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Spreadable Media: Creating Value and Meaning in a Networked Culture

Spreadable Media: Creating Value and Meaning in a Networked Culture

by Henry Jenkins, Sam Ford, Joshua Green

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Spreadable Media 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”


Spreadable Media 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 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.

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 provides a clear understanding of how people are spreading ideas and the implications these activities have for business, politics, and everyday life.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
In this earnest study of our media landscape, academics and consultants Jenkins (Convergence Culture), Ford (The Survival of the Soap Opera), and Green (YouTube: Online Video and Participatory Culture) examine the diverse ways that news and entertainment travel. The Internet has cause a shift "from a culture shaped by the logics of broadcasting toward one fostering greater grassroots participation." Not long ago, reporters and network programmers operated in an environment where "stickiness" was key. The system privileged "putting content in one place and making audiences come to it." These days, however, "spreadability" matters more. The authors ponder how far and wide viral phenomena can circulate, and show how synergistic television, video, music, and live concert performances can be-not to mention how lucrative. Content today, the authors 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.
(c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
From the Publisher
"Spreadable Media is an essential read for anyone who wants to understand how media works today."- Deep Media
Library Journal
Jenkins (communications, journalism & cinematic arts, Annenberg Sch. for Communication, Univ. of Southern California; Convergence Culture), Sam Ford (Peppercom Strategic Communications), and Joshua Green (strategist, Undercurrent; coauthor, YouTube: Online Video and Participatory Culture) have written a timely and accurate account of the current state of media in our networked culture. While referencing writers such as Howard Rheingold (The Virtual Community) and Andrew Keen (The Cult of the Amateur), the authors describe the problem with a traditional broadcast media paradigm that expects viewers to come to them and why instead meeting the audience where they are and creating valuable relationships is important. They discuss exemplars of independent media who already understand the need for spreadability—that content is easy to share and transform without reprisal—and echo messages like musician Amanda Palmer’s “We are the media,” whereby consumers decide what content is worth their time and how they contribute to and shape it.

Verdict This book covers topics that are relevant and accessible to anyone looking for a better grasp of how the communications environment is changing and seeking models for how to be successful within it. It will be especially meaningful for those in the media and communications fields, marketing, content creation, and advertising.—Rachel Hoover, Thomas Ford Memorial Lib., Western Springs, IL
(c) Copyright 2013. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Kirkus Reviews
A wide-ranging examination of the contemporary media environment as individuals increasingly control their own creation of content. Jenkins (Communication and Journalism/Univ. of Southern California; Convergence Culture: Where Old and New Media Collide, 2006, etc.) and digital strategists Ford and Green collaborate in a book combining abstract academic theory, how-to advice for businesses and popular-cultural anecdotes for lay readers. The basic message is simple--"If it doesn't spread, it's dead."--but the authors express their theories with language that will feel unfamiliar to nonspecialist users of digital media. Even most Luddites probably know that circa 2012, content circulates from grass-roots sources as well as corporate sources. But why that is happening, and exactly what it means for corporate bottom lines, nonprofit think tanks and individual consumers, is less evident. The authors attempt to provide a framework for understanding the phenomena involved, going beyond the bits-and-bytes technology to the elusive democratization of communication throughout global society. The outcomes of a networked culture are not inevitable; without the predictions of further change, the authors write that their book would be pointless. In the introduction, the authors aid general understanding by sharing the example of Susan Boyle, the remarkable songstress who rose from obscurity through YouTube. The case study helps explain not only the spread of entertainment content, but also the spread of news content, overtly political and religious messages, advertising and branding. In the past, Boyle's fame could have theoretically spread slowly through individuals sharing newspaper clippings by snail mail, but she never could have become an international celebrity within a week of her singing debut without the power of networked culture. May serve as a useful handbook for digital media strategists and marketers, but this dense tome will take a major effort for nonspecialists to fully understand.

Product Details

New York University Press
Publication date:
Postmillennial Pop Series
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Product dimensions:
5.90(w) x 9.10(h) x 1.30(d)

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What People are Saying About This

From the Publisher

A wide-ranging examination of the contemporary media environment as individuals increasingly control their own creation of content." -Kirkus,

“Something new is emerging from the collision of traditional entertainment media, Internet-empowered fan cultures, and the norms of sharing that are encouraged and amplified by social media. Spreadable Media is a compelling guide, both entertaining and rigorous, to the new norms, cultures, enterprises, and social phenomena that networked culture is making possible. Read it to understand what your kids are doing, where Hollywood is going, and how online social networks spread cultural productions as a new form of sociality.”-Howard Rheingold,author of Net Smart

“By critically interrogating the ways in which media artifacts circulate, Spreadable Media challenges the popular notion that digital content magically goes ‘viral.’ This book brilliantly describes the dynamics that underpin people's engagement with social media in ways that are both theoretically rich and publicly meaningful.”-danah boyd,Microsoft Research

“Finally, a way of framing modern media creation and consumption that actually reflects reality and allows us to talk about it in a way that makes sense. It's a spreadable world and we are ALL part of it. Useful for anyone who makes media, analyzes it, consumes it, markets it or breathes.”-Jane Espenson,writer-producer of Battlestar Galactica, Once Upon a Time, and Husbands

"It's about time a group of thinkers put the marketing evangelists of the day out to pasture with a thorough look at what makes content move from consumer to consumer, marketer to consumer and consumer to marketer. Instead of latching on to the notion that you can create viral content, Jenkins, Ford, and Green question the assumptions, test theories and call us all to task. Spreadable Media pushes our thinking. As a result, we'll become smarter marketers. Why wouldn't you read this book?"-Jason Falls,CEO of Social Media Explorer and co-author of No Bullshit Social Media

Meet the Author

Henry Jenkins is the Provost’s Professor of Communication, Journalism, Cinematic Arts and Education at the University of Southern California.

Sam Ford is Director of Digital Strategy with Peppercomm Strategic Communications, an affiliate with the MIT Program in Comparative Media Studies and the Western Kentucky University Popular Culture Studies Program, and a regular contributor to Fast Company . He is co-editor of The Survival of the Soap Opera (2011).

Joshua Green is a Strategist at digital strategy firm Undercurrent. With a PhD in Media Studies, he has managed research projects at MIT and the University of California. He is author (with Jean Burgess) of YouTube: Online Video and Participatory Culture (2009, Polity Press).

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