News in a Snap: Washington Post’s Snapchat Updates

Snapchat has already shown that it wants to be a source for polished content and a place for users to get their news. Now, The Washington Post has teamed up with the social media company to pursue these goals together. On Feb. 13, the news outlet announced that it would join Snapchat Discover—and be one of the first publishers to post multiple news updates during the day.

The Washington Post’s Snapchat icon that you can take a photo of on Snapchat to follow the account (Snap, Inc.).

The Washington Post has been diving headfirst into the virtual world, especially since it was acquired by Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos in 2013. The paper distributes 100 percent of its content through Instant Articles, a feature on Facebook that automatically formats the articles for mobile. It also has used Snapchat’s Story feature to report on everything from campaigns to riots.

Chris Meighan, director of emerging news products for the Washington Post, explained in an interview with MediaFile why it was logical to bring the Washington Post’s hard news updates to the popular app.

“Along with Snapchat, we felt this was an area in Discover that was lacking and is a real strength of The Washington Post. Snapchat is about being in the moment, so it seemed like a natural fit for us and something that would differentiate our storytelling from the rest.”

This announcement also follows Axios’s channel, We the People, finishing its run as a channel following the presidential inauguration. Snapchat’s own political show, Good Luck America—which had an interview with Hillary Clinton during the campaign—is due to return soon. Still, other publishers on Discover only post once a day or once a week. Discover is the place for more highly produced content and graphics, versus off-the-cuff and behind-the-scenes nature of Stories. It takes more effort to update and maintain a Discover page.

But in a world of fast-paced updates, Meighan wants to make sure they’re putting in the effort and providing the best content to their audiences on Snapchat.

“When you enter the app you expect to see the latest news from those you follow. From that point of view it doesn’t make sense that a news organization in Discover would feature potentially stale content. We want to make sure that when someone views our channel that they are coming away with the most up to date information.”

But it is yet to be seen how users will engage with that content. Many Discover pages, the Washington Post included, feature some fun graphics and polished videos, but they also want users to take an extra step, to click or swipe and then read a full article. Not all their Discover updates feature this, but when they could tap ahead to the next bite of news, users aren’t guaranteed to read the article.

Some of the Post’s updates feature small blocks of text over graphics, while others offer a “read” tab for users to swipe and read a full length story.

Some of the posts are self-contained or part of a series of posts.

Others can lead audiences to a full story.

Meighan says he doesn’t “foresee any drawbacks,” and since ads play within the Discover story, it will still be monetarily beneficial to the paper if people skip ahead to the next story without reading the last full one.

No one can know for sure if users will adopt Snapchat as a news source, but the app’s rise in popularity means more people could be looking to it for news. According to Pew Research, 62 percent of adults get their news from social media and Snapchat already surpassed Twitter’s number of daily number of active users last year. By Q4, Snapchat’s number of active daily users reached 161 million, according to Snapchat.

Snapchat has shown a steady growth in users since 2014 (Business Insider).

By joining Discover, the Washington Post is following their audiences; “More and more audiences are gathering their news from social platforms, so it would seem like a natural fit to break news on one as popular as Snapchat.”

Now, they need to see if their audiences want to follow along with the breaking news they are publishing on the Snapchat.

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