News, especially big news, has always had its way of permeating to reach the masses – it’s kind of the reason the group as a whole is called “mass media” in the first place.
Unless you’ve been living in a cave (What? Too soon?), you may have heard that Osama Bin Laden was killed in a raid by United States Navy SEALs this past weekend… but HOW did you hear about it?
Odds are it wasn’t from a traditional news source, a newspaper or a newscast, at least not initially.
Tyler Gray, deputy editor of Fast Company, posted to the site that a single Tweet preempted the President’s official announcement – and by a significant margin since all three appeared the same day.
While Urbahn later said that he received his information from a TV news producer, and told his Twitter followers to wait for the official announcement from the POTUS himself, that cat got out of the bag and wasn’t going to go back in.
Across the country, Dan Shulman was calling the ninth inning of ESPN’s Sunday night Mets-Phillies game when his colleague in the booth, Bobby Valentine held up a text message on his cell phone.
The text was simple, according to Shulman, reading only “Bin Laden is dead.”
After confirming the news, Shulman told ESPN viewers – but the Philadelphia crowd had already begun chanting, “U-S-A, U-S-A,” as fans were receiving text messages and checking emails/Twitter/mobile news.
So we have, in essence, literal word of mouth (WOM) from the producer to Urbahn, a Tweet (consider it digital WOM) and a text message (mobile WOM). While The Huffington Post may have their list of 13 Strangest Ways People Found Out Bin Laden Died, WOM (traditional, mobile and digital), is directly responsible for some of the most powerful imagery in terms of the speed of information we have seen in a long, long time.
While it can be said on anecdotal evidence alone that mobile/digital WOM has already become an important factor in news, the PEW State of News Media 2011 report delivered this past March confirms it.
In 2010, every news platform saw audiences either stall or decline — except for the internet.
We can clearly see the shift from static news sources to more dynamic ones, but the report also included information from the survey. Released with the report (produced with the Pew Internet & American Life Project, in association with the Knight Foundation) PEW found that nearly half of all Americans (47 percent) now get some form of local news on a mobile device. What’s more, the report also found that mobile news is only likely to grow.