February 2, 2017

The New York Times is landing on Snapchat, and the Gray Lady thinks its journalism will fit right in on the millennial-dominated social network.

“We’re not boring when it comes to visual storytelling,” said Assistant Editor Steve Duenes. “…We have a lot to draw from all forms of digital storytelling.”

Expect The New York Times’ upcoming Snapchat Discover channel to be a showcase for visuals from the entire newsroom — video, photography and animation, he said. The channel, which will run Monday through Friday in the U.S. and Canada, will be based on the Times’ Morning Briefing.

The exact details have yet to be worked out (launch day is still weeks away), but expect to see staples of New York Times design adapted for a new format. Duenes used words like “authority,” “cleverness” and “motion” to describe the forthcoming channel.

“You should recognize that it’s the Times,” Duenes said. “So there will be a design framework that makes it distinctive.”

The Times currently has about eight people working on the channel from various cross-sections throughout the newsroom: Video editors, graphics editors and more traditional staffers. They come from areas that the Times will draw on for the channel, which was a deliberate decision, Duenes said.

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At launch, “at least a half-dozen” staffers will be dedicated to keeping it current, said Kinsey Wilson, executive vice president of product and technology at The New York Times (and a member of Poynter’s Board of Trustees).

By joining Snapchat discover, The Times gets an entrée to the social network’s younger audience and a chance to stretch its storytelling muscles — both big upsides from a strategic perspective, Wilson said. Snapchat is on the verge of its initial public offering and reaches about 150 million people every day.

“We see an opportunity to experiment with new digital storytelling forms, to reach a younger audience at scale,” Wilson said. “We’re well-positioned to be doing this at this point, so it felt right.”

Wilson pointed to The Times’ other forays into new visual formats — including Facebook Live, 360 video and virtual reality — as proof the newsroom can balance its business and editorial priorities when it experiments with technology.

Distributed platforms like Facebook, Snapchat and YouTube draw users in the billions, but news organizations have struggled to turn those eyeballs into a healthy business. Partnerships with Facebook, Snapchat, Twitter, Google and YouTube brought in about $7.7 million in the first half of 2016, according to a recent survey of publishers by the trade group Digital Content Next — a fraction of total digital revenue.

But Wilson said he’s optimistic that cultivating a relationship with publishers and their audiences will pay dividends in the long run.

“The approach we’ve taken is to develop good, deep amicable relationships with partners and continue to explore how we can arrive at a place where the economics are mutually beneficial,” Wilson said.

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Benjamin Mullin is the managing editor of Poynter.org. He previously reported for Poynter as a staff writer, Google Journalism Fellow and Naughton Fellow, covering journalism…
Benjamin Mullin

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