A couple weeks ago I published the ‘5 Stages of a Blogger’s Life‘ cartoon, drawn by Alex Hughes. It was an experiment to test a theory of mine: that cartoons could be particularly successful in increasing news website visitor numbers, and that news organisations should be doing more with them.
The results? In one week that cartoon got over 40,000 hits, making it the most popular single post ever on the Online Journalism Blog .
Here’s why: cartoons are close to a universal language. You do not need to read English to understand them. The cartoons went around the world.
I say “close” to a universal language, because there is often a small amount of text. The effort to translate that is minimal, and that also presents an opportunity for bloggers to add value with a little effort – this is what bloggers in Spain, Romania and Iran, among others, did.
And it doesn’t stop with cartoons. How about a well-produced infographic? The second most popular post on the Online Journalism Blog is The World According to Newspapers, a series of cartograms by Nicolas Kayser-Bril that illustrate how different news operations ‘see’ the world. Tens of thousands of visits – many from the Far East – due in part to the fact that it made sense in any language.
And the popularity of video also owes something to this transglobal appeal. Apparently, Cult of the Amateur author Andrew Keen decries the fact that The Evolution of Dance is the most popular video on YouTube. No, it’s not Shakespeare, but he’s missing the point. Its popularity lies largely in how it transcends linguistic barriers, and indeed even cultural ones, spanning as it does a vast range of eras and styles. It’s Saturday evening television gone global. It’s Mr Bean.
So, newspapers would do well to look at one of their often undervalued assets, put it online to begin with (many don’t), and make the most of the opportunities it presents. More on that in a future post.
Meanwhile, if you have any insights into newspapers’ use (or not) of cartoons, infographics and video, let me know in the comments.
(Thanks to SedNonSatiata for the translation of the Romanian cartoon)