Isaac Marcet | PlayGround

Emotional journalism and storytelling in the digital age

“The idea that we are in the era of information is a lie. This is the era of emotion.”

With a community of almost 16 million people, online news platform PlayGround is a powerful collective voice in New Media territory. Their mission: using contemporary narratives and emotional stories to increase consciousness and empower people. In an inspiring and thoughtful conversation with Folch’s editorial director Vincenzo Angileri, founder Isaac Marcet interprets the ever-changing world of media, millennials and politics, while envisioning a collective, greater challenge: fashioning a better Internet.

Isaac Marcet is founder of PlayGround, an online news platform counting more than 16 million followers on social media and over 1000 million video views. Marcet is also a poet, philosopher, psychologist, entrepreneur, and phenomenon; an advocate for change and innovation, indefatigable, someone who seems to never sleep.

Vincenzo Angileri
PlayGround began as a music medium and gradually incorporated more themes, until it got to news. BuzzFeed started out the same, but followed a different path using memes and quizzes until they became a real news organization with an editorial staff of 140 professionals. The CEO of BuzzFeed said: “News might not be as big as business or entertainment, but it is the best way to have a big impact on the world.” Is this also why PlayGround started developing news?

Isaac Marcet
PlayGround started out as a music blog, but we had the secret intention to be become a generational reference for music in Spain. Then the Arab Spring, 15M, and Occupy Wall Street happened. The world started to burn, and talking about festivals and albums only felt narrow-minded. We decided to open our windows to the fire and, in that moment, PlayGround grew. Like Vice, Vox Media, Gawker and others, BuzzFeed has a leading position within New Media. We admire their model profoundly, even though we don’t share their philosophy. Although BuzzFeed’s work in news has been exceptional, it’s still rooted in the concept of entertainment. At PlayGround, on the other hand, news is the focal point. It’s where we really created a huge, vibrant community, coming from all around the whole world. In current times of chaos, division and crisis at every level, PlayGround’s mission is to generate a new consciousness alongside its community.

Vincenzo Angileri
It feels like is not possible to identify PlayGround with certain signatures or journalists: you’re a collective voice.

Isaac Marcet
I think it’s the most beautiful project we developed at PlayGround. When I was younger, I had this idea of a storyteller as some sort of genius and talented figure, almost haunted, who lived isolated in his or her marble tower. We have moved the attention from the genius to the stage, which is what we are trying to establish with PlayGround; a lot of intelligence, no protagonists. PlayGround is a company where everyone can evolve creatively. We are conscious, at all times, that we are a joint laboratory. The collectivity in PlayGround is at the service of a much greater one.

Vincenzo Angileri
Today, in journalism, it seems essential to create emotional ties with readers. How has the role of a storyteller changed?

Isaac Marcet
There’s an old African proverb which says he who tells stories has the power. Nowadays, there’s no longer just one person telling stories; we all have this power, and, because of that, media like PlayGround should be a reference to other storytellers in order to ensure that the capacity to tell stories remains as conscious, close, sustainable, and human as possible. 
More on Emotional Storytelling

Vincenzo Angileri
The digital revolution once began with technologies that seemed foreign to our bodies, and calculators that replicated our logic only from afar. Today however, technological formats, interfaces and interactions are becoming much more relatable to nature and humans. It’s like we are creating other beings, in some way, that are better than us.

Isaac Marcet
These other beings are still a union of both. They are a hybridization. Technology will also only become more human because it is being adapted to human resemblance. It is no longer the black IBM screen we have to turn on; it’s people who design technology, not an entirely separate entity. It’s because of that technology is becoming more human, more sensual in a way: it will always be a kind of symbiosis, a relation, a dance.

Vincenzo Angileri
Are digital media getting more and more responsibility on their hands?

Isaac Marcet
Information generates communities of thought, feelings, dialogue. It reaches people’s full consciousness and has an impact on profound zones of the human condition. this can lead to transformations that have the potential to be revolutionary. The responsibility is huge. PlayGround is fully conscious of this power and responsibility. This commitment is present in the very essence of PlayGround, so we are developing initiatives in that direction. Our concept called “Play and do” — which we will launch soon — tries to construct a bridge between information and action: we want to collaborate with social entrepreneurs as well as the most important agents of change in the world when it comes to connective news. We want to bring them together through signature campaigns, create debate forums, and bring about other types of action that will benefit communities of every sort. It is important that news has a return value for its users. It doesn’t have to be money, it can be anything, but it’s important to have it.

Vincenzo Angileri
What makes content go viral? Which elements make news so attractive people feel the need to share it?

Isaac Marcet
The idea that we are in the information age is a lie; we are in the emotion age. The basic premise is to move people. We live in an economy of emotions, not of words or concepts or information. Everything that goes viral today is content that produces emotion. The more intense the emotion, the more viral the content goes. 
More on Virality

Vincenzo Angileri
There is a model of virality that looks like it’s based on influencers who address communities with specific interests. PlayGround, on the other hand, passes its content through a narrative filter and addresses a much wider community, as if virality was waterfall where the critical mass is born out of an influence that seems to be on one-to-one, generalist model.

Isaac Marcet
PlayGround was born out of a millennial and cultural vocation. Just like there’s been produced a big economic division that destroyed the middle class, there also came to exist a huge cultural division on many levels. PlayGround tries to mend this gap back together again. Brexit and the US elections are emblematic. The age difference compared to people’s votes is abysmal. There were close to no millennials who voted for Trump and if they voted the UK would probably still be a port of the European Union. It makes you realise there isn’t just a great economic, cultural, or educational divide, there are also immense generational differences. PlayGround wants to radically open itself to new generations. To us, the ideal would be to create content that can be understood by a 70-year-old New Yorker, as well as a nine-year-old from Tijuana. Our community tells us we’re getting there. There are hundreds of people of all ages and cultural strata writing us on social networks on a daily basis. As a goal we try to rethink the current world and its future in every possible field. We also try to reach that goal in a human, sustainable way, and with the healthiest of intentions: to reach everyone.


This interview is a special edit for Medium. Complete conversation on Emotional Storytelling, Virality, Brand Activism, Filter Bubble and New Media follows at FolchInsights.

__

Interview by: Vincenzo Angileri 
Artwork: Marina Esmeraldo
Translated by: Gabriela Suau
Editor in Chief: Rafa Martínez