Chattr: Viral Media

Last week I talked about the content of Chattr, and how much it’s changed since we started back in 2015. This week, I want to talk about the content that we NEED at Chattr, to make it popular and hit a large audience, and that’s Viral Content. Through my research of Viral Content, what I basically found is that while there’s a good way to see content that’s going viral early, no one really knows how to actually a viral video, which is totally reassuring!

One of the most common explanations is that media content now travels like a pandemic, spreading through audiences by infecting person after person who comes into contact with it. The term “viral” first appeared in science fiction stories, describing bad ideas that spread like germs.

Neal Stephenson’s science fiction novel Snow Crash explains this, “We are all susceptible to the pull of viral ideas. Like mass hysteria. Or a tune that gets into your head that you keep on humming all day until you spread it to someone else. Jokes. Urban Legends. Crackpot religions. Marxism. No matter how smart we get, there is always this deep irrational part that makes us potential hosts for self-replicating information” (1992)

Here, the viral is linked to the “irrational,” the public is described as “susceptible” to its “pull,” and participants become unknowing “hosts” of the information they carry across their social networks.

Douglas Rushkoff ’s 1994 book Media Virus argues that media material can act as a Trojan horse, spreading without the user’s conscious consent; people are duped into passing a hidden agenda while circulating compelling content.

“Media viruses spread the same way biological ones spread through the body or a community. But, instead of traveling along an organic circulatory system, a media virus travels through the networks. The “protein shell” of a media virus might be an event, invention, technology, system of thought, musical riff, visual image, scientific theory, sex scandal, clothing style or even a pop hero—as long as it can catch our attention. Once attached, the virus injects its more hidden agendas into the datastream in the form of ideological code—not genes, but an equivalent we now call memes.” (Rushkoff 1994)

In the 1976 book The Selfish Gene, famed British evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins introduced the “meme,” which was to become both an incredibly important and incredibly overused idea, just like its viral companion.

“Just as genes propagate themselves in the gene pool by leaping from body to body via sperms or eggs, so memes propagate themselves in the meme pool by leaping from brain to brain via a process which, in the broad sense, can be called imitation. If a scientist hears, or reads about, a good idea, he passes it on to his colleagues and students. He mentions it in his articles and his lectures. If the idea catches on, it can be said to propagate itself, spreading from brain to brain.” (Dawkins 1976)

Simplified versions of these discussions of “memes” and “media viruses” have given the media industries a false sense of security at a time when the old attention economy has been in flux. The way these terms are now used to mystify the way material spreads, leading professional communicators on quests to create “viral content.”

There’s a great journal about The relationship of virality and emotions by Jonah A. Berger & Katherine L. Milkman, which talks about how an angry reaction to content causes the potential virality to increase dramatically, especially when there are two opposing sides. A great example of this principle in action which springs to mind is the coloured dress craze of 2015 over social media

So What goes viral? What makes something more likely to go viral? Basically, even people that make consistent viral videos don’t know the secrets, and it probably helps that they have a larger audience to start “spreading their content virus”. Watch this video by Casey Neistat (Gets interesting from 6:10) where he talks about his methods an ideas behind what makes viral video. It’s a good summary of my research of viral content – no one knows shit.

 

References:

Jenkins & Ford & Green, HJ SF SG, 2013, ‘Creating Value and Meaning in a Networked Culture’, Spreadable Media <http://reader.eblib.com.ezproxy.uow.edu.au/(S(p2asztgthxy5k0lzakczmk2x))/Reader.aspx?p=1114591&o=580&u=G5EYdrpLLwc%3d&t=1459300270&h=609E551031458E46719C38A8D7B96C18D9FABC4A&s=43523509&ut=1771&pg=1&r=img&c=-1&pat=n&cms=-1&sd=2>

Chattr: The Content

Since my last blog post, a lot has happened with Chattr. We launched our website chattr.com.au, and we’ve been growing on every platform! Today however, I want to take a step back and talk about the content of Chattr. We used to post one or two videos a week, which were our classic Vox Pop series we started at UOW.

 

Over the last few months however, we’ve been posting videos every single day, alongside of 2-3 articles! Views on the website, and our reach on Facebook has been growing exponentially since. Here’s a great article written by Bernie Clarke, about the changes to Wattamolla, a beloved treasure in the southern suburbs of Sydney.

Although I could talk about the content over at Chattr all day long, I decided to keep looking into the theoretical parts of what makes up Chattr. Henry Jenkins and his mates have delivered yet again in their collectively written book ‘Spreadable Media‘, which is turning out to be the back bones and ‘How to’ manual for creating Chattr! I researched deeper into the text this week, and came across two concepts that directly relate to Chattr. Spreadability and Sticky Content, and Centralised vs Dispersed Media.

Spreadability and Sticky Content:

Spreadability refers to technical resources that make it easier to circulate some kinds of content than others. While the Stickiness of content refers to the need to create content that attracts audience attention and engagement. So spreadability is about how content becoming viral, like using Youtube as a medium. Stickiness is about what becomes viral, and where that content is. These are essentially two different “business models” when it comes to creating viral content.

A great quote that i’m going to shamelessly include directly from the text, originally by Malcolm Gladwell, in his text ‘The Tipping Point‘ (2000) “There is a simply way to package information that, under the right circumstances, can make it irresistible. All you have to do is find it”. So basically he’s talking about making cat videos right?

Under the stickiness model, companies gain economic value by offering merchandise through a subscription or service fee, or selling the space to advertisers. This focuses on monitoring and generating specific data on the actions of each site visitor.

Centralised vs Dispersed Media:

Centralised media refers to content that can only be viewed at a specific location, for example a website (common online media model), this concept is called the “Roach Motel”. It sounds lovely doesn’t it? Dispersed Media refers to content that can be viewed in multiple locations. An example of this is youtube, and through it’s easy embedding. 

There are perks in both.

Centralised; You may sell more advertising space, you can remove the back button essentially trapping the user on the page (increasing bounce rates)

Dispersed; easier to share, more views, user friendly

Jenkins, Ford and Green state that the key to stickiness is to keep the users in a centralised location, drawing them there, and keeping them there indefinitely to boost analysts (bounce rates). The key to spreadability is to produce content in an easy to share format.

You can think of it like network topologies, a centralised media platform is similar to a star topology – because it forces you to actual go to their website for the content, while a dispersed media platform is more of a distributed network – because you can view a youtube video from multiple locations.

Summary:

So through researching about the different spreadability/sticky models and the centralised/dispersed media models, I think it’s safe to say that there’s no clear outlier here, some models work for some people, and others work for another. It really comes down to the content and the audience. For my final digital artefact submission, I’ll be submitting alongside the website, a contextual video explaining which of these methods Chattr has decided to go down, after experimenting some more with each solution!

References:

Jenkins & Ford & Green, HJ SF SG, 2013, ‘Creating Value and Meaning in a Networked Culture’, Spreadable Media <http://reader.eblib.com.ezproxy.uow.edu.au/(S(p2asztgthxy5k0lzakczmk2x))/Reader.aspx?p=1114591&o=580&u=G5EYdrpLLwc%3d&t=1459300270&h=609E551031458E46719C38A8D7B96C18D9FABC4A&s=43523509&ut=1771&pg=1&r=img&c=-1&pat=n&cms=-1&sd=2>

Creating Spreadable Media

This week for my digital artefact, I decided to do some academic research behind content creation, and what makes content viral and reach large audiences. Chris had suggest a great book called Spreadable Media which was published by Henry Jenkins, which talks about viral media, and what it takes, and what it contains.

Henry Jenkins in ‘Spreadable Media‘, talks about every concept imaginable that is relatable to Chattr. One that he talks about is engagement and exploitation of fans and user labour, which is two completely different ways to think about your audience. On one hand, you can engage with your audience in a positive way, by creating content that they want to see. Or you can exploit your fans through forced advertising and thinking mainly about the money, rather than the audience.

The biggest example that springs to mind is Facebook, and the different methods and approaches to growth that Mark Zuckerberg and Eduardo Saverin had. Mark thought that Facebook needed to be about ‘the experience’, and so wanted to make a nice clean website, without many advertisers, and wanted to create something that gained an audience first, then start thinking about the money. While Eduardo wanted to put advertising on the website straight away, and was thinking about the money straight away, and not the aesthetics of the websites.

While Facebook obviously is a huge success, and started at university, we’re all not as committed to the level of dropping out of uni to work on Chattr full time, simply because we still don’t know how successful it will be. So while I would like to take the approach of Mark, and think purely for the audience growth and aesthetics, we really can’t afford that luxury.

“The Social Network”

There’s so much more that he talks about, including the shift to on-demand media rather than scheduled media on television, and meaningful participation. All of which are concepts that we’ve thought about at Chattr, or are things we’ll have to consider sometime in the near future.

 

Jenkins & Ford & Green, HJ SF SG, 2013, ‘Creating Value and Meaning in a Networked Culture’, Spreadable Media <http://reader.eblib.com.ezproxy.uow.edu.au/(S(p2asztgthxy5k0lzakczmk2x))/Reader.aspx?p=1114591&o=580&u=G5EYdrpLLwc%3d&t=1459300270&h=609E551031458E46719C38A8D7B96C18D9FABC4A&s=43523509&ut=1771&pg=1&r=img&c=-1&pat=n&cms=-1&sd=2>

Chattr

For my digital artefact this semester for DIGC335, i’ve decided to continue my digital artefact from last years DIGC202 class, Chattr. What began as a weekly video series with my friends, became a registered business over the summer holidays. So for my first blog post, i’ve decided to give a brief overview and introduction as to what Chattr was, what Chattr is, and what Chattr will be. You can check Chattr over on Facebook!

Was:

Last year, Chattr recorded and released a video series called “Uni Life Savers”, where we aimed to interview students around campus about topics regarding the university lifestyle. As well as just recording and editing a short video series, we also did extensive research into media platforms to release onto, advertising through Facebook and did some serious statistical research. We also experimented with looks for the show, and using different equipment to create a different feel to the show. I’ll be going through the practical side of Chattr in a later blog post, where i’ll talk in depth about how we film and what we use.  Here’s a great example of this video series:

Now:

Chattr has now become much more than one video series. It’s become my full time job. Chattr has become a media and entertainment business, almost like a mixture between Buzzfeed, Vice and College Humour. We have a group of dedicated people who all see the potential of what Chattr could become, and want the chance to learn and be involved in this industry.

Chattr has evolved into a popular media entity around UOW, as well as other universities. We moved our intended demographic to outside of the university, and broadened our reach to Sydney and Wollongong as a whole, aiming for 16-25 year olds.

We’re planning on releasing 7-8 videos per week, including; Our classic Vox Pop series, Surround Sound (music) segments, Staff Videos, Shorts and our own twist on the news. We’ve also invested into a website chattr.com.au which is still in it’s development stage, where we intend on earning revenue through online advertisements,  and publishing all our videos and articles.

What It Will Be:

While it’s too early to really see what Chattr will become, I can only really speculate with what i’d like it to become. We set out with Chattr in 2016 with the aim of creating our own paid full-time jobs by the end of the year, along with everyone else in the team, so that we would be able to jump straight into jobs that we’ve created ourselves.

With the growth that we’ve seen so far, i’m confident that Chattr will pick up throughout this year, and will become a recognisable brand throughout certain uni’s in the next few years, especially with the partnerships and opportunities we’ve had at Western Sydney University, Macquarie University, University of Technology Sydney and University of Wollongong.

Conclusion:

Chattr is something that i’m investing my time, money and life into, and both everyone helping out and myself hope that the success of it reflects the time and effort we put into it. I’ll be writing about Chattr for my blog posts, and reflecting on the theoretical and practical sides of it.