Communication Matters - our blog on trends and events


Why do certain reports go viral, and why can’t media catch on?

Susan Boyle, Episode 1 on YouTube: 28 million views

JK Wedding Entrance Dance on YouTube: nearly 13 million views

When I first tweeted about the Wedding Entrance Dance last week, I received an interesting response. “That certainly went viral fast, didn’t it?” said the direct reply.

The comment got me thinking. Why can’t the media produce content that goes viral? After all, the media have talented storytellers who use a variety of media platforms to communicate stories every day. And they are TRYING to produce information that is worthwhile, that entertains, informs and SELLS.

So why don’t their reports, their photos, their videos, go viral? Or do they go viral and we just call it something else?

If a report is placed on a wire service and blasted around the world, is that viral? In the news business, we used to strive to produce “Hey Martha” stories. Those were the kind that would drive the reader to turn to his wife, Martha, and say, “Hey Martha, did you see that story in the (insert newspaper name) today?” Is this praising and recommendation the non-digital form of viral?

Of course, this raises the question of whether the media are producing the gripping content that deserves to go viral. I would say they do, but they just don’t present it in a form that tends to trigger a viral response.

Here is a gripping story titled “A Gown for Lindsay Rose” that I challenge you not to like. Journalist Thomas French wrote this piece for the St. Petersburg Times in 2003.

And so we come full circle. Are the media producing content that should go viral? Or do they go viral and we just call it something else?

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