Category Archive: internet
“Upworthy rankles some journalists partly because, even as it innocently coos Web readers with tender headlines, the repetitiveness of its style suggests a rather cynical ploy to lasso cheap attention rather than fully engage an audience hunting anything more than a dopamine rush.” -The Atlantic, Upworthy: I Thought This Website Was Crazy, but What Happened Next Changed Everything
For the past year, Upworthy-hosted videos and Buzzfeed listicles have been taking over my facebook feed. It’s been interesting to watch how these sites, and others like them, have come to dominate our news culture. Their headlines are manipulative, almost guaranteed to make you click, but rarely are the informative. You already know the style, and it’s creeping into other news outlets. Here are a few examples from a USA Today story about the emotionally charged headlines employed by Upworthy, Huffington Post, and Buzzfeed:
Coming from journalism, I hate these headlines, and so do others. They editorialize, tell the reader very little about what I’m about to see, and make the reader feel guilty if one doesn’t click them. But it’s been enormously successful for these companies. Upworthy is the fastest growing news site in history, with 30 million unique viewers in May 2013. While at first glance, the site seems like it only repackages videos hosted and created elsewhere, it’s making money through sponsored content and partnerships with organizations such as the Gates Foundation.
Marketing companies now offer advice on how to apply this viral-style headline writing to your small business. And it’s invading the internet. There are a ton of sites trying to clone Upworthy and Buzzfeed’s success, such as ViralNova. They use focus groups and a/b headline testing to find the most clickable headlines. There’s Godvine, a Christian site with headlines such as “See Why These Dogs Are Singing… It’s Way More Important Than You Think” and “He Has Strength, Faith in Jesus and Cerebral Palsy – This Video Will Make You Cry.”
Mainstream news outlets are taking note. The Atlantic recently published “The Case Against Cars in 1 Utterly Entrancing GIF“; Time, always one for Top # lists, has a Viral section with stories such as “The Absolute Grossest Way to Have Your Fortune Read;” Slate’s headlines are starting to change into writing like “This Awesome Ad, Set to the Beastie Boys, Is How to Get Girls to Become Engineers.”
Buzzfeed has been able to do the same thing with photos and gifs. Slate interviewed Buzzfeed founder (and Huffington Post co-founder) Jonah Peretti about how they make photos go viral. As of this writing, “21 Pictures That Will Restore Your Faith In Humanity.” And while not every post there is a hit–”84 Things That Aren’t On An Everything Bagel” didn’t post quite the same numbers (~41,000 as of this writing)–the site has figured a way to reliably draw traffic to photography. Of course, it’s not the sort of photography that we often write about at dvafoto. But just as Kony2012 showed that it’s possible to get the public interested obscure international issues, there might be something for the photojournalism community to learn from Buzzfeed.
Not all is well at Buzzfeed, though. The provenance of many of Buzzfeed’s images is often a bit questionable. They frequently lift images or whole lists from other sites without attribution or concern for copyright. The 21 Images That Will Restore Your Faith in Humanity came from a combination of Ned Hardy posts and Reddit. The site often steals images without asking for permission, particularly troubling when the copyright infringement is used in a sponsored story. One photographer fired back at Buzzfeed, and got them to pay $500 to a charity of his choice, for stealing his photo: “10 Good Reasons BuzzFeed Is Going to Pay My Invoice for Copyright Theft“.
While Upworthy’s sole positive is drawing eyeballs to some worthy stories (here’s a story from my hometown which aired on Rock Center, which I wouldn’t have seen had it not been for Upworthy), I have been impressed by Buzzfeed’s longform journalism section, BuzzReads. Though the headlines can be sensational, the content is good and original. Here are a few stories which have caught my eye recently: I Was Drugged By A Stranger, William Suess Thought He Was An American Until The Day He Was Deported, Was An American College Student Kidnapped By North Korea?, Wildcatting: A Stripper’s Guide to the Modern American Boomtown. Poynter has a nice article about what Buzzfeed’s push into longform reporting might mean.
“What would a Snopes for ViralNova or Upworthy even look like? It could question the sources of the stories and the details of the anecdotes, or provide context for their claims. But could it correct sentiments like, ‘man is fundamentally good’ or ‘we should do better?’ A site specific to this purpose would be more un-viral than anti-viral. Correcting a post like this is like fact checking Chicken Soup for the Soul, or refuting a prayer.” -Buzzfeed, “How Internet Chain Letters Took Over The Media“
Buzzfeed itself has one of the best pieces on how and why this emotionally-charged or nostalgia-infused content is taking over Facebook and the rest of the web. The article argues Upworthy, Buzzfeed, and their ilk substantially resemble chain letters and email forwards (what one MetaFilter commenter called “‘Jesus and kittens love you’ fwd-mails for twentysomething liberals.”).
Snopes.com arose to fact-check viral chain letters, but that doesn’t quite work with Upworthy and the like. Their posts are factual but packaged and reframed in an inspirational or otherwise emotional way. One can’t correct the sentiments in Upworthy headlines such as ‘man is fundamentally good’ or ‘person is brave for confront adversity.’ The best you can do is satirize the style, and thankfully a few people have:
By the way, here are two fantastic satirical exploitations of the Buzzfeed style on Buzzfeed itself: 22 Amazing Things Only a 90s Kid Would Understand, and 7 Fantastic Ways To Distinguish Between Sense And Nonsense. The first was created by what seems to be a Buzzfeed performance artist under the name Spacedog Escargot.
Also, if you use chrome, you can install an extension called Rather to filter Upworthy links, baby pictures, tv spoilers, and anything else you don’t want to see.
Maybe our own M. Scott Brauer, recently returned from a hunting trip in Montana, can give us some better advice than this guy, who just sort of hung out with an Elk while he was trying to take pictures. The video is awkward and asks a lot of questions.
Scott, did this guy do good? Should he have run away screaming? Or stood up and scared the Elk off? (Which was what I was rooting for). Or. better yet, gone for a close-up? Strange video.
You might not know that the President of Chechnya is pretty active on Instagram (181,248 followers as of this writing). The posts are mostly from official meetings and his travels. Yesterday, a post featured a beautiful photo of sheep on a hillside in the Alps. The photo was actually taken by Herbert Schroer, who posted about the image theft on twitter and instagram. Ordinarily, addressing a copyright issue such as this would involve a pretty straightforward plan of action, but what do you do when the violator is the president of a far-off country?
So far, we’ve seen iconic photos recreated with Lego (comparisons), children, more children, Instagram (analysis), Star Wars figures, the elderly, and with their subjects removed. I’m sure there are more…
Now, a new tumblr showcases photographs recreated in Play-Doh. The site’s barely a week old, and there’s no information about the creator on the tumblr, but here’s hoping the project continues.
(via James Estrin)
UPDATE (27 Aug 2013): Just found the creator of the blog. Eleanor Macnair is behind the playdoh creations.
This is weird. Old press card photos of staffers from the Miami Herald are up for sale on eBay. Above is a 1981 image of columnist Edwin Pope, a print of which can currently be had for $28.88. Wait…what?!
I knew that newspapers have been selling off their photo archives, and had heard about the Arkansas-based John Rogers Photo Archive buying up many major newspapers’ photos. But I didn’t know what Rogers was doing with the photos. He started with the Detroit News and then eventually acquired the licensing and print sales rights to the photo archives of the Boston Herald, the St. Petersburg Times, the Denver Post, and other storied news organizations and individual photographers. It’s a good deal for the newspapers. The cash-strapped publications get a one-time payment and a searchable digital archive of their work. For Rogers, the deal was less clear immediately. He’d managed to parlay old sports photographers’ archives into major deals with trading card manufacturers. Images of celebrities and politicians in the newspaper archives would be valuable, but Rogers also began to put ordinary newspaper images up for sale on eBay and the money started to roll in.
The Rogers Archive is now one of the largest stores on eBay, with over 2 million images for sale (I’m not sure if there are other seller profiles operated by the Rogers Archive, but here’s one with 50,000+ images). In a 2012 interview with the Arkansas Times (That’s a great link, by the way, and where Rogers calls his archive the “Walmart of Photography”. Read it for a good background on all of this), Rogers says that eBay sales of old newspaper images bring in $120,000 a week. That’s not a typo. And that’s not the Rogers Archive’s only source of income. But that’s why and how prints of old press card photos of newspaper staff are showing up on eBay.
The Rogers Archive website says that a stock licensing portal will be made to facilitate licensing these images, but promises says it will be coming soon in 2011. Digital Stock Planet‘s website just says “under construction.”
We’ve written about Google Street View-based projects before. Rather than look for serendipitous street photography, Clement Valla‘s project Postcards from Google Earth looks for errors in the algorithm and finds images where roads, bridges, and buildings bend and melt around the landscape in a surreal way. While the website doesn’t have much information, an article at Rhizome explains the process and thoughts behind the project.
Non-profit photography publisher Daylight has started an iPad magazine called Daylight Digital. Published twice a month at $2.99 a month, Daylight Digital focuses on individual artists. The first issue, which is available for free, features new work on Florida by Alec Soth. Here’s a direct link to iTunes to get the magazine.
And while we’re on the subject, the Daylight Photo Awards deadline is May 1.
This is making me panic as a Photo Journalism major. -top voted comment discussing Who Pays Photographers? at reddit
Pricing journalism always feels like a dark art. Following the online payment for journalism back-and-forth last week, Manjula Martin started collecting payment rates for writers at the Who Pays Writers? tumblr. Following that lead, one of our friends set up Who Pays Photographers?, a collection of anonymously-submitted reports of rates paid for (primarily) assignment work. Not long after the site took off, I got a call from the creator concerned about the popularity of the site (averaging 15,000 unique visits a day), and we talked a bit about what purpose the site might serve and how to make it a reliable resource. You can submit rates anonymously through the site.
An interview at PDN tells a little more about what goes into collecting this information and the goals. You can see all of the submitted rates paid to freelancers around the globe, from Gazeta Wyborcza’s $26 day rate to Forbes’ $1250 day rate including assistant and digital fee. The entries also have notes about contractual terms and the time it takes to receive payment. It’s not always a rosy picture, though that’s hardly a surprise.
The response to Who Pays Photographers? has been generally positive, spreading quickly via twitter, facebook, and reddit. At reddit and elsewhere, though, people have been dismayed by the low fees for most photojournalism.
I’m of the opinion that Who Pays Photographers? is an incredibly important resource. While many organizations and blogs work hard to educate freelancers about the business of photography, the actual fees paid for assignment or stock are often kept secret by photographers (though some do publish rate cards). The best way to improve our lot is to be honest and open about what it’s like to work in photography, and a major part of that is a conversation about money, since we all know exposure doesn’t pay the bills.
Make sure to submit some of the rates for your assignment work. I have already, and you should, too.
At Popular Science, we’re pretty good about paying for work; I’ve certainly never asked someone to write a piece for free (photography, sadly, is a totally different story. I feel for photographers!). -Popsci.com editor Dan Nosowitz in a discussion between editors on paying writers
There’s been a lot of talk in the past few days after Nate Thayer posted on his blog about an Atlantic.com editor asking him to write for free. There’s a good summary of the events here. To any freelancers, it’s a common enough occurrence. If you haven’t seen Fuck You, Pay Me, start there. The Atlantic has issued an apology to Thayer, no doubt due to the attention given Thayer’s blog post.
One of the most interesting things to come out of the discussion, though, is a branch thread (?) involving editors and writers from a number of well-known online and print publications on the subject of paying writers for work. It’s called How Much Should A Writer Be Paid, If Anything. The quote above, about the sorry state of payment for photography for online journalism, is cherry-picked from well down in the discussion, but the rest is definitely worth a read for insight into how online publications compensate their contributors. It’s a very interesting look behind the curtain of pageviews and budgets.
And while the situation for writers isn’t rosy, the quote at the top shows it can be even worse for photographers (as we all know). I was happy to read last year (search for “Well, I think it has to do with paying people”) that the NYT’s Lens blog has started paying photographers. Ironic for this discussion, the Atlantic’s In Focus blog, one of the premiere photography showcases online, doesn’t pay photographers last I checked (see update below; the blog does pay for wire service subscriptions). As more and more media entities get into the online photography game, it’s important to make sure photographers are paid fairly for their work.
Update: Thanks to In Focus editor Alan Taylor for adding to the discussion with his comment down below.
Gizmodo has written about the “World’s Highest Resolution Camera”, with 1.8 gigapixels, which is being developed for the US government. They shared this clip from the PBS show NOVA which recently broadcast an episode called “Rise of the Drones”.
This is the next generation of surveillance. … It is important for the public to know that some of these capabilities exist. – BAE Systems Engineer Yiannis Antioniades, who designed the sensor
I know some folks working on drone-related journalism and drone-related photography. This should give you some more ideas about what might be possible. And I can’t help but think of what extreme ‘Google Street View’ style projects could be possible from a camera also known as “Wide-Area Persistant Stare’. Maybe some day we’ll see such a thing, for now it remains a classified US Government program.