Paul Bradshaw does an interesting thing in sharing his answers to student questionnaires on his site. It’s revealing, because sometimes the questions are as indicative of the mindset amongst students as the answers are about the rest of us. So, here’s a recent questionnaire I filled in for an LCC student…
1- Could you briefly introduce yourself, what you do, your area of expertise and how long have you been doing this?
While I’m a business journalist by background (starting around 20 years ago), for the last decade I’ve worked largely on digital journalism and publishing — understanding what the internet does to our reporting — and our business models.
2- How would you define the term of ‘spreadable news’ and what impact [direct or indirect] does it have on journalism?
Spreadable news is news that is designed to spread on social media and find its audience that way. It’s an acknowledgement that news is less of a destination than it used to be. Social networks have drawn people’s attention, and so sometimes we have to piggy back on them to be read. Social is now the biggest traffic source across news sites generally — just beating out search.
2.2- Could you give me a few examples of the way journalists have to adapt their work to make it more ‘sharable’ and relevant to the audience?
Principally it requires a different style of headline writing — one that is designed to invoke an emotional reaction. But beyond that, it’s spending into new formats for news — especially video. Social video doesn’t look anything like the standard TV news package and finding a vocabulary for that is a struggle for many news organisations.
3- Would you agree that journalists and media producers have to develop a close relationship with the audience and leave some room for them to create their own news stories?
We certainly have to be closer to our audiences — to understand them better. Competition is fiercer than ever, and the person who best understands her audience is the most likely to win. I’m not so sure about space for them to create their own news stories. The old “citizen journalist” idea never really found traction. Instead, people commit acts of citizen journalism — usually on social media, that then get drawn into stories via aggregation.
4- Just to break it down, what is the process of spreadable media and/or viral news today? Is it most likely driven by the audience?
People create and publish things. The audience either react to — and share it — leading to success, or they ignore it, leading to failure. The news creation is still driven by the journalist, but its spread is driven by the audience.
5- “The game has new rules” ; “The pyramid has been tuned over”, would you agree with these two statements regarding the theories on spreadable news?
Yup, the game has new rules. We can no longer rely on the old distribution channels for our news. I have no idea what the second phrase is meant to mean…
6- Briefly, what’s your definition of a meme?
An idea or concept that spreads “virally” — like a virus reproducing itself. Richard Dawkins actually created the term. On the internet, that usually means an image, phrase or video that spreads and then is mashed up by others, prolonging its spread. It’s been going on for at least 16 years.
7- Are memes typically humorous or can they spread a serious news story?
These two things are not in opposition to each other. They tend towards the humorous — but not always — and they can be used in news storytelling, but rarely in the most serious of stories.