Journalists have always chased — and met — audiences where they are, from IRL community events to platforms like Facebook and Snapchat.
2016 will be the year we don’t just meet, but also talk to people on their phones. We’ll text with them. We’ll chat with them on chat apps.
Texting and chat platforms are the next frontier in social news. They’re an intimate space, a closed circle: We talk to our friends and our families there, we live so much of our virtual lives there.
As users begin to add journalists and news organizations to their contacts, our challenge is to adapt to a new medium of storytelling. Unlike old-school social, which is more about broadcasting, chat apps are much more personal — a space where conversations go in both directions.
The opportunity: Every single message is a push notification.
On platforms built for two-sided communication and conversations, the barrier for entry to engage with users is incredibly low. Users can send us tips; we can tell creative stories; we can build communities and engage with audiences.
The challenge: Every single message is a push notification, so every single message has to be worth it.
On platforms built for personal interactions, how do outlets remain authentic and effective? This is both an editorial and a technical challenge.
We will have to tackle questions like: Does the curiosity gap work in the same way in a message as it does on social? People are accustomed to exchanges on chat, so how do we have two-sided conversations with thousands or hundreds of thousands of users? Will the ping of a new message optimized for a user in Mumbai wake up a user in New York?
The truth is, challenges and opportunities of adapting to new platforms have always been similar. This is just the next frontier we’re going to tackle. Because chat isn’t just the future, it’s the present, too: We’re all already having conversations here. 2016 is the year journalists will join us.
Masuma Ahuja is a social apps producer at CNN.