USA Today made the bold move to implement emoji onto the front page of its print offering to signify the significance of the icons in everyday life last week (9 October) in a misguided (or ahead of its times) gambit.
The publication implemented emoji to signify the emotion evoked by its news stories in a nod to Facebook's newly announced 'Reactions' feature. While attempts to innovate and broaden the appeal of print titles are to be applauded, the move largely confused readers.
Lead story ‘U.S. hero of French train attack stabbed’ was accompanied with a crying emoji in case the headline and image combo failed to get the point across that a stabbing is indeed a negative story.
The move invoked some criticism from social media users.
USA Today dictating how you should feel about certain news stories? Or just stupidly jumping in on emoji craze? https://t.co/RnbGZHynmQ
— Joanne Leon (@joanneleon) October 10, 2015
"Which emoji should we run next to the story about missiles hitting Iran?" http://t.co/k1mhTDZKWf
— Dan Turkel (@daturkel) October 9, 2015
I'm glad USA Today started using emojis. Otherwise I wouldn't have known how to feel about a hero getting stabbed. pic.twitter.com/TfAcKsSUtH
— SelfishMom (@SelfishMom) October 9, 2015
USA Today puts FB sad emoticon into print story on stabbing of Airman Stone. Time for my first Twitter emoji. pic.twitter.com/UhH75oUqxn
— Jack Neff (@jackneff) October 9, 2015
Undertaken to signify the momentous rise in emoji among readers, the newspaper was at risk of appearing too “flippant” in the face of serious news stories – something editor-in-chief David Callaway admitted was a risk to Adweek.
“This was fully an editorial decision. The front page editors discussed putting the new FB emojis on the top of the front page, as a reference to a story about them in our Money section, which brought about the discussion of whether to use them on the stories.”
He added that there was “discussion about [the emoji] being too flippant” in the face of the day’s news but “a billion FB users may soon start using these to share stories—all kinds of stories—which of course is Facebook's intention.”
Callaway concluded: “Social media and its icons are becoming a dominant form of communication in our world. We wanted to show what they would be like if transferred to print.”
Callaway did however made a solid point stating that whether we like it or not, the day’s major news stories will soon be expressed en masse via emoji (through Facebook’s upcoming Reactions update which is currently being tested in Ireland and Spain).