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2020
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7

TikTok without generational prejudice

“Don’t go on a platform if you have nothing to say on it. News organizations’ success on TikTok will depend on our effort to understand the audience populating that platform.”

The next person who tells me how The Washington Post is funny on TikTok

Don’t get me wrong — they are funny. It’s one of the experiments on a social platform I was most interested in this year. But in this industry, there’s a risk every time someone has a successful idea that everyone else will just try to replicate it. And frankly, I don’t want to find ourselves spending 2020 brainstorming ways to make the morning meeting hilarious because boomers think that’s the way to talk to Gen Z.

When I first heard about what the Post was doing on TikTok, I thought: Great idea! It’s refreshing to see a legacy organization accepting the challenges of a new platform while more or less everyone else is shying away. Dave Jorgenson, the Post’s face on TikTok, developed the right voice and crafted a series of my-parents-on-the-internet videos to show what’s like to work in a newspaper (kind of). It’s a brilliant way to make a 142-year-old paper relatable, and it’s working for the Post — but that doesn’t mean it’ll work for everyone else.

I’ve spent enough time in newsrooms to know the standard criticism: “But where is the journalism in The Washington Post’s TikTok?”

Well, I don’t think that’s the point — as Jorgenson explained on Axios’ Pro Rata podcast, they’re currently focused on building a loyal audience on a platform that has a billion monthly active users while waiting for new features more friendly to journalism (like the ability to swipe to a link to an articles).

Right now, I’m not even concerned about when or if they’ll figure out a way to monetize it. What I am worried about are all the copycat outlets ready to land on TikTok thinking that Post-like videos are the only way to make news appealing to a younger audience. If we all start making a trend out of the Post example, the risk is to patronize youngsters according to the stereotype that Gen Z doesn’t care about the news.

In order to build a real community, the golden rule of social media is eternal: Don’t go on a platform if you have nothing to say on it. News organizations’ success on TikTok will depend on our effort to understand the audience populating that platform.

2020 will be the year more publishers play around with lipsync and filters. But I hope we’ll also spend more time asking Gen Zers what they really want from us. I’ll definitely try my best.

Francesco Zaffarano is senior social media editor of The Telegraph.

The next person who tells me how The Washington Post is funny on TikTok

Don’t get me wrong — they are funny. It’s one of the experiments on a social platform I was most interested in this year. But in this industry, there’s a risk every time someone has a successful idea that everyone else will just try to replicate it. And frankly, I don’t want to find ourselves spending 2020 brainstorming ways to make the morning meeting hilarious because boomers think that’s the way to talk to Gen Z.

When I first heard about what the Post was doing on TikTok, I thought: Great idea! It’s refreshing to see a legacy organization accepting the challenges of a new platform while more or less everyone else is shying away. Dave Jorgenson, the Post’s face on TikTok, developed the right voice and crafted a series of my-parents-on-the-internet videos to show what’s like to work in a newspaper (kind of). It’s a brilliant way to make a 142-year-old paper relatable, and it’s working for the Post — but that doesn’t mean it’ll work for everyone else.

I’ve spent enough time in newsrooms to know the standard criticism: “But where is the journalism in The Washington Post’s TikTok?”

Well, I don’t think that’s the point — as Jorgenson explained on Axios’ Pro Rata podcast, they’re currently focused on building a loyal audience on a platform that has a billion monthly active users while waiting for new features more friendly to journalism (like the ability to swipe to a link to an articles).

Right now, I’m not even concerned about when or if they’ll figure out a way to monetize it. What I am worried about are all the copycat outlets ready to land on TikTok thinking that Post-like videos are the only way to make news appealing to a younger audience. If we all start making a trend out of the Post example, the risk is to patronize youngsters according to the stereotype that Gen Z doesn’t care about the news.

In order to build a real community, the golden rule of social media is eternal: Don’t go on a platform if you have nothing to say on it. News organizations’ success on TikTok will depend on our effort to understand the audience populating that platform.

2020 will be the year more publishers play around with lipsync and filters. But I hope we’ll also spend more time asking Gen Zers what they really want from us. I’ll definitely try my best.

Francesco Zaffarano is senior social media editor of The Telegraph.

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