How Newsday uses memes on social media to engage its local audience

Anahita Pardiwalla is the Social Media Manager at Newsday.

Internet meme: a humorous image, video, piece of text, etc., that is copied, often with slight variations, and spread rapidly by internet users.

Memes are used widely across social media as one way for publishers to strengthen their connection with followers. For local publishers, tiny snippets of hyperlocal culture and relatable daily life shown through memes deepen bonds with the community on social media.

At Newsday in Long Island, New York, memes are among the highest-performing posts on Instagram, said Newsday Social Media Manager Anahita Pardiwalla.

“We’ve posted a few memes on Facebook, but have used Instagram more heavily as a way to experiment and develop a strategy for what works with our audience,” she said.

We asked Pardiwalla about how Newsday approaches this specific type of social media content and its place in the Newsday social media strategy.

Why do you use memes? What value do they bring to your social strategy?

Like many newsrooms, we’re always experimenting with new ways of storytelling and serving and reaching our audience. Memes can be a part of that. They’ve become a powerful way to disseminate a cultural or social idea tied to the moment, which fits with our journalistic mission to cover news and information that’s important and relevant to people’s lives.

In addition, as a local news organization that’s very closely tied to our community, we use memes to reinforce those bonds. When a reader sees a meme about life and culture on Long Island from Newsday, we want them to feel we speak their language and are in tune with their lives.

We’re always careful not to be insensitive when creating memes on trending topics. When I first started creating them, it was an experiment. I learned about what resonated and what didn’t. The general memes about Labor Day and seasons changing performed well, but not as well as hyper local Long Island memes.

For example, there was a day last year when Long Island had a snowstorm in the morning but by the time the afternoon rolled around, it felt like spring. Instead of posting a standard photo on Instagram showing a scene from the storm and having the caption detail the weather change, I created a meme. One photo showed a dog in the snow that morning and the other showed a pig laying under the sun. It was a fun and unique take on news of the day without being redundant.

Do you have any advice on how other local media can approach using memes?

It’s a tool journalists need to have in their kit. I think at a minimum, journalists should understand memes and pay attention to them — they can be indicators of what their audiences feel is most relevant and important in their lives at a certain moment. And by their nature, they’re clear and direct; there’s no guessing how someone feels when they’re creating or sharing a meme.

However, news organizations need to stay on brand when they become the content creators themselves. I think the key is to find the topics that are most relevant to your local audiences that you can bring some expertise or add value to. Whether that’s commuting, cost of living, property taxes, Billy Joel or bagels.

Find the topics that stick and create memes for that type of content. Continue to ask the same journalistic questions when creating memes that you would when writing stories or producing videos or any other content.

But memes as a medium demand that you get creative — and stay timely. When news breaks, memes break. Memes are not just funny things kids send to each other and say “same.” They’re ideas, phenomenons and systems of behavior that are changing how we interact with each other.

See the Newsday Instagram feed.