Blog Post #4

A recent topic of media interest is the Apple vs. FBI standoff over the San Bernardino shooter’s locked iPhone. Earlier today, the FBI said that they found their own way into the phone without Apple’s help. This prompted a New York Times article by AP contributor Mae Anderson that summarizes the debate until now. This same narrative was also the topic of a BuzzFeed news video, which was posted March 23. While the difference in post date is noteworthy due to the recent events, the focus of the two pieces is the same.

The style of rhetoric used in the New York Times article is much more formal and complex, composed with the intricacy of a press release. It’s longer, and uses its carefully selected words to dig deeper into the issue than the BuzzFeed video does. In line with its formal tone is its presentation; in its web form, the article still looks like a traditional newspaper piece, with black words on a white background and a clean cut font.

The New York Times’ formal, classic style and presentation has a lot to do with their audience. The following graphic from Pew Research Center data detailed in an International Business Times article describes who reads the New York Times.

news preference-01

Based on the data, it can be inferred that the New York Times’ audience is generally younger, educated, and middle-to-upper class. This accounts for the level of detail, complexity, and angle of their overall approach.

On the other hand, the BuzzFeed video wishes to give its viewers a much more high-level understanding of the issue. Its style of language is a lot more straightforward and is free of in-depth analysis, opting instead for key points and base-level facts. Its presentation is a lot showier: the video is complete with background music, visual aids, and graphical support.

These ideas hint at the core of BuzzFeed’s MO, which has put them at or near the top of new media news outlets. An article on the website of Harvard’s Institute of Politics explored BuzzFeed’s singular ethos, and characterizing it as “provocative” and noting BuzzFeed’s heavy use of visual aids to condensed content to “make it more interesting and more relevant.” Their Apple video article certainly matches this description. It’s geared towards more general, casual consumption than the in-depth analysis often used by traditional outlets like the New York Times.

In the end, much of the differences between the two pieces can be attributed to medium, but the New York Times and BuzzFeed still clearly have fundamental differences in their models. These differences in form and supposed credibility aside, I think that the New York Times article still does a better job summarizing the Apple vs. FBI issue than its BuzzFeed counterpart. The BuzzFeed video outlines the gist of the conflict, and its visuals definitely make it more aesthetically stimulating. While the visual element is advantageous, the same ideas found in the BuzzFeed video can be found in the New York Times article, and then some. The article’s stratification of defined sections, objective analysis, and formal language paint an effective picture of the issue. In addition, since the point of consuming either text is to extract its content, the article’s less elaborate presentation is helpful by limiting distractions.



  1. Associated Press (2016). AP explains: Apple vs. FBI _ what happened? New York Times. Retrieved from
  2. BuzzFeed Staff (2016). What you should know about Apple’s standoff with the FBI. BuzzFeed. Retrieved from
  3. Mahapatra, L. (2013). Audience profiles: Who actually reads the New York Times, watches Fox News, and other news publications and channels? International Business Times. Retrieved from
  4. Choe, J. (2016). How BuzzFeed is like a Parisian cafe. Harvard Institute of Politics. Retrieved from

Blog Post #3

On March 5, 2012, Invisible Children uploaded “Kony 2012” to YouTube with the hopes of spreading word about the crimes of Ugandan war criminal Joseph Kony. Their goal all along was to go viral, but nobody could’ve predicted the extreme heights of their success.

“Kony 2012” subsequently became the fastest growing video of all time, racking up over 100 million views and in just six days. Even more were reached through social media platforms like Twitter, where the hashtag #Kony2012 instantly became ubiquitous.

The “Kony 2012” video is an obvious product of numerous properties identified by Jenkins and company in Chapter 5 of Spreadable Media.First, it’s a digital product, so it’s at once readily available, portable, and reusable. All of these characteristics contribute to its immense ease of share.

Second, some of the principles they laid out regarding shared fantasies can be traced to “Kony 2012.” For example, the video is an embodiment of the acceptance of mutual obligations. When somebody sees or hears about the video and its cause, they feel responsible for furthering its message. This is also in line with wanting to operate within familiar social patterns; when a video generates this much buzz, getting involved becomes the norm. Both of these contribute to its overarching theme of community– one of the central tenants of shared fantasies.

Additionally, “Kony 2012” displays characteristics of unfinished content. Investigative research was conducted, explanatory essays were written, and further documentaries were produced in the aftermath of the YouTube video. These following producers saw the video and its content as an unfinished message and took action to help round out the story.

Perhaps “Kony 2012″‘s most relevant spreadability aspect was the timeliness of its controversy. At the time of its publication, African conflicts were a nonstop topic of media discussion. To name just a few, the Egyptian political conflict was in full swing, the Sudanese and Libyan civil wars were imminent, and Somalian pirate attacks were frequent. The world’s people were already sympathizing with African conflicts. So, when the video started to educate viewers on this long-lasting Ugandan feud, the public was ready to embrace its controversy. The fact that “Kony 2012” embodies so many of Jenkins’ ideas– and embodies them so profoundly– makes it a good example of his ideas.

While “Kony 2012″doesn’t display evidence of Jenkins’ other listed factors, additional spreadability factors relating to it can be found elsewhere. TINT– a consulting firm that specializes in social media– posted an article on their page that lists several commonalities of viral content. Some that relate to “Kony 2012” are listed below:

  • Sentimentality– viewers are likely to empathize with its emotional message
  • Informativity– the video educates viewers on a previously unknown topic
  • Researched content– viewers respect the work put into making the video and want to see its conclusion
  • Video– its informative yet entertaining at once and requires little work from viewers

Each one of these characteristics contribute directly to how likely viewers are to share.

Social media marketing firm Synecore posted a similar article on their site, but with different characteristics. Still more unique ones can be related to “Kony 2012.” The first is that it’s unbelievable– viewers are abhorred at the jaw-dropping acts of Kony and his rebel army. Next, it agrees with our worldview. People like sharing things that make them feel good about themselves. Is there a better example of this than an activism video? Lastly, it’s taboo. Mainstream media strayed away from the Kony conflict for decades. The fact that a then-small charity group started the movement made it that much more intriguing.


  1. Invisible Children (2012). Kony 2012. Retrieved from
  2. Jenkins, H., Ford, S., Green, J., & JSTOR books. (2013). Spreadable media: Creating value and meaning in a networked culture. New York: New York University Press. Retrieved from
  3. Wikipedia (2o16). List of conflicts in Africa. Retrieved from
  4. Unknown author (2013). 11 types of viral content that spread on the internet. TINT. Retrieved from
  5. Horton, C. (2013). Social media marketing 101: What makes content go viral? Marketing Technology for Growth. Retrieved from