Almost one in five 18-24s use Snapchat to access news about coronavirus during the lockdown, giving the platform a much-needed boost that brought it back to publishers’ attention.
The app was on news organisations’ radar since 2015 when it introduced Discover, a feature that allows Snapchatters to access daily news 'snaps'. Although Discover became rapidly popular - in 2016, The Sun reported 1m daily users - the social video market became increasingly crowded with the rising popularity of Instagram Stories, TikTok and now Reels. Last year, the app saw an important decrease in time users spent on it, making publishers who have invested in their Discover news teams a tad nervous.
Jasper Fulcher has worked as The Telegraph’s Snapchat editor since 2016, focusing on reaching younger audiences - a strategy that won the team the 2020 newsaward for 'Outstanding use of social media'.
The "main bulk" of the newspaper’s Snapchat users, Fulcher explained, are 13-24 year olds, which allows the legacy news organisation to reach audiences outside its traditional demographic. And although it has amassed nearly 100k followers on its TikTok account at the time of writing, Snapchat remains the main tool for reaching younger users.
Snapchat is a visual platform so successful content strategy involves quality social videos optimised for mobile. Fulcher’s main job is choosing topics and visuals that are relevant to the under 24s and turn them into ‘snaps’ that then point the user towards the full story.
"If we can push as many people as possible into an article, that not only boosts our dwell times but also shows that we have ‘x’ number of people reading an article who wouldn't have normally seen it," he says.
Unlike other social networks, Snapchat curates and moderates content before it reaches its 229m users, rather than having an open feed where unchecked content can go viral. This allows the platform to effectively combat misinformation as it prioritises working with trustworthy organisations. Another advantage of the curated environment is that there are fewer distractions on the app which makes establishing a habit-forming relationship with readers much easier.
On the flip side, Snapchat lacks the tangible engagement that is offered by other social media sites, where followers, likes and retweets can be easily monitored. But this has not prevented The Telegraph from building a stable and engaged audience, according to Fulcher.
"Our read times are huge," he says. "People spend a lot of time reading on mobile."
The Telegraph’s Discover section has changed since it launched due to the increase in partners and influencers using the platform. This means the publisher faces "a lot more competition," which Fulcher attributed to the fact that the app "has pivoted towards the show format" akin to Netflix.
Despite this, Snapchat continues to be vital for The Telegraph’s audience engagement strategy.
"TikTok does not have the same environment for media partners as Snapchat does, it is not designed for media partners, it is designed for users," he concludes.
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