Facebook Instant Articles, Apple News, Snapchat Live & Discover, Twitter Moments…2015 was a fun year for news organizations trying out new formats and a terrifying year for those trying to maintain their status as a destination for news. As mobile users continue to spend the majority of their time on a core set of apps, platforms like Facebook or Snapchat started to take advantage, rolling out these custom in-app experiences.
Heading into 2016, most media companies are still warily experimenting with these options and testing the waters. But the next big question as we look ahead to a tumultuous election year is the editorial role these platforms will play.
Snapchat is speeding ahead, building an editorial staff devoted to curating user-generated snaps and supplementing them with information bites. They covered their first breaking news event in Snapchat Live during the San Bernardino shootings, and they have a regular series on the 2016 campaign trail. Interestingly, Discover is still a separate sandbox for media companies to feature their content, which tends to feel over-branded. Live, with its user-generated content, is a much more fascinating and intimate view of current events around the world.
Twitter launched Moments, curating tweets, images, and video around trending topics. It’s more of a hybrid than Snapchat, combining content from brands and users to tell a story. Apple News recently rolled out a Top Stories feed, curating top stories from publishers.
Facebook is the murkiest of the bunch, launching Instant Articles, Notify, and a Trending section. One is just a content format that lives within the News Feed, one is personalized by users, and the third is the only obviously curated piece. It’s not clear yet how the algorithm weights Instant Articles vs. standard links, or generally how curation comes into play with all three of these features.
These big players each have a different approach to curation, but all will face the challenges of any news organization as they head into 2016. With great power comes the great responsibility of verifying information, delivering diverse content that keeps users informed, managing coverage at a global and local level, and hiring an editorial staff prepared to make tough decisions. All while maintaining a relationship with the very companies they’re starting to cannibalize.