May 6, 2016

Two years ago, Masuma Ahuja was teaching journalists how to use Snapchat at the Online News Association’s annual conference. Last year, she was putting a Snapchat strategy into place on the campaign trail for The Washington Post and starting to explore messaging apps such as LINE. Now, she’s in a new job, in a new city and experimenting in new ways.

Ahuja, now a social apps producer at CNN, is a guest faculty member this week at the Poynter-ONA Leadership Academy for Women in Digital Media and a member of last year’s inaugural class. Ahuja spoke with Poynter via email about figuring out the right platforms for storytelling, her favorite new ones and a project that used an out-of-the-ordinary reporting tool — voicemail.

At The Washington Post, you spent time working with people in the newsroom and convincing some of them to experiment on different platforms. What have you learned about getting people to test platforms that don’t have an obvious traffic-based payoff?

Different projects, experiments and platforms have different goals that drive them — sometimes an experiment lends itself to a new platform because the platform enables us to tell a story in a compelling way. Other times, the reason to experiment on a platform is to reach audiences where they are.

For example, recently at CNN, we collected love stories on voicemail — we decided to do this on voicemail in large part because of how powerful and compelling it was to actually hear people tell us these incredibly personal and emotional stories.

What are you experimenting with right now?

One exciting project was experimenting with CNN’s Facebook Messenger experience during our recent Brooklyn Democratic debate.

What platforms are you excited about? What should we be paying attention to?

I’m spending a lot of my time working on and thinking about messaging apps, such as Facebook Messenger and LINE, right now. They’re such intimate spaces where audiences are spending a lot of time already — they’re having conversations here, and now publishers are beginning to experiment on here, as well.

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Kristen Hare covers the people and business of local news and is the editor of Locally at Poynter. She previously worked as a staff writer…
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