Nieman Foundation at Harvard
HOME
          
LATEST STORY
Building a j-school from scratch: How The New School aims to bring journalism and design together
ABOUT                    SUBSCRIBE
Feb. 3, 2014, 10:43 a.m.
wapo-snapchat-scarlett-wide

Snaps from last night: How The Washington Post tried a Super Bowl experiment on Snapchat

“Experimenting live — just doing it — is the best way to learn,” a Post editor says.

Some of the best experiments I’ve worked on in digital news are the ones done in the moment, unplanned. That’s very much how we came up with the idea to live-Snapchat the Super Bowl’s ads last night.

Like many news sites, we’d posted all the night’s ads ahead of the game (the ones that were not embargoed, at least), and those had done well for us traffic-wise. And we had a good plan in place to cover both the game and the ads with our liveblog and other tools. We are all set! Then we noticed that Facebook was asking for celebs to “live-Facebook” their game experiences and that the hashtags were already humming on Twitter. So the Snapchat idea popped up.

We’d launched a presence on Snapchat a few weeks ago for our politics coverage (you can follow it by adding “postpolitics” from your account). But we hadn’t really done anything live. Here’s some of what we learned:

  • Live is hard. One of the powerful elements of Snapchat is its in-the-moment-ness. When you start using apps like Latersnap and producing out snaps, it becomes a different product. That’s cool, and we’re doing that too, but again, live is different and much harder. You really get one chance to snap in the moment. If you’ve got a good producer on live Twitter, get them running your snaps. Or better yet, your (faster) field photographer.
  • wapo-snapchat-llama

  • Snapchat’s Stories function is perfect for unfolding events, but those seconds add up. In the end, we had 133 seconds of snaps, representing nearly all of the Super Bowl commercials. That’s a great string in the order we saw it and snapped, but it’s also a long time for the user to sit through the end slideshow. We did a still image for almost each commercial and had it display for 2 seconds. Maybe that should have been just one?
  • Fewer words: also hard, but direct. You have fewer than 30 characters using the native text function on Snapchat — that’s about a quarter of a tweet. You can effectively write a really short headline and hit send/save. No real room to overthink here. For example, on the Maserati ad featuring Quvenzhané Wallis from Beasts of the Southern Wild we used the text “Beasts of the Maserati.”
  • wapo-snapchat-maserati

  • You can’t reorder, so think (fast) before sending. When you are filing to Stories live, all your snaps are ordered chronologically. The only thing you can do to edit that order is to delete a snap. There’s no way to go back in. Again, Snapchat is all about being truly in the moment. This may be closer to live TV than anything a digital journalist has seen yet.
  • Even though the world can see it, it feels personal, especially when they snap you back! You are producing something from the palm of your hand that is exclusively going to someone else’s. If you have your settings configured for it, anyone can add your account and see what you’re doing. And then anyone can send you a snap — which three people did. (We didn’t really promote this experiment, so we were happy with the viewership we got.) That was fun for us: direct engagement in the moment from someone else experiencing the same thing we were. We think this engagement piece has a lot of unseen potential.
  • Snapping live TV is a little weird. The images were not beautiful. The shots were sideways. It’s hard to get a clear picture that’s not blurry. There’s something about this aesthetic that makes it very…Snapchat?!

Going forward, we think we’ll use this more for IRL events. Experimenting live — just doing it — is the best way to learn. You can see our snaps from last night by adding ‘coryinbeta’ from your Snapchat account.

Cory Haik is executive producer and senior editor for digital news at The Washington Post.

POSTED     Feb. 3, 2014, 10:43 a.m.
SHARE THIS STORY
   
Show comments  
Show tags
 
Join the 15,000 who get the freshest future-of-journalism news in our daily email.
Building a j-school from scratch: How The New School aims to bring journalism and design together
“I’m not so much interested in specific skills as dispositions. Are we helping people be able to learn really fast, so when things do change they can move with it without completely freaking out?”
Tweeting across borders: With a new mobile app, Meedan is working to improve social media translation
The app, named Bridge, is meant to solve “a problem that’s a flaw with the way Facebook and Twitter currently operate.”
Serial meets The X-Files in Limetown, a fictional podcast drawing raves after just one episode
“Serial had to stay nonfictional. At the end of the show, it didn’t necessarily mean that it had a conclusion. That’s the biggest advantage we have: We’re making it up. So we can give you an ending.”
What to read next
2555
tweets
The New York Times built a Slack bot to help decide which stories to post to social media
The bot, named Blossom, helps predict how stories will do on social and also suggests which stories editors should promote.
1287Jo Ellen Green Kaiser: Do independent news outlets have a blind spot when it comes to ethnic media?
The head of the Media Consortium argues that, by defining themselves in opposition to mainstream media, independent progressive outlets miss out on the power of ethnic and community journalism.
1029Newsonomics: 10 numbers on The New York Times’ 1 million digital-subscriber milestone
Digital subscribers are proving to be the bedrock of the Times’ business model going forward. How much more room is there for growth — and at what price points?
These stories are our most popular on Twitter over the past 30 days.
See all our most recent pieces ➚
Fuego is our heat-seeking Twitter bot, tracking the links the future-of-journalism crowd is talking about most on Twitter.
Here are a few of the top links Fuego’s currently watching.   Get the full Fuego ➚
Encyclo is our encyclopedia of the future of news, chronicling the key players in journalism’s evolution.
Here are a few of the entries you’ll find in Encyclo.   Get the full Encyclo ➚
Spot.Us
The Tyee
St. Louis Beacon
NPR
National Review
Gannett
Ars Technica
West Seattle Blog
The Chronicle of Higher Education
NewsTilt
The Dish
Baristanet