Spreading the Message: Looking at Forwarding Behavior of Video Viewers

by Aaron Rockett on January 2, 2014

USC Professor, Henry Jenkins says, “If it doesn’t spread, it’s dead” (Usher, 2010). Spreadable media travels across media platforms partly because people take it in their own hands and share it with their social networks (Usher, 2010). In Usher’s interview with Jenkins it is pointed out that the widespread circulation of media content through the conscious actions of disparate networks of viewer/participants promotes greater visibility and awareness as the video travels in unpredicted directions and encounters people who are potentially interested in further engagements with the people who produced it (Usher, 2010).

YouTube videos spread well because they allow users to embed them on their blogs and Facebook profiles (Usher, 2010). The embedded video’s interface makes it easy to follow it back to its original page on YouTube (Usher, 2010). “It is content which is designed to be spread,” says Jenkins (Usher, 2010). Those who create spreadable content and video platforms actively encourage viewers to spread their materials, often directly “courting them as participants in the process of distribution” (Usher, 2010).

Jenkins’ research shows that social media and the spread of a viral video is partly about the value gained from the grassroots spread of video and other media and how the media industry is being “reconfigured in order to accept the help of grassroots intermediaries who help expand their reach to the public” (Usher, 2010). Jenkins points out that there is a rejection of the “the magic black box” or television model where the flow of media comes across one device in favor of the flow of media and video across multiple media channels (Usher, 2010). The rise of iMacs, iPhones, iPads, iPods and the rest of the devices is certainly evidence of such a shift. But Jenkins takes the point further, “We live at a moment where every story, image, or bit of information will travel across every available media platform either through decisions made in corporate boardrooms or decisions made in consumers’ living rooms.”

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