by the main character. A multimedia content that, even though optional, widens the narrative perspective.

It is important to mention that the publication of the audios was done through video (simulating the tapes reproduction) uploaded in a specific YouTube channel by the name of Hannahsfriend13, instead of in a promotional channel like the editorial´s.  In addition, the descriptions of the videos follow the same narrative as they are written by the character who uploads them.

Spoiler! First Tape

Descripción: “The last time anyone heard this voice was when Hannah Baker was alive. I wont divulge my reasons for posting these tapes and letting Hannahs story be heard by the whole world…yet. But those of you who are on her list can probably guess why Im doing this and thats all that matters. For those of you who havent had your tape posted yet…stay tuned.”


The series: 13 Reasons Why


Although the first plan was a film adaption of the book, finally Netflix accepted the challenge to adapt Jay Asher´s novel in a series of 13 one- hour chapters. The series has as many fans as haters but we warn you, don´t judge before watching, including the transmedia content.

Spoiler! TRAILER. A spoiler in its own, if you are decided to watch the series, do not press play.


Normally book adaptations are done staying close to the text , respecting the fandom, usually we speak about crossmedia here.

Nevertheless, this adaptation offers different character´s points of view, like Hannah´s or her parents, whilst the book is written in the first person (Clay). As a transmedia content, it expands the storytelling and can be consumed independently.

Other main differences are: a change in the setting, a decade into the future, including new technologies where situations are even more evident.

In regards to the original narrative, the order of the story events and when we discover them also changes, favourable to the thriller genre, and some characters are even combined,

13 Reasons Why’ Cast on the red carpet.

13 Reason´s showrunners are Brian Yorkey (‘Next to Normal’) and Diana Son (‘American Crime’).  First episode´s director is Tom McCarthy, script Oscar winner with ‘Spotlight’.

Cast: Katherine Langford, Dylan Minnette (‘Lost’) Brandon Flynn, Christian Navarro, Alisha Boe (‘Ray Donovan’), Justin Prentice (‘Malibu Country’), Devin Druid, Miles Heizer (‘Parenthood’) y Ross Butler.

– FYI: Selena Gómez is the executive producer.  Probably one of the keys to its success.




As the audio is key in the storytelling, music plays a main role in the transmedia expansion. Netflix is very aware of this fact and has launched the official soundtrack.

We really love it. Here the 13 songs why 😉  

And as Selena Gomez is the executive producer, she had to have her own hit.


Special Show. ‘13 Reasons Why: Beyond the Reasons’


To keep talking about Selena, she is one of the interviewees in the Netflix special about the series. A 30-minute documentary which includes interviews of the technical team, the cast and several specialists in the topics questioned in the narrative with the aim of helping the audience and give information about delicate issues.

Spolier! The topics.

  • Suicide and depression
  • Bulling y cyberbullying
  • Women as objects
  • Rape and sexual violence
  • Youth and education




In addition to the documentary, a website has been developed to offer aid including support lines for minors and psychological advice from everywhere in the world.


Web bot: Don’t be a reason*


*This content is only available in Spanish.

Another action carried out by Netflix to expand the message of 13 Reasons Why is the chat Don´t be a reason.

A web bot that simulates a conversation with the user to introduce him in the narrative context of the series, trying to warn them about the consequences of bullying.

It Kicks off asking: Are you also a reason? But best is how it ends: you can share the message with your WhatsApp friends.

– In gymnastics, we took the piss out of a guy who had a funny way of running – Do you take the piss out of your mates? *No I don´t *hahahaha sure!


Social Media


Behind the book and the series there is a social media strategy: the official Fan Page of the book, the fan-webpage of the series with different language versions and the Twitter account of the series.

In both we can find extra content, which usually expands the narrative. As an example:

Spoiler! Snapshot of Hannah´s smartphone.


But however, the social strategy focuses mainly on Instagram, where we can find the official profile and the profiles of the characters in a very realistic way. We can access to Hannah´s and Tyler´s /while the profiles of: Alex, Justin, Jessica, Courtney, Zach, Ryan y Marcus  are blocked. Others like: Tony, Sheri, Bryce, Montgomery o Katt have been deleted but are mentioned in other profiles to complement the stories.

Spoiler! Snapshots of the profiles on Instagram.


Netflix has used all the potential that Instagram Stories offers to reveal a second season in a very narrative way.

Spoiler! The Netflix Instagram stories that @netflixes published revealing through the cast, the 13 reasons why they are renewing the series.




Even though Tumblr is a social media, Netflix has used it as a platform for user generated content. Or almost. Because it is a branded image gallery with phrases sent by the fans through a formulary.

Nevertheless in the end, the result is very visual and sharable.


User generated content


User generated content is one the best ways to measure the success of a transmedia universe. Like Scolari states in his book “Transmedia Narrative: when all media count.”:

“When we analyse the transmedia world of the main literary sagas like Harry Potter, Twilight and Lord Of The Rings, the most interesting facts are discovered aside, where prosumers introduce their favourite characters and insert them in new narrative programs.”

13 Reasons Why has awoken the creativity of the readers who have produced boundless booktrailers on YouTube including fanfictions recreated in alternative universes and utopic relations like Clannah´s. (Clay❤Hannah).

We can´t forget the official Wikia of the story, compiling information of both the book and the series.

Since the first rumours of taking the series to the big screen, until the success of the series, the number of fanarts continues growing, including memes on social media.

As an example, the “Welcome to your tape” meme is one of the most viral. Here you can check some examples:



Finally, we share a content that even though it attempts to be a transmedia content it is more a promotional one. Netflix´s promotional videos use the context and narrative of the series as a promo that is at the same time useful and sharable, for instance:

Hopefully you have enjoyed this profound analysis, see you soon with more stories to tell!

Translation: Laura López

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Vicky Vasán

Creativa. Mi imaginación tiene Second Screen.
Escribo hasta que el siguiente capítulo se reproduce automáticamente.

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