Ampp3d explores new ways to go viral

Trinity Mirror launched its latest online journalism project, Ampp3d, this week. The venture looks to use the format of viral news sites like BuzzFeed and Gawker, but change the content with verified news that matters.

by WAN-IFRA Staff | December 10, 2013

According to Gigaom, former Guardian journalist and Ampp3d creator Martin Belam said that the paper was looking to interact more with its online audience, the people who share viral stories over the web.

Trinity Mirror created a similar site last year with UsVsThem. The site used the same format, trying to replicate to the fast-paced attention-grabbing style of other viral outlets. The site was successful early on, with a high amount of social interactions.

The difference between the two sites is that where UsVsThem was more entertainment-based, Ampp3d focuses more on serious journalism. Belam says they are trying to attract the people who want to post political articles on their social media pages, but don’t want to look like a “politics bore,” according to

“With Ampp3d I want to aim for coverage of stories that taps into that same thing that allows people to share something that’s accurate and fact-based and also has an angle to share something about yourself,” he said.

This is a departure from the viral content the media has seen recently. As the pressure to go viral increases, journalists have weakened their emphasis on the truth. Last week a video of a protest against Google’s shuttle service went viral after a man claiming to be a Google employee was caught on tape shouting at the protesters, saying such things as  “This is a city for people who can afford it,” according to the San Francisco Bay Guardian, which originally broke the story.

The “Google employee” turned out to be Max Bell Alper, a political activist looking to do some “political theater.”

Looking to get those “likes” and “shares,” media looking to go viral ignore the shakiness of a story in favour of its likelihood to spread like wildfire. PJ Vogt of On the Media comments on this in his own piece, saying that these “posts bring in the traffic, and if they periodically turn out to be untrue, well, correct them with an ‘Update’ and trust people to forgive you. After all, we’re all adults and we all know viral stories should be taken with a shaker of salt.”

This is exactly the type of culture that Ampp3d is looking to avoid. Their writers will be fact checking while still making the attempt at going viral. The site’s greatest mission is to put out good material.

But is it even possible for serious news to have enough of a viral success rate to keep a site going?

Trinity Mirror isn’t sure. For this reason, they’ve given the project an expiration date, much like they did with UsVsThem.

Belam told Gigaom, “If we can build an audience then great, we’ll keep on doing it, if we haven’t then that will tell us there isn’t the market for what we’re trying to do.”

But Belam looks forward to the experiment, watching how the site will develop in the upcoming weeks. This is a new sort of project, and Trinity Mirror is hoping it will find an audience to cater to.

“I suspect the general Internet market for cat GIFs is larger than the market for charts about British politics,” Belam said. “But in the end, basically, if we produce good content that people want to share then it will work, and if we don’t then none of the other stuff will matter.”

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