There’s a new trend cresting in the digital journalism world, and its unique spin is the closest anyone has gotten to a truly new way to digest news. It’s called “viral news,” and it’s well on its way to changing the landscape of how websites will soon be producing new, shareable news stories.
It’s important to note that this isn’t the work of standard viral websites like Fark or Buzzfeed. Instead, there’s a new generation of thoughtful, news-focused startups that are finding new ways to share important news content without reducing it to a sugary mass of fluff. One of the biggest viral news websites today is Upworthy, which focuses on creating viral posts of serious content including political speeches, think tank concepts and research data. Since its start in March of 2012, Upworthy has earned millions in funding and gained the monniker of the fastest growing media company in the world.
Here are three ways Upworthy and similar website NowThisNews are on their way to changing news at large. What do you think of their efforts? Let us know in the comments.
1. Relevant Topics Are Perfectly Boiled Down
Instead of an in-depth report on Lance Armstrong’s controversial interview with Oprah, a video on NowThisNews’ front page boiled the whole interview down to a mere 160 seconds. It’s the perfect example of the goal of viral news organizations: to condense big news topics and other points of interest into digestible and shareable bits of information. Users can click on before their commute (or before their lunch break) and easily get through the day’s news in half an hour — and share all of it to their friends.
Smart viral news strategies prove that the best way to grab a user is to parse down a topic into something he or she can understand quickly. That concept is still fairly foreign to the traditional newsroom, although outlets like the Boston Globe have tried their hand at pursuing viral content, to varying ranges of success. The key is to separate the value of a piece of content from its length or its depth. Short content can be done in a way that informs the user, and it shouldn’t be ignored.
Need more convincing? Check out this recent video from NowThisNews about “leanwashing.”
2. News Bites Hide Important Gems in Consumable Content
Videos aren’t the only way that viral news sites share information. Tiny shareables like infographics, photos and quotes also make their way through the viral news slipstream, and they’re also packed full of information that can help users become better informed about their daily lives.
For example, Upworthy’s front page contains a story entitled “How Sugar Makes Your Brain Think It’s Cocaine.” It certainly appears to be link-bait, with its catchy headline that begs you to click on it. But, inside the infographic, there’s plenty of worthwhile and well-researched information, including the brain-candy fact that the average American consumes a shocking 500 calories worth of sugar per day, about as much as 10 strips of bacon.
News outlets can learn a lot from the way viral news sites process and communicate their information on a daily basis. Let’s face it: the world of the Internet favors dynamic media. Incorporating important and well-researched facts into consumables broadens the audience base without sacrificing quality of work.
3. Outlets Connect to Users Socially
Perhaps the most important way viral news is changing the journalism landscape is the co-opting of savvy social media strategy into the newsroom. Unlike traditional news outlets, which routinely post headlines with the occasional poll or query, Upworthy and NowThisNews take a more friendly, conversational approach with their audience.
Poll: Congress significantly less popular than head lice upwr.me/XzQRvw
— Upworthy (@Upworthy) January 17, 2013
— NowThis News (@nowthisnews) January 18, 2013
These super-sharable Tweets are just a small sample of the way that news organizations are taking a friendlier approach to communicating news. While some may bristle at the informality of it all, these news organizations appeal to a younger demographic that stands to learn a great deal from consuming and sharing these stories.
In short, these organizations are turning traditional news on its head and getting drastic results by reaching out to a less formal audience. The outcome has been wildly successful, even in such a short time, and there’s bound to be plenty more news websites adopting this strategy in the future.