Wow Moments & Social Media

Why did this image (above) by Brian Davies “go viral”? Chris Pietsch, a multimedia journalist at the Register Guard, our local paper in Eugene, Ore. asked me just that question. I have to admit, I hadn’t given it much thought. I had watched the game and seen the photo, of course. I think I saw it when Brian posted it on Twitter. It seemed it was everywhere.

Chris was creating a multimedia piece for the RG and needed the “expert” view. Apparently, I’m the expert. As you know, I love doing interviews and I enjoy Duck Football, so of course I said yes.

My thoughts:

  • This is a great photo. Really the bottom line is that this wouldn’t have been shared so widely if Brian hadn’t captured a great photo. That’s not by chance or a “lucky shot.” Brian is a veteran photojournalist with tons of experience capturing great photos. If you don’t already, follow him on Instagram.
  • WOW! Chris asked me “What was your reaction when you saw the play on TV?” That first clip of me in the video (below) is it. WHOA! It captured on “film” what we all thought we saw watching on TV. Having access of a press photographer and being able to stand on the field and take photos is pretty rarified air. I’m not sure there’s a Duck fan that doesn’t wish to have that experience. Brian took full advantage of that access and provided an image that froze a moment, a feeling, an energy that was exciting to fans.
  • Social media. Social media lets us take a “wow” moment and make it our own. By sharing, retweeting, liking, commenting, we become part of the experience of that image and vice-versa. Without any barriers — we don’t have to be coders or designers — we can edit, modify, customize, filter the image to really put our own stamp on it.
  • The timing was perfect. Brian has taken thousands of amazing photos, but this one was the right one at the right time. Obviously the Heisman conversation volume was very loud by the time we got to the Civil War game. The photo of Mariota seemingly striking the Heisman pose added to the fervor and excitement. Fans were already talking about the Heisman, so this photo became part of that conversation with a big fat exclamation point.

So why did it “go viral”? It was a bit of a perfect storm of variables, I think. Congrats to Brian on recognition of his work and to Chris for helping to tell this story.

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  • MikeMathews

    Hi Kelli, nice interview and good points you make here. I’d like to suggest one more point: the business side.

    The RG has obviously embraced the inevitability of the web and social media rather than fighting it. The RG holds the copyright to the image, but allows their photog to post socially and other entities to use the image with the idea that RG advertisers may benefit from enhanced website traffic. We see Spain and Germany fighting this model in legislative and court actions, and there are other countries taking a similar stance.

    It’s nice to see the RG continuing the progressive stance they held since I was in J-school and watched the RG soar during the Brian Lanker days.

  • Kelli Matthews

    Really great point, Mike. Thanks for sharing.

  • Joseph Albertine

    I like to take an even bigger back and ask why a football game attracts so many viewers. I mean, millions of people watch football games each week, but why is the football narrative so compelling. The answer is simple: it is due to stakes. Without stakes, there is no reason for the viewer to care. Stakes are created because one team has to win and one team has to lose.