To emojis, mobile and beyond

From Flickr user
Marco Paköeningrat
By Katy Mersmann

Just last week, BuzzFeed announced the addition of emojis to its content management system. The news about BuzzFeed's move to include emojis in stories and headlines got a decent amount of traction; it's a fun, albeit unusual move by a company known for trying new things. Along with emojis in the CMS, BuzzFeed also added them to its style guide, giving their use a more real, journalistic feel:

Personally, I think the inclusion of emojis is a great move for BuzzFeed. An outlet that writes about emojis should be able to write with them, as well. Also, I just really like emojis (I dressed like one for Halloween this year) and a measured use of the pictograms, for appropriate stories, feels like a good way to connect with younger audiences who are comfortable using smiley faces and pictures of pizza to communicate.

Buried in the buzz (sorry) around BuzzFeed's emoji announcement is more news about changes to its CMS that have the potential to be groundbreaking in the digital journalism sphere. Not only is BuzzFeed adding emojis to its CMS and style guide, but it's also changing the way its editors view content. Before editors (who work almost exclusively on desktops) can view the desktop version of stories, they must scroll past the mobile version.

This change is designed to force editors to think about the mobile version of stories, which is how a large percentage of viewers see the pieces. In fact, in February of 2014, about 72 percent of BuzzFeed's viewers were coming to the site via the app or mobile site.

So the changes to BuzzFeed's CMS, both on the front-end with the addition of emojis and on the editorial side, have BuzzFeed reporters and editors thinking more about mobile production and consumption of news, and coming at stories (and quizzes) more like the audience does. And it gets me wondering whether more news outlets will begin experimenting with emojis, as well. Billy Penn, a hyperlocal Philadelphia news site, already has. Time will tell how the emoji experiment works and maybe someday soon we'll see graphics and stories in legacy media including little smiling cats.

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