Going Viral

“Going Viral.”

It’s a saying we in the journalism profession hear a lot and for the most part it goes to the fundamental changes going on in the concept of “publishing.”  That’s a term that for decades has carried lofty connotations.  But with web publishing your writing can have a tremendous reach, thanks to the benefits behind the concept of “link journalism.”  The key to link journalism, and to “publishing” is to use social media to let folks know what you’ve published.  Those who may not have the content or material that you have will link to you, helping to inform the audience.  Once word gets out, you can end up being linked off of many sites.

In the first month of classes, we’ve seen several strong examples of Web publishing and the viral nature of publication.

One example came with coverage on the anniversary of the Sept. 11 terror attacks.  I was in a coffee shop on Sept. 10 doing some work when I saw this #wherewereyou hashtag on Twitter. The hashtag had been generated by The Washington Post’s web site as editors sought to get readers’ stories on where they were when the attacks happened.

After reading some of the entries on the Twitter feed, I was prompted to write a post on my own experiences on 9/11.  I posted my entry on Facebook and Twitter.  Editors at The Post then saw my blog entry, and they posted it here.  After the posting, I saw some spikes in page views but what really intrigued me were the analytics which showed page views from 9/12 on 9/11.  I thought it was a glitch but then remembered the global reach of The Post and figured I had some reading in a time zone a day ahead.

The viral spread continued when Dave Beard, the Boston.com editor, saw the post, commented on it and then added a link to the post on Boston.com’s Facebook page with this comment:  “FYI, nice remembrance by UMass prof Steve Fox, ex national/political editor of washingtonpost.com, on his 9/11/01, right here: https://umassjournalismprofs.wordpress.com/2010/09/11/remembering-911/

Nieman caught up the story a few days later and blogged about the hashtag.

The second example came with the sad news on Sept. 17 that UMass band director George N. Parks had died on a trip to Michigan prior to the UMass-Michigan football game.   As student journalists within the Journalism program reported the story that Friday morning, I recalled that students who took part in the Multimedia Bootcamp prior to the start of the semester had done on a video piece on the new band building which included an interview with Parks just prior to the start of the Fall semester.

I quickly posted the video on Facebook and Twitter and let news organizations throughout the state know about the video.  Prior to that day, the video had a handful of views and overnight it had more than 1,000.  The video was linked to by the Web sites of the Springfield Republican and the Daily Hampshire Gazette, amongst others.  In a time of grief, web publishing allowed us to share the Parks interview with UMass alumni all over the world.

In Web publishing, nothing is ever truly “old” and this was a pretty strong example of that.

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About journalismprof

Steve joined the journalism faculty at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst in August 2007 and has been working to incorporate multimedia across the curriculum. Since arriving at UMass, Steve has developed three courses modeled after his multimedia journalism course. The courses allow students to work in teams in a newsroom-like environment where they work on packages -- using video, audio and photos to tell stories. He is also working with students on developing amherstwire.com, a news Web site staffed completely by students. Steve has more than 25 years of experience as an editor and reporter for print and online publications, including 10 as an editor at washingtonpost.com. He also edits part-time for espn.com with the NFL and college football network.
This entry was posted in 9/11 coverage, Blogging, Bootcamp, Multimedia, Steve Fox, Washington Post and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Going Viral

  1. Paul Bilodeau says:

    Hi Steve, Enjoy the blog. Have quick comment about content “going viral.” I think it is great that content can be spread across the web, but how can a newspaper survive by giving its content away for free. I really do not know the answer to this question, but just curious what your thought are on this. Thanks again.

  2. journalismprof says:

    Thanks, Paul. The time for newspapers to charge for their web content has come and gone. The time to charge was in 1996 when many news organizations went live on the web. That didn’t happen and a generation of news consumers has grown up getting news for free on the web. They’re not going back. News managers need to abandon the notion that they are “giving content away for free” and start thinking about new ways to generate revenue. Advertising. Sponsorships. Partnerships. Scaled-back operations (think about getting rid of all those VP offices.) New approaches are needed. Lamenting about the need to charge for content isn’t going to help the financial health of news organizations.

    Steve

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