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Is it really that hardcore?: A Case Study on the Marketability and Audience Impact of Manix Abrera’s Online Comic, News Hardcore

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Today’s generation is all about social commentary through various media. The internet has served as the perfect avenue for people to produce, share, and distribute social commentary because of the overall accessibility of the internet and the convenience it offers its users. Be it funny images, parody videos, and/or interesting pieces of articles, the internet has indeed become the modern public sphere in which people gather to talk about and discuss current social issues happening all over the world.

News Hardcore is an online comic segment found in GMA News Online. Created by famous comic-book artist Manix Abrera (author of Kikomachine comics), News Hardcore has been deemed as one of the most popularly shared and viewed segments of GMA’s online website due to its funny, witty, and relevant content.  It features satirical scenarios and stories about the mass media and the journalism profession. According to Odi de Guzman, managing editor for GMA News Online,  Manix Abrera’s fascination with the newsroom lifestyle spurred him to create News Hardcore.

“He was inspired by our own (GMA News Online) newsroom and the everyday travails of our journalists.”, said Sir de Guzman.

For this case study, we used qualitative interviews through the distribution of questionnaires via electronic mail to the following people: Sir Manix Abrera (creator/author of News Hardcore) and Sir Odi de Guzman (managing editor of GMA News Online). We also posted online surveys on Facebook to gain insight on the perception of at least 50 audiences/readers of News Hardcore. We would like to note that our survey was a non-scientific survey and mainly served to gather qualitative data for our analysis.

Data Gathered and Analysis

Responses were gathered from News Hardcore author himself, Manix Abrera, featuring the significance of the content of his material in being able to “sell” itself to its online audience.

When we asked him what he thought the role was of News Hardcore in the world of social media in terms of information dissemination, he said that it served to expose the behind-the-scenes lifestyle of news reporters and other mass media practitioners. It’s also interesting to note how,  despite his comics serving purely as a commentary and satire of mass media, it’s still being taken seriously. Sir Abrera mentioned one particular instance when one of the News Hardcore issues (issue #85: Mamatay na ang Lahat wag lang yun Equipment) was discussed during a GMA News Online meeting in order to address whether or not the issue of valuing office equipment over the welfare of the reporter was real.

 

Sir Abrera also talked to us about his principles on online journalism and how it complements News Hardcore. He mentioned how his current outlook regarding the media was greatly influenced by his previous work ethics which he applied during his time working for the Philippine Collegian (Kule).  He also added that he couldn’t speak for GMA News Online as a whole on the journalism ethics that they practice since he isn’t exactly a full-time employee of GMA News Online.

 

“Yung ginagawa ko kasi sa News Hardcore, kadalasan ang mga nangyari sa amin dati sa Kule, tsaka yung mga nangyayari sa mga opisina ng nakakausap kong journalists….Ako mismo kasi, hindi empleyado ng GMA News Online, contributor (lang)  ako doon.”, he said.

Meanwhile, our interview questionnaires for Sir Odi de Guzman focused less on News Hardcore and more on the GMA News Online site and how it participates in the world of the internet as a distributor of information. He mentioned that GMA News Online relies heavily on social media in order to disseminate their content. He says that not all Pinoys who are online visit GMA News Online directly and that usually, they hear of GMA News Online through social networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter. He also adds that the utilization of social media was a great way to engage the audience of GMA News Online.

 

Sir de Guzman further expound on the significance social media has in the role of guaranteeing the public fast and updated news courtesy of GMA News Online.

“Social media provides our news organization with another platform to reach Pinoys in general. The other news platforms in which we operate are: TV (UHF, VHF, cable), radio, online, and social media. Specifically, social media provides us with a platform to break and disseminate news in real-time, similar to radio.”, says sir de Guzman.

 

Another interesting matter to note would be GMA News Online’s campaign called ‘Think before you Click’. Sir de Guzman mentioned how this campaign is all about raising ethical awareness regarding online journalism which in turn encourages people to become more responsible and more accountable while using the internet as a platform for disseminating and sharing information.

A quick survey disseminated through Facebook generated a total of 40 answers from selective respondents who encountered News Hardcore online.

The responses showed that the social media have become a very effective tool to popularize the comic strip. Aside from Manix Abrera’s own set of fan base, through sharing these contents in different social media sites, he was able to earn more fans. Of all the set of questions asked with sharing as part of the choices, it had garnered the highest score among other choices. Sharing the content had been a fad in social media sites and was very helpful in spreading informative data and making one content viral and a talk of the town. Facebook with its wide set of users had been chosen to be the social media site where respondents would most certainly want to share News Hardcore. Since facebook have encourage among netizens about the good use of networking, more people can attract other people to read a content by sharing because of its accessibility and sharing feature. Aside from this, if observed from the age group of the respondents, they are all active netizens of the internet who  actively uses the share and the like feature of facebook, posting feature of blogs and the uniform hashtag features of Twitter. Though it had become a selective process to know which respondent should answer the survey, we can infer that this age group are the present active users of the social media sites. Although, there were two responses from 46 and 56 years old who happen to still enjoy reading News Hardcore.

Generally, the respondents thought of News Hardcore in a positive note. It had been depicted as a online graphic comic relief that mirrors the society’s notion not only of reporters and the newsroom but also to situations in various workplaces too. This comic strip captured a lot of college students and new workers because they were the one who can relate to the discussions. Though what was feared by some is that the high intellectual context of News Hardcore can only be understood by selected people on the internet. It is certainly not a threat for the comic strip’s popularity but it won’t just be easily distributed to other clusters of the social media site. Despite this, the comic strip’s contexts encourages the readers to be highly intellectual and learned users of the society.

In line with Sir De Guzman’s pitch about the “Think Before You Click” Campaign, News Hardcore has shown how one should be prepared and how a user should take the internet seriously. Netizens should be able to exercise the need to express themselves in a cautious and healthy manner.

News Hardcore not only gives a very creative way of putting up social issues online, but also pushes the users to enjoy and motivate themselves in starting to change what seems to be wrong in the society. In here enters the Social Action Theory by Weber and Anderson which promulgates that the audience is not passive but rather an active part of the society by which content through the use of mass communication media is being interpreted and perceived. Within the construction of meaning when content is received, the theory explains three processes of how it evolves. First is the intentions of the creator to spread out the message. Second is the conventions of the content. Last is the interpretations of the audience once content was received. It falls under the media effects theory because it assesses content through how the message will affect the audience who has perceived the message. The thought to inspire and to move must come out of the message through this theory. Just like News Hardcore, Manix Abrera created such content to not only share the behavior of the newsroom but also give out important points missed by people who tend to concentrate on work and school alone. Since the social media had become the alternate world of the young adults who are college students and new workers, these active participants in both worlds (the labor force and the cyberspace) are targets of such content in order to push for effects in the society. They hold one of the strongest opinions aside from the established middle-aged population of the nation.

If the message was understood correctly and was targeted at the right group of people who makes an active participation in both worlds, the action in society might advance positively.

News Hardcore might just be a new fad in the social media, but it surely garners a lot of positive notes and gives the active netizens a way to express and shake things through their own means.

To wrap things up…

From what we see, we are able to conclude that News Hardcore is truly a content-driven site. Looking at the number of hits it gets, it is indeed quite popular mostly because of its content.

 

 

News Hardcore is an example of an online material that makes use of ‘marketable’ content in order to guarantee that users of the internet would really take the time to view it and even make use of online features such as the ‘liking’ and ‘sharing’ features present in the site. From here, we can make the assumption that the marketability of a particular online material relies heavily on its content. The fact that News Hardcore  features content that is not only witty and hilarious, but also relevant, goes to show how effective it is in being a marketable piece of online material. Aside from that, it’s also important to note the form of News Hardcore which are comic strips that are easy to read and are also relatively entertaining.

 

So the question is: is News Hardcore really that hardcore? Well in terms of being a hardcore online distributor of information, the answer is yes.

 

 

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