The Tipping Point

The Tipping Point shares lessons we, as journalists, must learn if we are to succeed in the rapidly changing media landscape in this day and age, that is, the ways in which social trends spread through people. The author, Malcolm Galdwell, imparts that there are advantages and disadvantages to this rapid communication, including everything from the the feasibility of up-to-date news, such as the verdict of the Casey Anthony trial which exploded on Twitter, to disease epidemics, like the AIDS virus. Galdwell uses these examples to convey the purpose of a “tipping point,” or the instance in which a small idea becomes a large trend, bringing about a change in our society.

Galdwell provides valuable insight for journalists like me, because trending news through social media like Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram is becoming the standard. He discusses the general similarities amongst various type of phenomena where something minute “snowballs” into something large through the way we communicate it.

There are three variables these fads contain: the law of few, the stickiness factor, and the power of context.

Within the law of the few, there are three type of communicators present, the connectors, mavens, and salesmen, who all contribute to the spread of trends, or points of interest that eventually reach the “tipping point.” The roles of these communicators is essential to understanding the power we have as reporters, especially in the digital age, where information is spreading faster than ever. Whether they be gaining your trust and “selling” an idea or product, like salesmen, or devoting their time to educating the public, like the mavens, these connectors are what move ideas to the tipping point in our society.

Additionally, Galdwell discusses the appeal of certain ideas over others, or the “stickiness factor.” How likely a concept is going to “stick” and spread through various communicators. For example, the children’s shows that stick, like Sesame Street, spread to different families for different appealing factors, like the characters and educational value.

Finally, Galdwell discusses the role of people’s environments and settings in “the power of context.” For example, once one fad reaches its tipping point, it may fade away from the mainstream almost as if it had never existed, due to factors in the setting in which it became popular. This makes me think of kids nowadays on their iPads sharing viral youtube videos, and how it can become a sensation between their friends, on TV programming, or on social media, and then a forgotten fad (keyboard cat, anyone?).

Whether we like it or not, ideas are spreading wider and faster than ever before. (If you can’t tell, I am an old soul and this kind of stuff really freaks me out.) Galdwell does an excellent job at explaining the ways in which ideas spread, regardless of the medium. This is, after all, our whole goal as journalists, right?


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