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Spreadable Media: Creating Value and Meaning in a Networked Culture (Postmillennial Pop)

a book by Henry Jenkins, Sam Ford, and Joshua Green

(our site's book review)

Spreadability Versus Stickiness

Spreadable Media: Creating Value and Meaning in a Networked Culture maps fundamental changes taking place in our contemporary media environment, a space where corporations no longer tightly control media distribution and many of us are directly involved in the circulation of content. It contrasts “stickiness”—aggregating attention in centralized places—with “spreadability”—dispersing content widely through both formal and informal networks, some approved, many unauthorized. Stickiness has been the measure of success in the broadcast era (and has been carried over to the online world), but “spreadability” describes the ways content travels through social media.

Following up on the hugely influential Convergence Culture: Where Old and New Media Collide, this book challenges some of the prevailing metaphors and frameworks used to describe contemporary media, from biological metaphors like “memes” and “viral” to the concept of “Web 2.0” and the popular notion of “influencers.” Spreadable Media: Creating Value and Meaning in a Networked Culture examines the nature of audience engagement, the environment of participation, the way appraisal creates value, and the transnational flows at the heart of these phenomena. It delineates the elements that make content more spreadable and highlights emerging media business models built for a world of participatory circulation. The book also explores the internal tensions companies face as they adapt to the new communication reality and argues for the need to shift from “hearing” to “listening” in corporate culture.

Note: Influencer marketing (also influence marketing) is a form of marketing in which focus is placed on influential people rather than the target market as a whole.

Web 2.0 refers to World Wide Web websites that emphasize user-generated content, usability and interoperability for end users.

The digital media explosion
The digital media explosion

Many of Us Regularly Circulate Media Content

Drawing on examples from film, music, games, comics, television, transmedia storytelling, advertising, and public relations industries, among others—from both the U.S. and around the world—the authors illustrate the contours of our current media environment. They highlight the vexing questions content creators must tackle and the responsibilities we all face as citizens in a world where many of us regularly circulate media content. Written for any and all of us who actively create and share media content, Spreadable Media: Creating Value and Meaning in a Networked Culture provides a clear understanding of how people are spreading ideas and the implications these activities have for business, politics, and everyday life.

The key to stickiness is putting material in a centralized location, drawing people to it, and keeping them there indefinitely in ways that best benefit the site’s analytics. (The process is not that unlike a corral; audiences are pushed along predefined routes matching a publisher’s measurement needs and are then poked and prodded for analytics data.)

The stickiness process is not unlike a corral; audiences are pushed along predefined routes matching a publisher’s measurement needs and are then poked and prodded for analytics data
The stickiness process is not unlike a corral; audiences are pushed along predefined routes matching a publisher’s measurement needs and are then poked and prodded for analytics data

YouTube, Wikipedia, Pixabay, Facebook, Wordpress, Etc., All Enable Spreading Media Content

Spreadability emphasizes producing content in easy-to-share formats, such as the embed codes that YouTube provides, which make it easier to spread videos across the Internet, and said embed codes encourages access points to that content in a variety of places. Or the codes for some photos on Wikipedia that you may use only if you follow their Creative Commons Attribution rules, unless it says it is public domain. And of course we all know how to spread things on Facebook or on Wordpress blogs.

<iframe width="560" height="315" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/ZCKoLB1kUsY" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen></iframe>

WILL PRODUCE:



AND:

<a title="By Sno (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)], via Wikimedia Commons" href="https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File%3AHenry_Jenkins_SRN.jpg"><img width="512" alt="Henry Jenkins SRN" src="https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/e/eb/Henry_Jenkins_SRN.jpg/512px-Henry_Jenkins_SRN.jpg"/></a>

WILL PRODUCE: (We have no publicity release, so we only show you the code, but not the photo. The above attribution clears a website for Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 International license photo usage, but people have publicity rights and we would need to contact him to get a release to use his picture, which we have not done. Even if it was a public domain picture, permission is required—unless he's a famous politician who has chosen to be in the public eye so no publicity release is needed. Where'd we get the code? We looked him up on Wikipedia and got https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Henry_Jenkins; then we clicked on his photo and on the photo page, clicked the More Details button. One of the links near the top of the page says Use this file on the web. We clicked this link. You'll see a dialog with the HTML code that includes the needed attributions to satisfy the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 International license.)

You can spread approximately 300 or fewer webpage words as fair use quotes, without permission, (less if the article is short) by sourcing the material in the accepted fair use style for quoting passages from others' articles. If you want something spread, make it easy to spread by giving blanket permission or submitting it to a website dedicated to spreading content, like Pixabay: Free Images.


This Century Has Seen a Revolution in How Media Content Is Spread

Content today, the authors [of Spreadable Media: Creating Value and Meaning in a Networked Culture] suggest, can travel not only from the top down but also from the inside out. It is a remarkably different terrain than what we have been used to, one they effectively and stridently analyze.—Publishers Weekly

"Anyone who watches a YouTube video or likes an article on Facebook; anyone who manipulates a Feminist Ryan Gosling meme or reposts a news article with a cheeky interpretive comment; anyone who writes online fan fiction or creates a video response—all are expressions of participatory culture, and all are contributors to spreadable media. . . . The authors draw attention, in different parts of the book, to two different spreadable campaigns from 2009. One was an effort from Domino’s Pizza to engage with online audiences to make a better pizza; the other was an effort from citizens in Iran to express on Twitter their displeasure with the presidential election, followed swiftly by the documentation on that same medium of the brutal response with which their protests were met. The spread of dissent changed nothing concerning Iran’s election results nor the conditions of its citizens. The spread of consumer engagement did, arguably, result in a better Domino’s pizza." (Source: Munnik on Jenkins and Ford and Green, 'Spreadable Media: Creating Value and Meaning in a Networked Culture', Michael B. Munnik, H-net)

The spread of consumer engagement did, arguably, result in a better Domino’s pizza
The spread of consumer engagement did, arguably, result in a better Domino’s pizza

This Century Communication from Company to Consumer Shifted to Conversation

" . . . the concept of spreadable media is merely the latest evolution of how companies interact with their customers. Prior to the 1990s, communication was always one way—from company to consumer. After the 1990s, when companies first put up corporate websites, that communication began to shift to conversation rather than a performance. At this point, the old 'one-to-many' form of corporate communication is essentially dead, and only by taking the next step—past discourse, past true viral marketing—to spreadable media can a company hope to have any semblance of control over the message. Or even have that message be noticed at all." (Source: Spreadable Media: Creating Value and Meaning in a Networked Culture, Logan Lo, New York Journal of Books)

When corporate websites evolved, communication started out as "here's our email address." But this led to exploits and malware, so then they substituted forms and later protected forms that filtered out most characters except letters and numbers, since unfiltered forms leave a site very vulnerable. Fewer exploits occurred but someone had to wade through all the drek which arrived via forms, including lots of scams and product selling—say, would you like to help a Nigerian princess today? We'll pay YOU if you do. (If something seems a bit too good to be true, it probably is.) Smaller companies still give out email addresses in gif form so exploiters cannot read it easily and a few bigger ones do too, but not nearly as often these days, where phone numbers and emails are scarce as hens' teeth, but forms—sometimes with captchas that exploiting bots cannot get through—and snail mail addresses prevail. (Google gives website managers free captcha code to use to eliminate exploits by malware bots, scapers and scammers.) Some companies give you no way of communicating at all except for the ability to leave comments somewhere that we suspect go entirely unread. Said companies often have Wordpress blogs or Facebook pages where one can comment ones heart out—but commenters are merely talking to each other.

Note the Link to Us button at the top of this page. It encourages putting a link to this webpage on a website, blog, Wordpress, Facebook, or wherever. Spreadability. And note the Email button at the top of this page. It encourages Emailing a link to this page to a friend.

Google gives website managers free captcha code to use to eliminate exploits by malware bots, scapers and scammers
Google gives website managers free captcha code to use to eliminate exploits by malware bots, scapers and scammers. Here's an example of a usage on our website: Contact. And here, a cheeky robot fools the Google captcha!


Here is the REAL 'Nigerian princess'. Notice that 'she' is laughing at you!
Here is the REAL 'Nigerian princess'. Notice that 'she' is laughing at you!

In a Networked World, Spreadability Is as Important as Watchability, or Readability, or Listenability

"This is very much an academic’s book, although the enhanced version does have essays and writing from professionals in the field. Its main thesis is that people involved in entertainment—from creators on through executives—must change the way they calculate value. Today’s metrics can’t simply rely upon how many people watch, read, or listen to something. They must also understand the value of media that is both easily and often shared. In a networked world, spreadability is as important as watchability, or readability, or listenability." (Source: Review: Spreadable Media: Creating Value and Meaning in a Networked Culture, Brad King, The Geeky Press)

The main focus of Spreadable Media: Creating Value and Meaning in a Networked Culture is on the broadcast, mass-media business model of stickiness of content vs. the parallel concept of spreadability. It's becoming increasingly apparent that if media doesn't spread today, it's dead—like a film/song/book/work of art/best practice no one sees/hears/reads/studies/tries. So while there's a loss of control in allowing your audience to manipulate and distribute one's creative effort, there's also an increased opportunity that it will reveal new audiences and be more widely acclaimed than if you protect it and threaten users for swiping it. Corporations, institutions, universities and other power structures are starting to recognize that.

The book is geared more toward a closed circle of people who are directly involved in the circulation of content than it is geared toward the general public. It is recommended to anyone studying marketing, especially. It is a must for digital literacy education.


We Are All Moving Toward Spreadability

There are already plenty of social media books available that look at the "new phenomenon" of sharing as an organizational strategy or as platforms of tools offering compelling new ways to share. But the authors of Spreadable Media: Creating Value and Meaning in a Networked Culture look more at the material itself that is or isn't being shared. What characteristics of materials make people want to spread them? What's in it for the sharer? When people read, hear or watch something that makes them want to circulate it, what triggers that decision? The authors go through a variety of entertainment, mass-media examples about how and why we are all moving toward spreadability.

New platforms create openings for social, cultural, economic, legal, and political change and opportunities for diversity and democratization for which it is worth fighting
New platforms create openings for social, cultural, economic, legal, and political change and opportunities for diversity and democratization for which it is worth fighting

The authors state that "The champions of new technologies write frequently about how the next medium or tool will democratize communication, while media critics often focus on the loss of citizen control, as the platforms for distributing media content are concentrated in the hands of conglomerates. Meanwhile, corporate communicators and professionals in the media industries regularly write about how new platforms are destabilizing their business (and perhaps causing them to 'lose control'). . . . [The authors try to extensively] explore the ways the activities of connected individuals are currently, or could potentially, help shape the communication environment around them. . . . New platforms create openings for social, cultural, economic, legal, and political change and opportunities for diversity and democratization for which it is worth fighting. The terms of participation are very much up for grabs, though, and will be shaped by a range of legal and economic struggles unfolding over the next few decades."


Consumers Are Transforming into Prosumers

Grassroots prosumption—which is an Alvin Toffler term that means participating in the producing of what you consume—is encouraged by the authors, who have little patience for the ancient marketing model of consumer sheep devouring media products mindlessly. To illustrate spreadability, the authors encourage us to "expand the conversation we are starting here. Spread the word to others who you think may be interested. Transform these ideas through your conversations. Build on the arguments that resonate with you. Speak out against those that don’t. That’s how spreadable media works."

The old view of education where teachers fill students up with knowledge as if they are empty containers is antithetical to the new context called spreadable media
The old view of education where teachers fill students up with knowledge as if they are empty containers is antithetical to the new context called spreadable media

The authors tell us that audiences are making their presence felt by actively shaping media flows, and producers, brand managers, customer service professionals, and corporate communicators are waking up to the commercial need to actively listen and respond to them. These sage words of spreadability wisdom are guiding a whole raft of media professionals and marketing gurus. These authors seek to precipitate the reconceptualizing of other aspects of culture, requiring the rethinking of social relations and the reimagining of cultural and political participation.

This book, say the authors, will best serve those readers from the media industries who strive to actually listen to their audiences attentively and to understand the big picture, rather than those looking for easy ways to exploit or leverage the people their company intends to serve.

Perhaps peanut butter isn’t such a bad way to represent spreadable media after all: content remains sticky even as it is spread
Perhaps peanut butter isn’t such a bad way to represent spreadable media after all: content remains sticky even as it is spread

The Corporatocracy, in Spite of the Authors' Advice, Will Continue to See the Consumers as Cash Cows to Milk

"The companies that will thrive over the long term in a 'spreadable media' landscape are those that listen to, care about, and ultimately aim to speak to the needs and wants of their audiences as crucially as they do their own business goals. The following chapters, among other things, will examine a range of emerging community and business practices which point toward ways companies might build more sustainable models through seeking relationships with audiences that find mutual benefit in a loss of corporate 'control.' . . . [they are] offering pragmatic advice in hopes of creating a more equitable balance of power within society. Our arguments are thus often directed toward corporations, recognizing that the policies that most directly impact the public’s capacity to deploy media power are largely shaped by corporate decision-makers . . . Perhaps peanut butter isn’t such a bad way to represent spreadable media after all: content remains sticky even as it is spread."

The corporatocracy, who generally just want more money and power, see the consumers as cash cows to milk
The corporatocracy, who generally just want more money and power, see the consumers as cash cows to milk

Of course, hopes of creating a more equitable balance of power within society has always been antithetical to the hopes of the corporatocracy, who generally just want more money and power, and see the consumers as cash cows to milk and/or sheep to shear. But it may be profitable to create the illusion of an equitable balance of power within society in order to keep their customers baaaaing and mooooing for more. See Requiem for the American Dream: The 10 Principles of Concentration of Wealth & Power.

The corporatocracy, who generally just want more money and power, see the consumers as sheep to shear
The corporatocracy, who generally just want more money and power, see the consumers as sheep to shear