Snapchat grows up

“Organizations that aren’t on Snapchat Discover will go beyond the experimental phase on Stories. The remaining skeptics won’t be for much longer.”

2016 was the year many news outlets became obsessed with Snapchat. In 2017, they’ll start to realize its full potential.

rubina-fillionThere are two types of publishers on Snapchat: those who are part of its exclusive Discover program and those who use regular user accounts to share Stories. The former involves a resource-heavy production process reliant on animators, video producers, engagement editors, and/or graphic designers. A Snapchat Discover team typically includes 5 to 10 employees. But launching a regular Snapchat account is far less of a commitment. This year, many publishers took this as an opportunity to experiment with Stories, which are a series of Snaps typically from the previous 24 hours.

Some of those experiments were less successful than others. Reporters delivered weather reports while sporting dog ears, used occasionally inappropriate emojis, and took shaky videos of their own computer screens. They relied heavily on reporters trying to summarize their stories in 10-second chunks. It’s clear that some news organizations’ answer to Snapchat was to hand their accounts over to young, low-level employees and leave it to them to figure out a strategy.

That will likely change in 2017 as older Americans embrace Snapchat. Its initially frustrating interface spurs many new users to give up before giving it a chance. But this year it eclipsed Twitter in terms of daily active users, showing that it has mass appeal. My own parents and in-laws use it every day to watch videos of my daughter. My mother-in-law will often send me snaps of home improvement projects, concerts, or homemade cookies. My family has even debated whether or not to teach my 93-year-old grandfather how to use it.

When people ask to see photos of my daughter, I’ll often pull up the Memories tab of Snapchat instead. Snapchat launched its Memories feature in July, giving users more control over the permanence of their snaps. It allows users to save their snaps and resurrect them for future Stories. Users can also now upload photos and videos from their camera rolls. It initially seemed like an odd move for an app known for its ephemeral content. But it expands the possibilities for news organizations. Now even publishers that aren’t on Snapchat Discover have an easier time sharing polished graphics, animations, and videos. It also makes Snapchat more appealing to new users who are used to the permanence of content on other social networks.

While most Snapchat users are under 25, the company may try to broaden its appeal in 2017. Snap Inc., its parent company, has confidentially filed for an IPO. When Twitter had its own IPO three years ago, it faced aggressive targets for growth — which it often missed. Many of the changes to Twitter’s interface since then have been aimed at retaining new users. This is another reason to suspect that Snapchat will try to make its app easier for novices to navigate.

The biggest barrier to Snapchat’s growth may be Instagram. Just two months after Instagram launched its nearly identical Stories, the feature had 100 million daily active users. That’s compared to 150 million who use Snapchat overall.

There are a handful of news organizations that have successfully explored the potential of Snapchat Stories. The Washington Post and The Hill both use a mix of reporter standups, short interviews and scene-setting shots to construct a narrative. Quartz works with its reporters around the world on behind-the-scenes Snapchat Stories. But it’s clear that some major news organizations still see it as a peripheral platform. The New York Times, for example, didn’t put much effort into its Snapchat logo.

snapchat-nytimes

(Yes, it’s backwards.)

To be fair to the Times, they also published an excellent column by Farhad Manjoo that explained Snapchat’s potential for newsgathering. While Facebook fired the small team of editorial contractors responsible for curating trending news, Snapchat hired reporters and producers. The Live Stories they curate are vignettes of individual experiences during specific events, including natural disasters. They offer a counterpoint to the idea that Snapchat doesn’t work for hard news.

It’s unclear what impact Snap’s foray into hardware will have on the news industry. Its first camera product, Spectacles, has inspired overnight lines in Manhattan. But like Google Glass and Apple Watch, it could be a hot wearable tech item that rapidly fizzles. Even if that happens, we can expect to see journalists experimenting with its GoPro-like capabilities to shoot first-person Snapchat Stories.

Part of the appeal of Snapchat is that the short videos can be repurposed for different platforms. Alice Speri, The Intercept’s multimedia reporter, used Snapchat to cover protests outside the Democratic and Republican conventions. She would shoot a 10-second video, save it to her camera roll, tweet it out and later include it as a multimedia element in a story. Other news organizations use elements of their Snapchat Stories on Instagram, Facebook, or YouTube. This is a good argument for even small, resource-strapped newsrooms to use the platform.

Publishers are also using Snapchat to develop relationships with readers. My friend Taylor Lorenz, director of emerging platforms at The Hill, told me she has long conversations with Snapchat followers about what they should be covering. In September, she used the platform to ask students to share how they spent their summers, then featured the best responses in a blog post. Engagement editors have been using Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram for years to do these types of callouts. But like messaging apps, Snapchat encourages journalists to have more one-on-one contact with readers.

Snapchat is already a major force in the news industry. Its influence will continue to grow in 2017 as it goes public and expands its audience. Organizations that aren’t on Snapchat Discover will go beyond the experimental phase on Stories. The remaining skeptics won’t be for much longer.

Rubina Madan Fillion is the digital engagement editor at The Intercept and an adjunct professor at Columbia Journalism School.

Laura E. Davis   Show your work

Emi Kolawole   From empathy to community

Reyhan Harmanci   Bear witness — but then what?

Julia Beizer   Building a coherent core identity

David Chavern   Fake news gets solved

Tim Herrera   The safe space of service journalism

Rebekah Monson   Journalism is community-as-a-service

Mary Meehan   Feeling blue in a red state

Christopher Meighan   Unlocking a deeper mobile experience

Eric Nuzum   Podcasting stratifies into hard layers

Carrie Brown-Smith   We won’t do enough

Steve Henn   The next revolution is voice

Bill Adair   The year of the fact-checking bot

Lee Glendinning   A call for great editing

Juliette De Maeyer and Dominique Trudel   A rebirth of populist journalism

Caitlin Thompson   High touch, high value

Swati Sharma   Failing diversity is failing journalism

Margarita Noriega   From pinning tweets to tweeting pins

Matt Karolian   AI improves publishing

Andrew Ramsammy   Rise of the rebel journalist

Sue Schardt   Objectivity, fairness, balance, and love

Anita Zielina   The sales funnel reaches (and changes) the newsroom

Rubina Madan Fillion   Snapchat grows up

Kawandeep Virdee   Moving deeper than the machine of clicks

Helen Havlak   Chasing mobile search results

P. Kim Bui   The year journalism teaches again

Andrea Silenzi   Podcasts dive into breaking news analysis

Gabriel Snyder   The aberration of 20th-century journalism

Felix Salmon   Headlines matter

Richard J. Tofel   The country doesn’t trust us — but they do believe us

Mario García   Virtual reality on mobile leaps forward

Errin Haines   Chaos or community?

Cindy Royal   Preparing the digital educator-scholar hybrid

Jon Slade   Trusted news, at a premium

Andy Rossback   The year of the user

Mira Lowe   News literacy, bias, and “Hamilton”

Ray Soto   VR moves from experiments to immersion

Scott Dodd   Nonprofits team up for impact

Jonathan Stray   A boom in responsible conservative media

Jeremy Barr   A terrible year for Tiers B through D

Peter Sterne   A dangerous anti-press mix

Liz Danzico   The triumph of the small

Katie Zhu   The year of minority media

Liz McMillen   The year of deep insights

Adam Thomas   The coming collaboration across Europe

Taylor Lorenz   “Selfie journalism” becomes a thing

Doris Truong   Connecting with diverse perspectives

Trushar Barot   API or die

Sara M. Watson   There is no neutral interface

Sarah Marshall   Focusing on the why of the click

Hillary Frey   Forests need to burn to regrow

Umbreen Bhatti   A sense of journalists’ humanity

Ryan McCarthy   Platforms grow up or grow more toxic

Melody Kramer   Radically rethinking design

Sam Ford   The year we talk about our awful metrics

Dan Gillmor   Fix the demand side of news too

Priya Ganapati   Mobile websites are ready for reinvention

Laura Walker   Authentic voices, not fake news

Maria Bustillos   “It’s true — I saw it on Facebook”

Francesco Marconi   The year of augmented writing

Andrew Losowsky   Building our own communities

Cory Haik   Navigating power in Trump’s America

Joanne Lipman   The year of the drone, really

Amy Webb   Journalism as a service

Erin Millar   The bottom falls out of Canadian media

Mark Armstrong   Time to pay up

Asma Khalid   The year of the newsy podcast

Bill Keller   A healthy skepticism about data

Andrew Haeg   The year of listening

Dannagal G. Young   The return of the gatekeepers

Kathleen Kingsbury   Print as a premium offering

Guy Raz   Inspiration and hope will matter more than ever

Aja Bogdanoff   Comments start pulling their weight

Olivia Ma   The year collaboration beats competition

Amy O'Leary   Not just covering communities, reaching them

Corey Ford   The year of the rebelpreneur

Ole Reißmann   Un-faking the news

Matt Waite   The people running the media are the problem

Rachel Schallom   Stop flying over the flyover states

Nathalie Malinarich   Making it easy

Javaun Moradi   What can we own?

Sydette Harry   Facing journalism’s history

Jim Friedlich   A banner year for venture philanthropy

Burt Herman   Local news gets interesting

Tracie Powell   Building reader relationships

Mandy Velez   The audience is the source and the story

Mary Walter-Brown   Getting comfortable asking for money

Valérie Bélair-Gagnon   Truthiness in private spaces

Vivian Schiller   Tested like never before

M. Scott Havens   Quality advertising to pair with quality content

Robert Hernandez   History will exclude you, again

Ståle Grut   The battle for high-quality VR

Lam Thuy Vo   The primary source in the age of mechanical multiplication

Rachel Sklar   Women are going to get loud

Annemarie Dooling   UGC as a path out of the bubble

Nicholas Quah   Podcasting’s coming class war

Rasmus Kleis Nielsen   News after advertising may look like news before advertising

Michael Oreskes   Reversing the erosion of democracy

Alexis Lloyd   Public trust for private realities

Alice Antheaume   A new test for French media

An Xiao Mina   2017 is for the attention innovators

Megan H. Chan   Cultural reporting goes mainstream

Erin Pettigrew   A year of reflection in tech

Alberto Cairo   Communicating uncertainty to our readers

Libby Bawcombe   Kids board the podcast train

Ashley C. Woods   Local journalism will fight a new fight

Millie Tran   International expansion without colonial overtones

Amie Ferris-Rotman   Вслед за Россией

Ernst-Jan Pfauth   Earn trust by working for (and with) readers

Renée Kaplan   Pure reach has reached its limit

David Weigel   A test for online speech

Claire Wardle   Verification takes center stage

Pablo Boczkowski   Fake news and the future of journalism

Tim Griggs   The year we stop taking sides

Ariane Bernard   Better data about your users

Mike Ragsdale   A smarter information diet

Ken Schwencke   Disaggregation and collection

Elizabeth Jensen   Trust depends on the details

Juan Luis Sánchez   Your predictions are our present

Moreno Cruz Osório   The year of transparency in Brazilian journalism

Almar Latour   Thanks, #fakenews

Geetika Rudra   Journalism is community

Zizi Papacharissi   Distracted journalism looks in the mirror

Tressie McMillan Cottom   A path through the media’s coming legitimacy crisis

Tanya Cordrey   The resurgence of reach

Nushin Rashidian   A rise in high-price, high-value subscriptions

Dhiya Kuriakose   The year of digital detoxing

Jonathan Hunt   Measurement companies get with the times

Carla Zanoni   Prioritizing emotional health

Emily Goligoski   Incorporating audience feedback at scale

Sarah Wolozin   Virtual reality on the open web

Molly de Aguiar   Philanthropists galvanize around news

David Skok   What lies beyond paywalls

Coleen O'Lear   Back to basics

Michael Kuntz   Trust is the new click

Mathew Ingram   The Faustian Facebook dance continues

Dan Colarusso   Let’s make live video we can love

Samantha Barry   Messaging apps go mainstream

S.P. Sullivan   Baking transparency into our routines

Keren Goldshlager   Defining a focus, and then saying no