We are at a pivotal moment in the history of digital media. Like never before, digital media is evolving into a tool to reach, connect and empower communities across the world.
Such was the message at Out In Tech’s event on the future of emergent, established and social media. Held at New York’s General Assembly this Monday, the event made clear that we, as publishers, are at the bright beginnings of a new media era.
The panel was a lineup of rockstars from the digital media industry:
· Caitlin Thompson, Executive Editor at WNYC (Moderator)
· Kate Lee, Senior Editor at Medium
· Jamilah King, Staff Writer at Take Part, a digital news and lifestyle magazine platform for the conscious consumer
· Lynn Casper, founder of queer music site Homoground
While the evening explored multiple topics, here are some key takeaways:
· Digital media today has an incredible power to reach and connect communities: Thanks to the unique benefits of social media, digital media has the scale and scope to create communities and conversations for queer people everywhere. As Lynn Casper, founder of queer music blog Homoground, pointed out, anyone with a microphone and an editing program can easily start podcasting to the world, sharing their stories and experiences. Casper started podcasting several years ago about queer musicians and quickly grew Homoground into a robust community of queer musicians and audiophiles.
Done strategically, digital media also offers a tool to introduce important issues to people who wouldn’t usually encounter them. Elisa Kreisinger, Creative Director at viral video site Upworthy, spoke about Upworthy’s mission to “get topics into people’s feeds that they wouldn’t normally engage in or care about.” The site scours the Internet to find compelling, meaningful stories and uses viral tactics to disseminate these stories to the digital public. Using detailed information on reader interests and behaviors, Upworthy curates media on important issues and games the system to ensure that this content reaches as many people as possible.
Among many other things, Upworthy has focused on improving transgender visibility by finding impactful stories and then maximizing their viral potential to ensure they get into as many social feeds as possible. To accomplish this, they test everything from video length to headline in order to identify what exactly will drive the most people to share a story.
· The extent of the ADD era is overstated: While some may claim that reader attention spans are shrinking, there is still demand for high-quality, long-form content. Kate Lee, Senior Editor at Medium, explained that their research has found that the optimal article length is around 1,800 words, which is equivalent to about 7 minutes of reading time. Here at mindbodygreen, we’ve also identified a desire for robust, well-researched content and are investing in creating longer, more in-depth articles.
· New media forms will provide exciting and unprecedented opportunities for storytelling: Across the board, content innovations such as infographics, data visualizations and interactive, rich media narratives (such as the The New York Times’ pioneering “Snow Fall” from 2012) offer exciting and unique opportunities to tell stories – and engage readers – in new ways. As Kate Lee of Medium observed, we are just starting to scratch the surface of what can be achieved using the interactive powers of digital media. Publishers will be able to ignite interest in important topics and get inside a story in ways that have never before been possible. Jamilah King, Staff Writer at Take Part, voiced her excitement at the way publishers are finding smarter, more seamless ways to enhance stories by adding visuals to posts.
Interestingly, The New York Times has once again placed itself at the forefront of media innovation by debuting a virtual reality experience during yesterday’s NewFronts presentation.
· The podcast renaissance continues: The ease of creating, distributing and consuming podcasts has contributed to a rapid resurgence of pre-recorded audio content. In October, New York Magazine wrote covered “the great podcast renaissance,” highlighting the runaway success of NPR’s Serial. And in March, BuzzFeed launched a duo of podcasts.
Homoground’s Lynn Casper pointed to podcasts’ exciting potential, describing them as “a road [on which] we can create an experiment along the way.” WNYC Executive Editor Kaitlin Thompson also voiced her support for podcasts, observing that there is still no market-leading community-oriented podcast product/player.
As queer people who are also publishers (or vice versa), we have an unprecedented opportunity to connect and communicate with people in meaningful ways. What’s even more exciting is that new technologies allow us to do this in ways that are financially sustainable and socially impactful. It’s an incredible time to be in digital media – and I’m excited for what’s ahead.