Monday, May 11, 2015

Music Editors: Three Tips to Build Viral Content in a Digital Era

Going viral is easier than it sounds. As journalism moves increasingly online, creating content that reaches a large audience has become critical. Readers must sift through an online world saturated with articles on a daily basis, and any one of them could hit big—including yours. Music journalism in particular has come under fire for losing impact; music is released immediately to the listener nowadays, and by the time they read about it they’ve often made up their mind. An undergraduate student at Northwestern University who has studied both journalism and marketing extensively, I have found two articles highlighting important concepts about how to craft digital content that works.

The Guardian’s article “Journalism In the Digital Age:Trends, Tools, and Technologies” summarizes some of the key challenges generated by journalism’s move online. News turnaround time has rapidly compressed, making it imperative to publish content quickly. Competition has also tightened—the web now boasts hundreds of thousands and voices, all of who could get the first scoop if you don’t move fast. Lastly, while publications do retain exclusive access to celebrity and other high-profile stories, their readers are utilizing free publishing tools like Tumblr and numerous social media sites to tell and share stories. Publications should be there, too. Author Martin Belam, who has spent over a decade building successful digital products and user experiences across mobile and desktop for global brands, also offers his forecasts for the biggest digital journalism trends he expects to see moving forward: live blogging, linked data and living stories. Linked data is of particular interest to music editors, as sites like Musicbrainz give unique IDs to musicians and aggregate profiles of content about them from all over the web.

Credit: Shutterstock / mj007

In Dan Lyons’ blog for HubSpot, Neetzan Zimmerman offers nine tips for crafting the viral content that built his career at Gawker, one of the world’s biggest blogs. Of Gawker’s top 10 posts in 2013, nine were by Zimmerman. His posts alone drew 17 million unique visitors to Gawker in one month. He suggests dedicating a lot of time to finding ideas that work, casting a wide net for story ideas, focusing on human interest, posting often, evaluating the effectiveness of each post, finding compelling angles and a great headline, heavily promoting on social media and, above all, being patient.

Based on these two articles and my industry studies as an undergraduate student in the Northwestern Medill Journalism and IMC programs, here are three actions I would recommend to music editors looking to create viral content.
  • Play the percentages - Create a lot of content, and often. Zimmerman posts 10-15 items per day. Most don’t go viral.
  • Study the data - Review traffic data frequently to see which posts worked and which didn’t, and how those that didn’t could have been improved.
  • Be Social -  Social media has become an integral part of viral posts. Create profiles across a large number of social media sites, and tailor the way you share the content to that site’s format. Twitter has to be snappy and short, while Facebook can run longer but needs to grab attention immediately.
In sum, post a lot of content and post it frequently, review what works and doesn’t regularly, and maintain strong social media profiles. And do it quickly—or someone else will.

About the author: Dana Getz is a current undergraduate student in the Medill School of Journalism and Integrated Marketing Communications at Northwestern University. She is studying magazine journalism and pursuing an IMC certificate. She has worked for several publications, including the Chicago-based Monochrome Effect. Boxx Magazine, and the nationally acclaimed New York Magazine. She also helped to launch a start-up music blog and has served as its editor for two years. She is passionate about A&E journalism and will be graduating in June 2015. You can follow her on Twitter @DanaGetz or connect on LinkedIn.

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