Spread or Die?

At the end of a long and interesting post, Henry Jenkins writes:

C3 research associate Joshua Green and I have begun exploring what we call “spreadable media.” Our core argument is that we are moving from an era when stickiness was the highest virtue because the goal of pull media was to attract consumers to your site and hold them there as long as possible, not unlike, say, a roach hotel. Instead, we argue that in the era of convergence culture, what media producers need to develop spreadable media. Spreadable content is designed to be circulated by grassroots intermediaries who pass it along to their friends or circulate it through larger communities (whether a fandom or a brand tribe). It is through this process of spreading that the content gains greater resonance in the culture, taking on new meanings, finding new audiences, attracting new markets, and generating new values. In a world of spreadable media, we are going to see more and more media producers openly embrace fan practices, encouraging us to take media in our own hands, and do our part to insure the long term viability of media we like.

Indeed, our new mantra is that if it doesn’t spread, it’s dead.

I agree completely that the spreadability of media is essential to its resonance and “long term viability” in pop culture. This struck me as interesting in light of a phenomenon I spoke about at the Cornell/Microsoft Symposium a few weeks ago, which is that online fan groups are becoming less and less place (url/group/mailinglist) based and more and more distributed and nomadic. I used the example of the Swedish indie music fans, who can be found clustering in varied interlinked locations on the net — Its A Trap, SwedesPlease, MySpace, Last.fm, YouTube, and elsewhere. If online fans are not to be found in one or two key spots (MySpace, anyone?), then it’s not just that the media themselves have to come in spreadable pieces, it’s that they have to get into the hands of audiences who are themselves widely spread and often loosely linked through networks of online spaces.

I am not sure about the term “spreadable” which sounds like a highly-processed peanut butter descriptor. Better than “viral,” I guess.

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