Viral Media In A Nutshell

For sporting franchises and related companies to capitalize fully on viral media they need to focus on creating content that resonates with their communities by using their professional resources, keeping a level of transparency and developing a plan of dissemination. Before these companies can understand the steps they need to take in order to tap into the viral media market, defining the term “viral” is a necessity. According to David Meerman Scott, while the term “viral” can have different meanings in different contexts even within the field of media, it can loosely be defined as content that spreads through the Internet quickly.

While Scott is quick to use the term “viral”, Henry Jenkins the Provost’s Professor of Communication, Journalism, and Cinematic Arts at the University of Southern California, feels that the term viral is not only too all encompassing but also too limited. Therefore, in his eight-part essay “If It Doesn’t Spread, It’s Dead – The Value of Spreadable Media”, he uses the term ‘spreadable media’. This term plays on the principle of spreading content not only across one platform but several. In part six of his essay, he writes that, “Content is spread based not on an individual evaluation of worth, but on a perceived social value within community or group.” Keeping this in mind, the sports team attempting to create engaging content would be better off creating an entertaining video starring a couple of their players rather than an informational video solely stating the upcoming promotion.

In Beyond Viral, I studied the similarities and differences between professional and amateur status. With new abilities for the everyday person with a Smartphone and an Internet connection to publish what could turn out to be the next big viral video that sweeps the nation and even the world, the notion that a company has to put out content for it to be seen by the masses simply isn’t true. While companies may have more professional equipment, they also may have the same equipment as an ‘average Joe’. In order for professional sports companies to be considered in the professional realm they need to employ their professional athletes. Amateur don’t have the same type of access to this talent. Although content that appears to be amateur or more informal could be more appealing, truly amateur content doesn’t have the resources to appeal to the audience the same way.

Going with the distinction between viral and spreadable, if Beyond Viral, written by Kevin H. Nalty, were titled Beyond Spreadable, it would have not sounded as appealing. Viral is a very big buzz word right now in the media industry. Everyone hopes to “go viral” because this means that your content is being shared by the masses. For sporting franchises, focusing time on developing a campaign that has a common entertaining theme throughout is essential. A sports fan has certain traits such as emotional ties and loyalty that give the company several options for determining which strings to pull when creating content to distribute to their audience.

Sports franchises have a distinct advantage in their connection with their professional athletes. This allows them to develop official content where someone not affiliated with the organization would have a very tough time booking the team’s star player for an afternoon to shoot a commercial. Nalty writes that the line has blurred between amateur and professional. This is true in everyday scenarios but with sports teams I don’t believe the line has blurred as much as other industries. Only team employees have direct and legal access to the players, clean high-quality feed of the highlight footage and permission to use it, etc. I’m not saying that amateurs can’t get a hold of content illegally, but the hoops that have to be jumped through in order to get this content make it a lot harder for an amateur to do the work of a sports team employee.

As mentioned, minus the star-power, what is stopping an amateur from producing a video where a baseball is flying towards someone when someone on camera grabs the ball just before it hit his or her significant other? I really found the discussion of professional versus amateur an interesting one, although, not quite as directly related to a sports franchise. Minus the star power, identical content could be produced. Both Gillette and New Era campaigns have professional athletes or well-known celebrities appear in their videos — something the ‘average joe’ would have a tough time pulling off. In the discussion of amateur versus professional, there are three separate types: polished professional, unpolished professional (fake amateur) and actual amateur.

ESPN has a running campaign called “This is Sportscenter” advertising their main program, Sportscenter, which features professional athletes from various sports interacting with the Sportscenter anchors. While these are obviously professionally produced, they have a somewhat raw feel with no special effects and very little post-production work. They first run on television and then are distributed secondarily online and via iTunes promoting not only Sportscenter, but also sharing, by distributing the thirty-second sports on a variety of electronic platforms. They plan for these to be spread from sports fan to sports fan around the world. By drawing on athletes with such wide-spreading appeal, they have tapped into the sports fans’ minds. By having Dallas Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo in a commercial, they are attempting to resonate with not only Cowboys’ fans and Dallas area residents who recognize Romo but football fans in general. They do a great job of getting top athletes in all sports, whether they are the big United States sports (football, baseball, basketball) or not. By using Albert Pujols, the popular St. Louis Cardinals first baseman, they tap into all baseball fans and St. Louis fans. They choose their athletes very carefully and almost always feature all-star athletes that are well respected around the country.

Both Tony Romo and Albert Pujols are not only some of the most famous athletes in their respective sports but are always widely known as quality people, therefore, the commercials have a positive appeal. After LeBron James made his “decision” and signed with the Miami Heat, it would have been risky to do a commercial starring the Heat star because a majority of the public’s opinion changed from when he played for the Cleveland Cavaliers. The commercial would receive much more of a mixed response than the Pujols and Romo commercials. In a sense, spreadable media is much more inline with popular culture and is originally intended for mass sharing. Viral media could be shared by the masses but generally refers to something shot or produced by an amateur with low production value that has entertaining aspects. The “This is Sportscenter” campaign is considered spreadable first and then via secondary electronic distribution methods would be considered viral. Even though the campaign is considering spreadable, being spreadable is not a necessary component for being viral. The need to spread these commercials is not the goal. The goal is to raise awareness and chatter on various platforms within the Internet.

Gillette recently produced a couple of videos intended to spread virally. One features tennis star Roger Federer at a Gillette photo shoot where in between takes it appears that he serves a tennis ball precisely enough to knock off a can of a production assistant’s head – twice. While this video was distributed via the European division of Gillette’s YouTube page, it quickly spread from computer to computer due to the seemingly incredible video footage of Federer hitting the ball so precisely. This video they obviously took credit for and only distributed online in hopes of massive peer-to-peer consumption. The second video was not distributed via a Gillette YouTube channel or on television either. A “random” YouTube user shared it; although more than likely it was someone working for Gillette. The video features Major League Baseball star Evan Longoria being interviewed by an unidentified reporter and quickly turning around and catching a screaming line drive with his bare-hand just before it hit the reporter in the face. This video made the rounds on the Internet even quicker than the Federer video garnering over a million hits very, very quickly. The Gillette logo can be seen in multiple banner spaces in the background around the stadium, yet, no direct mention of Gillette is visible. Since this video was additionally meant to be spread socially and electronically, it was not aired on broadcast or cable television. Why would the same company produce two ads seemingly in the same campaign and format, one directly mentioning the company name and the other not?

Building upon the topics in Beyond Viral, Henry Jenkins says that this is the time for newer ideas to enter the marketplace due to the barriers being lowered. To me, this allows Gillette to have their videos circulate without certainty that they produced and distributed them — more on this later.

While the Gillette advertisements were intended for online distribution only, New Era produced several ads in a campaign that originally ran on broadcast television playing on sports loyalties. The sports apparel company employed both John Krasinski who plays Jim Halpert on The Office and Alec Baldwin who plays Jack Donaghy on 30 Rock to simply trash talk each other about their favorite Major League Baseball teams hoping to tap into sports fans’ emotions. Krasinski who is a Boston Red Sox fan and Baldwin who is a Yankees fan trade friendly jabs throughout the campaign over the phone and in person.

There are distinct ways that the New Era ads differ from Gillette’s advertisements. The original audience that these two campaigns are intended for differ from the viewers of television to the viewers of the online content. Both ended up online and developed the ‘viral’ tag because of their ability to spread in an electronic format. Their goals, however, differed as well. New Era planned to draw audience engagement but didn’t plan that their audience will share the content with someone else.

Based on the definition of “viral” determined by author David Meerman Scott (referenced earlier) in his book, The New Rules of Marketing and PR: How To Use Social Media, Blogs, News Releases, Online Video, and Viral Marketing To Reach Buyer Directly, both New Era and Gillette successfully produced viral content due to the reach of the content.

He also suggests that the main draw to social media is that it acts as a method for individuals to share ideas. A good way for New Era enthusiasts to get involved is to host the campaign of trash tracking videos on the New Era website allowing the enthusiasts to participate in their own trash talking. New Era carried through this idea while Gillette didn’t host a space for their audience to comment on the cool videos that they viewed produced by the company. I’m not sure why, however, this could be because they claimed to have no association in regards to the ‘great catch video’.

A spokesperson from Gillette was asked if the baseball video was their work and he denied their involvement. I think if someone asks, you have to tell the truth. This actually could have hurt their brand loyalty. I read several reports online of customers feeling duped to the point that they were less favorable of the Gillette brand after finding out they did in fact produce the video and hid it then before they viewed the video. It’s great to have engaging content but it is essential to not let your audience feel like they have been duped.

Posting the same content in multiple platforms can be both overwhelming and if done correctly, a successful, very powerful method of dissemination. For example, if a sports team posts a blurb, such as “Check out our new commercial starring slugger Josh Hamilton!” on both Facebook and Twitter they may get two very different responses. After analyzing tracking patterns of information and researching delivery methods, I’ve found that posting the same content over multiple platforms can be both harmful and helpful depending on the audience you are trying to reach. The Texas Rangers official Facebook Fan Page has over one million likes while the official Texas Rangers Twitter page has slightly fewer than 97,000 followers. There is a large difference between the two numbers, however, from what I’ve found if a Rangers Twitter follower has Facebook, then they ‘like’ the Rangers. Therefore, in this specific example, posting the message referenced earlier on both Twitter and Facebook would only overlap on a handful of fans feeds and therefore be beneficially to the ballclub.

Sports teams can get away with this because the emotional attachment to the team is going to overcome the potential for becoming annoyed at an overlap of content. Businesses, however, are at a slight disadvantage because they don’t have the same loyal following a sports team does, at least generally speaking. If a company posts a promotion on both platforms, it seems to be received very differently than if the Rangers post pertinent information to their fans. The key is to convey the same information in a slightly different text. Usually, this is a requirement simply because Twitter caps your statement at 140 characters while Facebook allows your posts to be as lengthy as you wish. The best way to convey any message over multiple platforms is to make the audience appreciate what you are sharing versus feel like they are being bombarded by the same message.

Overall, when analyzing both how to communicate with an audience, especially sports related, and creating content that resonates with your intended audience, it is necessary to not only use resources not available to the everyday person but also make the content entertaining and readily available on multiple online platforms allowing for electronic distribution. After analyzing several different interpretations of both viral and spreadable media, professional and amateur content and creating online awareness, it has become extremely evident that companies such as New Era and Gillette and sports products such as Gatorade employ superstar athletes to gain the upper hand on companies in fields that don’t have recognizable faces. Sports franchises must follow these same guidelines helping them to stay a cut above the amateur.

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Enjoying Your Daily Spreadable Media?

In the eight part essay, “If It Doesn’t Spread, It’s Dead-The Value of Spreadable Media” written by Henry Jenkins, he feels that the term ‘viral’, when referring to media, is not only too limiting, but also too all-encompassing. While the words ‘viral media’ are used in a variety of different practices such as social networks and various methods of marketing (online marketing, guerilla marketing), the term is somewhat unclear. I agree with Jenkins when attempting to define the term viral media. I can’t exactly put my finger on what the term refers to specifically. I don’t think it refers to one thing but rather an entire genre. Viral media, to me, is any type of content that has the ability to be spread quickly and easily. Jenkins uses the term ‘spreadable’ interchangeably with the word ‘viral’.

Jenkins references the song and YouTube video, “Crank Dat”, by Soulja Boy that allowed the young rapper to go from performing in an emptied swimming pool to stages around the country in front of thousands of people. Soulja Boy created a catchy song and dance to accompany his music. If you watch the video a couple of times, you can pretty much pick up the short and easy dance. The video explaining how to do the “Soulja Boy” is relatively short. The neat thing that Jenkins notes about Soulja Boy’s “Crank Dat” is that different communities performed his dance and posted their videos to YouTube. On top of the original video being popular, several of the remakes currently still enjoy a healthy number of views daily. The dance doesn’t appeal to any single type of person; therefore, it is regarded as a universal dance. His video was very ‘spreadable’.

Jenkins also delves into the main kinds of social structures that best support the spread of content. He identifies these social structures as pools, webs, and hubs. Even though each of these has different levels of association between their members, they all are formed around brands or ideas. It’s very easy to share a baseball video that I find interesting with a group that enjoys baseball versus a different group that I’d be apart of that enjoys watching Bleeckie videos. This backs up Jenkins statement in Part 6 of his essay where he states, “Content is spread based not on an individual evaluation of worth, but on a perceived social value within community or group.”

Overall, this essay was very helpful in defining viral media or as Jenkins calls it, ‘spreadable’ media. By stating facts based on research, the essay helps me fine-tune my thinking on the topic without really injecting any biased opinions.

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Pro or Amateur, What’s the Difference?

In Beyond Viral, Kevin H. Nalty breaks down several areas of viral media, who produces this content and who it aims to interest.

In the second chapter, “Flavors of Video: From Skateboarding Cats to Pro”, Nalty makes several valid points about the blurred line between content put out by professionals or corporations and user-generated content (ugc). There are several people who have become webstars via YouTube by becoming YouTube partners along the way. Generally it is a lot easier for a company to become a partner versus an individual. In order for an individual to become a partner, their YouTube channel must receive thousands of hits per video.

What is the difference between a video of a person jumping out of a brand new car that is produced by the car company and the exact same video shot and uploaded on an iPhone by a car owner? These days the line has become extremely blurred. In his analysis and assessment, Nalty uses data from Nielsen and Tubemogul.com to analyze the YouTube user “DaneBoe” who regularly produces a webshow, to content produced and distributed from major broadcasting networks. While episodes of “30 Rock” garner an average of 4.2 million viewers an episode, Larry King’s old show, “Larry King Live”, regularly pulled in about 500,000 viewers. DaneBoe sits right in between at a modest 1.6 million views a day.

Nalty writes that, “the original and core audience of YouTube arrived to escape professional content, and they embrace amateurs.” (Nalty 40). Could this hurt YouTube as they try and mix amateur videos with network content? They have already experimented with streaming full-length movies (legally provided by the studios). Is YouTube trying to steer away from amateur content? Isn’t that what made YouTube worth over one billion dollars?

While I agree with Nalty that there needs to be some sort of distinction (which there currently isn’t) between pros and amateurs, the ability and ease for an individual or small company to upload a video in the same way a major corporation such as Southwest Airlines can has been able to launch start-up media companies while offering a free place to host videos.

YouTube has allowed me, while starting Hands on Dallas, to publish ‘professional’ videos. I put professional in semi-quotes because in this case while a major company such as Southwest Airlines or the Dallas Morning News isn’t publishing the videos, they are professional quality and are published by a small media company.

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Convergence Culture, Double Posting

In Henry Jenkins essay “Convergence Culture” he addresses several aspects of convergence media and the benefits, risks and rewards for this convergence. First he addresses the issue of fair use and how he feels that the policy of fair use seems archaic due to all the ways and methods to share content across different platforms. When you discuss fair use it becomes an issue of “borrowing” someone else’s content for your own benefit. At least this is the most common situation I can think of after reading “Convergence Culture”. For my website, Hands on Dallas, it would be very easy to use a picture from the creative commons or just take someone else’s great photo to add to an entertainment or sports piece but I refuse. Why? It’s simple — I take pride in my work and wouldn’t want someone using my photo without crediting me.

Since my site prominently features audio, video and photos to complement very little writing, the word convergence is thrown a lot. Jenkins says convergence is simply content spreading out and being used on multiple media platforms. There are certain aspects to this concept that I find very interesting. For example, is it beneficial to post the same content on multiple platforms? If I have written a story about the Dallas Mavericks, is it beneficial to type something such as the following on both the Facebook page and the Twitter account”

“After Dirk Feels Team Has Hit Rock Bottom, Mavs Rebound To Win Championship ”

What does this accomplish? Does it annoy someone to see the exact same content and text posted on multiple social networking platforms? If you follow Hands on Dallas on Twitter, chances are you are a ‘fan’ on Facebook as well.

I’m not exactly sure the answer to this question at this point. Using Jenkins’s credible information and analysis along with the data I hope to analyze in my case studies, I hope to determine the best solution going forward for upstarts such as Hands on Dallas.

Jenkins also says that this is the time for newer ideas to enter the marketplace due to the barriers being lowered. I couldn’t agree more. This reasoning is why I started the site. I certainly couldn’t have started my own sports and entertainment multimedia website a few years ago. When new technology is unveiled, it gives more people an opportunity to get involved. Hands on Dallas has taken this opportunity to attempt to enter the playing field using these new technological advances and the idea of convergence.

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New Rules, Traditional Content

In reading “The New Rules of Marketing and PR: How To Use Social Media, Blogs, News Releases, Online Video, and Viral Marketing To Reach Buyer Directly”, the author David Meerman Scott, made severely valid points ranging from the importance of media to the necessity of monitoring the web and blogosphere for viral eruptions. From the beginning of the book, he clarified that mainstream media is still an important component in the world today. I agree with this argument because no matter how media is displayed, translated, and communicated, without the media itself, the methods of communication would be useless. Scott also discussed the difference between an “online” and “offline” world. Before the Internet, we all lived in an offline world, bits of news came out daily not every second via Twitter and marketing and PR departments were separate. It would take weeks for a video to become the then use of the word viral. This is certainly no longer the case and I have ample evidence to prove it. When people ask me what I do for the Texas Rangers, I enjoy giving them a detailed explanation. The fact is that my work is spread out over a couple of different departments – two of which are marketing and PR. For example, if I attend an event with players or alumni, I’ll usually shoot video, photos, and record interviews on location. Then, I’ll go back to the office to write a story for the website. I’ll also put up video clips and photos online for access by media members across the country that weren’t in attendance. Usually the footage I shoot is then re-purposed later that night or in a future game broadcast. So, based on my experiences, I completely agree with Scott’s assessment.

He also delves into the definition of social media. Most people think of social media as Facebook and Twitter, but they don’t realize that those applications fall under the smaller umbrella of social networking. As far as social media is concerned, social networking, blogs, video and photo sharing, chat rooms and message boards, listservs, wikis and social bookmarking sites all fall under social media. The main draw to social media is that it acts as a method for individuals to share ideas, reviews of products, common interests, etc. The difference from mainstream media is that I can hop onto a computer and recommend a product to a friend or share a video of my girlfriend’s puppet, Bleeckie, where my local ABC affiliate may not run the video or have the product on their website.

Viral media can be loosely defined as content that spreads through the Internet quickly. Musicians such as OK Go have become famous through their viral videos posted to video giant YouTube. Scott mentions that bands can easily create a profile on MySpace or a podcast on iTunes and reach a worldwide audience whereas in the past if the band wasn’t signed to a major record label, it was near impossible to have a large scale album release and success. In the world of viral videos, there is potential for a video – even yours – to hit virally out of nowhere –just ask “Friday” singer Rebecca Black. (more on this later in the semester)

Scott discusses that since there is the possibility, it is smart to monitor the blogosphere for viral eruptions. I couldn’t agree more, and therefore, I use Google Alerts to monitor such potential. Every time my sports and entertainment multimedia site, Hands on Dallas, is mentioned on Google, I get an e-mail. This is important to see how far your digital footprint reaches as well as checking to see who is watching your videos.

Overall, Scott raises and addresses several valid points in his book on the new rules of marketing and public relations. I think that the points he makes are very much on tap with my viewpoints and the masses. I’d recommend this book if you are looking to learn more about the digital world that we live in.

Sidenote: Other words that can be used in place of the word ‘viral’ are ‘buzz’, and ‘word-of-mouse’ marketing

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Choosing A Universal Method Is Tougher Than It Sounds

When making the decision on why it is absolutely necessary for Hands on Dallas, the sports and entertainment site I started in September of 2010, to have an interactive media kit, I didn’t take in to account how many different formats, platforms, file extensions, viewing methods, etc. there are in the current realm of technology. Even though a media kit is way over due for an online website that started a year ago later this month, I never wanted to rush it and just go through the methods. I wanted to actually take the first year or so to discover exactly what was and wasn’t feasible when launching your very own multimedia portal. I had never done this before. We had launched a somewhat similar site back during my undergraduate years at SMU that I became heavily involved with and eventually lead, but I was only a staff photographer during the first semester of launch. I really didn’t have to deal with any of the problems of launching such a site from scratch. I’ll leave the positives and negatives for another day; however, I wanted to mention these so no one would think that I was being lazy or unprepared. I’ve found that it really takes awhile to learn what you want to do and what is truly feasible and of interest to others. Sure I could make a site with all of my interests but who else likes exactly the same things I do? I can’t think of one person who has identical interests – no one in the world is the same in that way.

I’m glad that I’m starting to go through this process because it is already forcing me to take a deep, hard look at Hands on Dallas. I have to decide how I want the site to be represented and that starts – in my opinion- in the overall layout. How will I present the site? What program will I use? I went down the list – interactive DVDs, a movie, a PowerPoint, a Keynote presentation, a flash project, an Acrobat Reader or Adobe InDesign project. I weighed all my options and came up with the two most viable options. I’ll be using a program called Adobe Captivate or potentially the new Flash Catalyst. I’ve never created a Flash project before so either way will be a huge learning curve but why not start now? With Captivate I can add videos encoded with Flash codecs, buttons, PowerPoint slides, text, etc. All of these features will allow me to embed a Flash video versus simply providing a link (which is old news). How many times have you wanted to click on a video to watch it but it redirected you to another site versus playing embedded in the site that you are currently on? Your answer should be too many. I think that if I simply provide a link the site will lose credibility as being a player in the multimedia revolution. These were the reasons I decided that I need to put together an interactive media kit. If I’m talking about a radio program I want to have a sample of the radio program right next to the description. The audio aids the visual you have in your head after reading the description – same with videos and so on.

When deciding to go with Flash at first it was a very tough decision to leave out the Apple iPad and iPhone. Yes, there is a huge Android market but the winner currently is Apple and the bottom line is they don’t allow Flash content on their devices. I came to the decision to create a Flash project versus an interactive DVD or an entire website dedicated to the media kit, etc because I realized, no one would be looking at this media kit on an iPhone or an iPad. If this were freely displayed on the web, people may try, but the goal of this media kit is not to be embedded within the actual site (although I may make a secondary version within the website for online viewing). The real reason for this kit is to present to companies, organizations and people I target that may be interested in learning more, advertising or underwriting the site in one way or another. Flash is a very compatible format for the overall population of computer users. Apple laptops and desktops read Flash easily along with PCs and Android based devices. All in all, creating a Flash project using one of these two programs seems to be the most universal way to create my interactive media kit. Which program do you think would be better for this project? Would you stay clear from Flash solely because it can’t be viewed on certain Apple devices? Leave your comments below please.

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