What is social news?

It is rich, bite size information, condensed to meet time restraints, easy to navigate, relatable, worth sharing, and delivered right to the consumer’s social platform and device of choice. Social news is not necessarily about what is happening in the world, but rather, what's happening on the web.

1. Bite Size Information, Condensed To Meet Time Restraints

When was the last time you had a snack? Probably within the last 24 hours, right? If your life is as busy as mine, then you probably pulled out a granola bar in between meetings, when there wasn’t quite enough time to indulge in a full meal. Even though I love well-prepared food, sometimes, the only way to get through the day is with a quick snack break.

Now lets translate that concept into news consumption. Since time is of the essence in the busy culture of today, there isn’t much time left for lengthy news reports. In fact, whether they’re in public transport, eating a meal, or maybe even on the toilet, your consumers will probably be multi-tasking while they skim through the day’s highlights. People want their news in snack-sized form, to accompany their snack-sized breaks. They don’t even have time to read a full paragraph. Listicals, highlights, photo galleries, and quick facts, are the way to go.

"In the current media environment, a list is perfectly designed for our brain. We are drawn to it intuitively, we process it more efficiently, and we retain it with little effort." -Maria Konnikova, The New Yorker

2. News Is Better Consumed As a "Listicle"

Think back to the last research paper, biography, or dense piece of material that you read. Now imagine it without a table of context, headings, or subheadings. Sounds overwhelming, doesn't it? When your consumers finally get 10 minutes to read the news, they don't want to feel like that. They want to feel in control of the information. If they know a list is what you're offering, they'll be more likely to jump on that article first--because it puts them in control.

"[W]e feel better when the amount of conscious work we have to do in order to process something is reduced; the faster we decide on something, whether it’s what we’re going to eat or what we’re going to read, the happier we become. Within the context of a Web page or Facebook stream, with their many choices, a list is the easy pick, in part because it promises a definite ending: we think we know what we’re in for, and the certainty is both alluring and reassuringThe more we know about something—including precisely how much time it will consume—the greater the chance we will commit to it." -Claude Messner and Michaela Wänke via Maria Konnikova, The New Yorker

So now we know that with a list-style headline, your articles are more likely to be clicked. But what about keeping your consumers engaged? Lists help with that too. Why? Because structure means control. For the same reason that organization specialists help you to compartmentalize your home, media outlets need to compartmentalize their information—to increase ease of access, and put the consumer in the driver's seat.

"When we process information, we do so spatially. For instance, it’s hard to memorize through brute force the groceries we need to buy. It’s easier to remember everything if we write it down in bulleted, or numbered, points. . . Because we can process information more easily when it’s in a list than when it’s clustered and undifferentiated, like in standard paragraphs, a list feels more intuitive. In other words, lists simply feel better." -Maria Konnikova, The New Yorker

In conclusion, we can note that people are more likely to click on your heading if they know it will fit their time restraints, and people will be more likely to enjoy the information this way as well, because information is best processed in a well structured format.

3. Rich Content Is Still Important

Via this study on journalism.org. Click image to enlarge.

People want to know what’s going on. But social "news" isn't just what we typically know as "news." It is much more than that. Check out the graph on the right. You'll see that according to this study done by PEW Research Center, news topics vary widely. Entertainment, community related content, and sports beat out national government and politics news by quite a bit.

But just because entertainment is at the top of this list, doesn't mean that people want their news to be fluffy. They want the details, they want answers, and they want solutions.

A study, performed by the Nieman Journalism Lab, indicated that readers like stories about problems more when they also included possible solutions.

Via this article on niemanlab.org. Click image to enlarge.

Many media publishing companies who are rightly concerned about their users not having enough time to read an article, will dumb-down the content and get rid of the details within an article. While we'll also be discussing the importance of keeping your users' time restraints in mind, it is very important to take note of the information above and realize that your consumers are looking for solutions. They don’t want less information, they just want more control. They want rich content that is quick to grasp, so that they can get more for their time. It isn't about cutting out the meat. It is about making the good stuff more accessible.

4. Content Needs To Be Relatable In Order To Be Shareable

Everyone always wants to be the first to know the latest workplace story or inside joke so that they can prove themselves as a credible source to their friends and family. The same goes for news. Ever been the last one to find out about a big news story? No one wants to feel left out. That's why sharing likeable and informative content on Facebook is a win-win situation for everyone. The person sharing gets credibility, the person being shared with gets to be in the loop, and the source gets their name out there. This isn't a new concept. In fact, we can trace the importance of self-credibility back to Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs (published in 1943), where within the top three tiers we see a theme of gaining acceptance and respect by others beating out health and employment.

There is also proof that for the large numbers of people getting their news from social sites, only about one third of them actually follow a news organization or individual journalist. The rest rely on stories being shared by friends in their networks (Amy Mitchell, PEW Research Center).

"15% of U.S. adults get most of their news from friends and family this way [from social media], and the vast majority of them (77%) follow links to full news stories." -StateOfTheMedia.org

This study (results shown below), conducted by The New York Times Insights, demonstrated that the two primary reasons for information sharing was to bring value and entrainment to their friends, and also because it helped them to process and manage information more deeply.

With this information in mind, imagine how much more likely a consumer would be to click into your article if it looks like something they'd want to share too. That's why the goal is to create relatable content; because it will spread like the flu, but in a good way.

How do we do this? As mentioned in the section above, lists are a great place to start.

"List-style headlines often provide that optimal balance of information and ambivalence, intriguing us just enough to click, on the chance that we’ll come across something particularly relevant or exciting." -Maria Konnikova.

Relevancy is key. It is so important to target the right audience with the right information, and give them the authority to say, "I'm clicking on this because I know all about the topic, and I want to see what this article has to say about it."

5. It is Better To Design For Mobile First, and Desktop Second

The landscape of news and content delivery has been going through a revolutionary change over the past century, and even more so in the last decade. Since the digital information age, news has become more readily available than ever before. From one side of the world to the other we can easily stay up to date on trending stories as they come about. This social development is known as "the democratization of information," and has made the news and content publishing industries very competitive environments, even more so for web-based companies.

Studies show that while the baby-boomers are still engaging in print media, the younger generations expect that the news be available to them on their phones, tablets, and computers with a couple of quick clicks of the mouse. In addition, in January 2014, mobile apps overtook PC Internet usage in the U.S. (as reported by CNN Money), with Facebook being a top contributor to this number.

There's more to note about the time we're living in. And it is that consumers are too busy with their own lives to spend hours digging into worldly news. They want to be entertained and served where they are. Patience has weaned, and expectations have risen. As the media promulgates the ideology of self-importance, it has taught consumers that if something is important enough, it will come to them. In this report from journalism.org, this observation is proven: "half of Facebook users get news there even though they did not go there looking for it."

So what does that tell us? It tells us that if we want to be noticed, we've got to go to where to people are. We've got to meet consumers on their social platforms, optimize for mobile viewing, and keep things concise and well-structured so that people are happy with the way it feels on their mobile device.

Conclusion

Social news is all about catering to the people. It is content that comes across as desirable and sharable, is easily consumed, is worth the user's time, and can be easily accessed from everywhere and anywhere.

Social news is the future of news and entertainment with good reason: people can relate to it. Jumping on board with GoViral means jumping on board with the changing news landscape. If you're interested in what it has to offer, feel free to give us a shout. We'd love to hear from you!

 

Contributing Editor: Katie Ekbatani

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