Snap Inc., creators of the hugely popular mobile application Snapchat, are looking to be the trendsetters for media outlets by reaching younger audiences with the news stories and features on their app.
Speaking to students at the University of Mississippi’s Overby Center recently, Snapchat News Director Peter Hamby explained how Snapchat is looking to become a leader in the news world while holding on to their entertainment value. It’s all part of an effort to reach the younger generations with content and messages that older media corporations haven’t been able to tap into.
“In this moment of fake news and [companies] getting called up on Capitol Hill to testify about advertising and content, we don’t have that problem,” said Hamby. “Snapchat doesn’t have fake news. Snapchat employs journalists. Millions and millions of teenagers and college students and people under 30 are reading The Washington Post, The New York Times, CNN, Buzzfeed, The Economist, and The Wall Street Journal on Snapchat. They aren’t doing that on other platforms.”
Snapchat was only started in September of 2011, but the company has already grown tremendously in a short amount of time. According to a statistics search done by expandedramblings.com, Snapchat has around 173 million weekly users and around 301 million monthly users. Of those 173 million weekly users, 28 percent of them are U.S. millennials.
“A lot of people on Snapchat are not watching television,” said Hamby. “Six million people watch my show every week. Most of them are under 25. If you look at a Sunday show like “Meet the Press,” three million people watch that. Eighty percent of that audience is over 55. We have this huge opportunity to reach over 173 million young people with content they like and hopefully want to keep coming back to.”
According to Hamby, one of Snapchat’s major goals is to provide feedback to their consumers. He feels older media companies haven’t succeeded in drawing in younger audiences because they don’t give them a voice.
“I think in news and media too many decision-makers and content producers don’t think about the basics,” said Hamby. “How is this or that person getting their news? I think they rely on what their friends in Washington and New York are reading, and they’re not just talking to young people.
“I use my [public] Snapchat account to talk to people about story selection. We’ve added polling recently where you can swipe up and vote on issues at stake in an episode. People like when you respond. Just listening is huge. The lack of listening has been a huge failure in journalism.”
Snapchat isn’t just useful and entertaining for young people though. Bigger and older media companies are increasingly using Snapchat to help with stories, and companies and disaster teams are using the app to get feedback on their products and find and help those who are in need.
“Snapchat is a different experience because it opens the camera and allows our users to create their own content,” said Hamby. “From a news perspective, that’s incredible. The Snapchat map isn’t just used to see what party your friends are at. When Hurricane Harvey hit Houston, people around Houston created over half a million snaps during that first weekend of their homes being flooded out. First responders were snapping rescues from choppers. They were able to help these people just because they were Snapchat users and were posting it to maps. They were able to locate and help people they wouldn’t otherwise would have known were there and in danger.”
The internet is able to see events in real time over Snapchat. Hamby sees this as a huge plus for media networks looking for coverage on events.
“We have 173 million cameras,” said Hamby. “They’re giving us that content. It allows us to experience an on-the-ground feel for what these events are like. When tragedies happened in places like Las Vegas and Charlottesville, we had some of the best footage of the events just because people who were nearby or in the action pulled out their phone and got Snapchat video of the incidents.”
Snapchat is looking to continue to cater to younger crowds such as college students with several new features, including Campus Discovery, which allows school newspapers to produce content that looks and feels similar to content from big media corporations. The goal is to get younger people interested in reading and consuming news.
“There’s hyper-relevant content on these campuses,” said Hamby. “It’s really well done, glossy content that teaches students how to use modern CMS – not just for the web but also how to monetize it – and I think that can be a model for how we think about reaching more people with really premium content.”
Snapchat looks to continue to lead the charge in getting younger, less involved audiences involved in news and entertainment through their platform, and with more content and new releases on the way, they don’t look to be slowing down anytime soon.
Story by Jake Woody, courtesy of the Meek School of Journalism