Rise of the Planet of the Images

I am too lazy to read! Yes, it’s true. I have quite a number of social media accounts and follow various news sites so that’s why whenever I visit any of these sites, scrolling down the screen, what usually caught my attention is not lengthy text-based posts/tweets/shares/updates but catchy images with intriguing captions. A picture is worth a thousand words, in the online world, it is in the attention earned and shares generated or even buzz created that go beyond the worthiness of the content conveyed.

Image, image, and image

Visual consumption is no doubt on the rise with lots of SNSs dedicated to image sharing such as Instagram (more than 200 millions Instagrammers1) or Pinterest (70 millions users2). While the former is famous for its filter functions for personal photos, the latter is more focusing on lifestyles and creatives categorized into boards and pins. Imagery crafted exclusively to share on social media are being consumed and enjoyed by Internet users around the world.

The two giants of social media, Twitter and Facebook have been always the favorite place for visually descriptive content. Twitter gained its popularity in the first place thanks to the unique 140-word microblogging format that is believed to provide users with enough details among the already overwhelming information landscape. The company has made an announcement recently to include inline image preview, allowing users to see full images in stream without clicking on them3. Likewise, Facebook has been improving its functions to make photo-sharing more enjoyable, such as allowing face-recognition4 and album collaboration5. With a great deal of info pushed to users everyday, short and succinct updates will triumph in the race for attention seeking. Yet, how to make these small pieces of info dominant in the small screens of mobile phones or narrow interfaces of SNSs is a more valid question. Interesting photos with clear expressions are always of interests to majority of netizens, consequently, it is common that users are now passing on the messages by picking a relevant image relating to a particular story.

The ubiquitousness of mobile phones and other digital gadgets have further facilitated the increased favor towards online visualization, making oneself the publisher and photojournalist of their own content. However, businesswise, being able to curate the images is not enough to become successful publishers,

The fun factor

$50 million recently raised is the latest success from Buzzfeed, the infamous entertainment and news site is now valued at $850 million with 150 million monthly visitors6. BuzzFeed’s core business is leveraging on the power of social media to exclusively create content to be consumed and shared on social networks. Its uniqueness lies in the use of hilarious, exaggerating, celebrity-inspired and gossip-prone GIF images, with which we are pretty much familiar through those titles such as “19 things that happen to girls with boys’ names” or  “23 celebs who prove that short guys are super hot too.” The creativity and fun factors have been going viral tremendously since its inception, helping the company to grow rapidly with new hires and more innovatively catchy content.

A younger newcomer in this trend of visual consumption is 9Gag, which has proven its success by a 78 million global unique visitors and more than 1 billion page views per month7. Unlike Buzzfeed, 9Gag is a platform to create and share amusing user-generated images, videos, GIFs, known as memes, creating a subculture of casual jokes spreading through social networks.

These are just two examples of successful company which has built their own kingdoms of millions visitors around the world with unique cultures and disruptive online content, challenging the way traditional online papers produced their news. The common element between these two sites and many other platforms is the fun factor, which is increasingly favored by Internet users as main sources of entertainment. Consequently, the heightened inclination towards casual, hilarious and creative content manufactured through videos and imagery are attracting attention from many marketers to alter the formats of their social communications and publishers to catch up with the trend.


1. http://blog.instagram.com/post/80721172292/200m
2. http://expandedramblings.com/index.php/pinterest-stats/#.VABB6TKSyDo
3. http://www.fastcompany.com/3025417/work-smart/10-big-recent-changes-to-twitter-facebook-and-linkedin-you-should-know-about
4. http://techcrunch.com/2013/06/09/facebook-colocation-and-business-recognition
5. http://www.engadget.com/2013/08/26/facebook-adds-shared-photo-albums-for-collaborative-memory-maki
6. http://www.slate.com/blogs/moneybox/2014/08/11/buzzfeed_raises_50_million_jonah_peretti_is_building_a_viral_media_empire.html
7. http://aws.amazon.com/solutions/case-studies/9gag