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‘Viral journalism’, is it a thing? Adapting quality reporting to shifting social media algorithms and wavering audiences

A Book Chapter by Anastasia Denisova, published by The Routledge Companion to Political Journalism

This chapter, by Anastasia Denisova and published in the Routledge Companion to Political Journalism, examines the ‘viral’ practices of the leading media companies in the United Kingdom as they adapt to and adapt from the social media environment. News, political coverage, investigations, socially significant content – professional media are delivering their stories in a range of packages aimed at high engagement and sharing. These include interactive graphs, gifs, looped videos, cartoons and quote cards, among others. A definition of ‘viral journalism’ is provided, with an in-depth overview of academic debates on ‘virality’. The discussion on the relation of viral storytelling to power furthers the connection of viral cultures to journalism. This emerging phenomenon is placed within the social media ecosystem and attention economy. The chapter relies on theoretical concepts from media and sociological studies as well as interdisciplinary scholarship. Case studies of recent UK viral media episodes are utilized to elucidate the tactics of viral journalism, its benefits and shortcomings.

The Routledge Companion to Political Journalism is an international edited collection By James Morrison, Jen Birks, and Mike Berry. The Handbook brings together the latest research in political journalism, examining the ideological, commercial and technological forces that are transforming the field and its evolving relationship with news audiences.

Comprising 40 original chapters written by scholars from around the world, The Routledge Companion to Political Journalism offers fundamental insights from the disciplines of political science, media, communications and journalism. Drawing on interviews, discourse analysis and quantitative statistical methods, the volume is divided into six parts, each focusing on a major theme in the contemporary study of political journalism. Topics covered include far-right media, populism movements and the media, local political journalism practices, public engagement and audience participation in political journalism, agenda setting, and advocacy and activism in journalism. Chapters draw on case studies from the United Kingdom, Hungary, Russia, Malaysia, Myanmar, Italy, Brazil, the United States, Greece and Spain.

The Routledge Companion to Political Journalism is a valuable resource for students and scholars of media studies, journalism studies, political communication and political science.


Photo by Tim Mossholder on Unsplash


Anastasia Denisova


Anastasia Denisova is a Lecturer in Social Media at CAMRI, University of Westminster. Before starting her academic career, she worked as a journalist in Russia for over a decade in the capacity of television news editor and reporter for NTV Broadcasting company, editor at Aeroflot Inflight magazine, and a freelance reporter and columnist for the major magazines, including GEO, Conde Nast Traveler, Vogue, Marie Claire and many others. Her work has received the industry and community recognition, including the French government’s award for the best publication on France in Russian in 2014 (the feature for GEO Russia).


2 November 2021
Published By
The Routledge Companion to Political Journalism
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CAMRI | ‘Viral journalism’, is it a thing? Adapting quality reporting to shifting social media algorithms and wavering audiences - CAMRI
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