Western Kentucky University

Media Relations

WKU graduate co-authors book on 'Spreadable Media'

The days of turning on the evening news or opening the morning paper to catch up on local, national or world events are long gone. Now when news breaks, we turn to online media or social networks to “like,” “share” or “tweet” the latest news.

The fundamental changes in the contemporary media environment are examined in a new book, Spreadable Media: Creating Value and Meaning in a Networked Culture.

Sam Ford, a 2005 WKU graduate, is one of three co-authors of the book about the role everyone plays today in circulating media content and what that means for audiences, media producers and marketers.

“A lot of people don’t see themselves as providers of media, but they do circulate content,” said Ford, an Ohio County native who lives in Bowling Green and is Director of Digital Strategy with Peppercomm. “The distribution of media content is not owned by companies now but by everyday people.”

Spreadable Media, published by NYU Press, will be released on Feb. 15 but is available online at amazon.com.

Ford said he and co-authors Henry Jenkins and Joshua Green weren’t trying to create a new buzzword with “spreadable” media, but “we wanted to take this beyond the metaphors we’ve been using like ‘going viral’.”

Sharing media content through social media and email has become so commonplace for most people that “we don’t think it’s special,” he said.

“Content that we find interesting doesn’t infect us like a virus, and leave us sharing it with others without our knowledge,” he said. “Instead, the content spreads through the audience’s conscious decision to share it.”

For news media and marketing/public relations professionals, this shift in content sharing means that “the audience has a much more direct say in how things are distributed,” Ford said.

The challenges aren’t limited to media or the professionals, he added. “What is our responsibility as a circulator?” Ford asked.

The audience (or those of us who share content) must consider questions like: Is the source credible? What is our relationship to the content or to the person who shared it? What gives the content meaning? What if I find out the content I shared is incorrect?

“We all have a stake in this,” Ford said.

Ford, an alumnus of the Honors College at WKU, graduated from WKU with four bachelor’s degrees — news/editorial journalism, communication studies, mass communication and English (writing). He received his master’s degree in 2007 from MIT. He is an affiliate with both the Program in Comparative Media Studies at MIT and the Popular Culture Studies Program at WKU.

He plans to use the book this semester in his Intro to Pop Culture Studies course at WKU. The 352-page book also is accompanied by 35 online essays, including one by WKU faculty member Ted Hovet.

Ford and his co-authors have been working on the project since late 2007. He worked with both Jenkins and Green as part of the Convergence Culture Consortium project at MIT. Jenkins is Provost’s Professor of Communication, Journalism, Cinematic Arts, and Education at the University of Southern California. Green is Senior Strategist at digital consultancy Undercurrent.

As part of the book’s launch, Ford and his co-authors will present a featured session March 8 during the South by Southwest conference in Austin, Texas.

Ford is co-editor of the 2011 book The Survival of Soap Opera: Transformations for a New Media Era with Abigail De Kosnik and C. Lee Harrington. He was named Social Media Innovator of the Year in the 2011 Bulldog Stars of PR Awards for Outstanding Achievement by Communications Agencies and Professionals.

Read more about the book.

Contact: Sam Ford, samford@mit.edu

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