The Economist has been using Snapchat Discover since October 2016, joining over 40 publishers on the platform, including the BBC, The New York Times and Mashable.
Lucy Rohr, the publication's Snapchat editor, was sceptical at first and she wasn't convinced the publisher would be right for the platform, but The Economist is now getting 7.1m unique visitors through the door every month.
"The audience for Snapchat was vast and young – it was going to be the Economist talking to 14-24 year olds," she said, speaking at the Digital Innovators' Summit in Berlin yesterday (20 March).
"We had to translate our very specific editorial voice to the platform, but we did not 'dumb ourselves down' – we realised that to underestimate the intellect of the younger audience, and their discernment, is a real mistake.
"It turns out that there is a segment of this audience that is globally curious."
“We’re talking mainly to 14-17 year olds, but we don’t dumb any of our content down. We can be a guide to the future & a voice for liberal, progressive causes young people care about” - Fantastic talk from Lucy Rohr, who’s in charge of @Snapchat at @TheEconomist #DISummit pic.twitter.com/r9bvykoryh— Digital Innovators (@DISummit) March 20, 2018
Rohr explained that when setting out to create interactive snaps, 10 second looping videos, the team, whose five members are on both sides of the Atlantic, decided to produce deep-dives into single topics as opposed to trying to cover a variety of different issues.
"We made them like the 'ultimate cheat sheet' – providing the audience with the toolkit, vocabulary and context that they need to understand the rest of our journalism," she said.
"Most publishers are showing make-up tips and celebrity news but we were not afraid to cover big stories that we thought should be on these young people's radars."
Bur Rohr said it was a challenge for the team to arrest the curiosity of a younger audience through a series of snaps, which would be engaging enough to sustain their attention till they swiped up and could then deliver meatier analysis.
"We needed to show and not tell, using our same editorial voice, but in a way that feels playful and relevant to the platform. Our decided approach was bold, elegant and playful, and we would do original animations and reporting for the platform.
"The thing that takes the most time even now is working out which topics are going to be a good fit, with enough analysis that can be translated into a 'Snappy' format – choosing a topic for the weekly edition requires careful consideration."
So far on the platform, The Economist has covered issues such as the threat posed by North Korea, the possibility of alien life, global warming and the legalisation of drugs.
"The Economist tends to be more popular with a male audience, so one of the exciting things for us is that we are able to put ourselves in front of a more female audience as well as a young one," she said.
"Snapchat Discover has led to the single biggest step change in our readership since we were founded in 1843 – it's extrememly exciting for us to be put in front of an audience this age.
"Platforms come and go, but we know that the shift in short-form, visual journalism is here to stay and I'm thrilled that The Economist is investing in it."
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