I’ve been writing professionally for several years, and the only article I’ve written that’s legally “going viral” isn’t an article at all — it’s a quiz.
Fine, because this is a pretty cool test , mainly thanks to some perfectly lifelike GIFs and images edited by our former editor, Julia Schur. For example, this is the visual spread for “If you could describe yourself in one word, it would be…”
The premise of the test is quite simple: By asking a few simple but articulate questions like “What is your favorite subject in high school?” and “Who is your favorite tame billionaire?” the test will identify the media company that the person embodies. It quickly became a hit a day or two after it was posted, by which I mean some famous media pundits started grabbing and tweeting about it.
– Kara Swisher (@karaswisher) July 24, 2015
Well I legally have my own company. I got “Vox Media” on “Quiz: What media company are you?” How about you? http://t.co/hE2jPxbMqx
– nilay patel (@reckless) July 23, 2015
I got “Gawker” on “Quiz: Which media company are you?”. Still can’t believe I never actually worked there. http://t.co/Din9MRZED3
– Felix Salmon (@felixsalmon) July 23, 2015
Then I learned that “viral” starts when someone posts a quiz on BuzzFeed’s Slack that, anecdotally, shows the importance of dark traffic and influencers. Finally, driven by those influencers, the test was done over 9, 000 time.
You can see, The Awl Media company is the most likely media company for the “existing” media types. That’s not particularly surprising, given that The Awl is a small but influential publication for those in the media industry. The Verge wrote a profile of publication last year was subtitled, “Why are the people most important to reading The Awl in the media? ” gives you an idea of its overwhelming influence.
Since then, I’ve done two other quizzes related to the media industry: “ You can guess the publisher by title are not? ” and “ Can you guess the publisher by Home? Unfortunately, neither of them, however, all three have revealed interesting things about the media industry. Treating these as informal quizzes rather than explicitly methodological studies, I’m treating them like salt in the water, and so should you. [/note]
Table of Contents
People struggle to distinguish old media headlines
Newspapers and legacy print publications have a comma inserted. That’s the kind of headline you’ll almost never see on a site like BuzzFeed or Vox, and for good reason because they sound incredibly hard to believe.
Of course, the printed titles are very similar because space is limited; Creative use of commas is required. Those titles now give publishers old-fashioned charm and a sense of seriousness.
But as the test results show, they are not so different. Bloomberg, The New York Times, The Washington Post, and The Wall Street Journal are all vying for similar eyes. The last thing they want is to have their brands blurred together.
Certain media brands have very distinct headline styles
While Vice and BuzzFeed’s unique title structure has resulted in many parodies, they are also recognizable within a lineup. The two sites with the highest percentage of correct answers by far.
To demonstrate how pervasive BuzzFeed’s headline style can be, 34 percent of people think that Cosmopolitan’s headline (“This photo of a father kissing his baby looks like a butt hole and Internet Can’t Even”) is BuzzFeed. Only 13 percent chose the right Cosmo.
Not all new media companies do so well. Only 21 percent remained who knew “Will Obama Transform into His Real Reptile Vampire Form Tonight In The Last State Of The Union? Probably! If so, _______ Will Liveblog It! ” from Gawker. (Sixty-one percent think it’s The Onion, which, to be fair, is understandable.)
Breitbart died eventually at 12 percent, though I concede that the headline (“Five Ways the Social Justice Movement Can Restore Its Credibility in 2016”) had a cunning purpose. .
BuzzFeed, The New Yorker and HuffPo have the most recognizable homepages
Then 12 sites that I included “Can you guess the publisher by Home?” quiz, these three topped at 84, 82, and 76 percent accuracy, respectively.
When you look at the homepage, it’s easy to see why.
Honestly, I had a hard time deciding whether or not to get the famous red up arrow here, but after noticing that no other publisher has a logo anywhere on their homepage, I feel BuzzFeed deserves the edge because it recognizes the power of a good, recognizable logo.
Besides, everything here is the same as BuzzFeed: the buttons at the top, the plaid textures of trending stories, and the sections themselves — other publishers will have quizzes, food, and homemade ? The result is a homepage that is recognizable to almost anyone.
Meanwhile, The New Yorker may be the most popular magazine on the planet, largely because of its eclectic coverage and distinct style. The font itself is well known and very recognizable. Other than that, no one else will put the “Cartoon” section in the top navigation bar.
The Huffington Post is famous for running full-screen headlines above the fold like this, so it’s no surprise it came in third. The subsections — Black Voices, Voices of the Queue, Healthy Living — also hint at the publication’s penchant for no-repentance.
The media is divided about Taylor Swift
When I wrote this quiz, Taylor Swift was floating around the Internet. She’s in the middle of her 1989 tour, and that seems to be all people can talk about.
That’s down to a bit, but I think it’s fair to think of Taylor Swift as a fallback to any name or event that is guaranteed to yield clicks. At Content Strategist, our golden theme is Facebook. As for the major media blogs, it’s the likes of Taylor Swift and Beyoncé. And as these results suggest, people aren’t sure how to feel about these gifts from the click gods.
The media doesn’t love social media billionaires
Rupert Murdoch, founder of Fox News and writer of bad tweets , the last ranking for favorite media billionaire, tied with Donald Trump. (This quiz came up before Trump ran for president.)
Perhaps more interesting is how low-ranking Snapchat co-founder Evan Spiegel and Facebook co-founder Mark Zuckerberg are. Spiegel has a lot of baggage: He comes from a wealthy family and has nasty emails from his time as a Stanford student boy leaked .
Zuckerberg doesn’t have a great reputation either—see: The Social Network – and the fact that every media company has to rely on his company can cause some discontent. In other words, it may be a long time before Zuckerberg and the media are BFFs, despite the appearance.
During this time, the media still needs Zuck & Co. if they want the quizzes to go viral, though a Slack chat at BuzzFeed wouldn’t be so bad.