Why TV newsrooms should think about downloading Snapchat…

Victoria Holland
Oct 25, 2017 · 4 min read

‘The problem with TV News audiences is …. they keep dying.’

The above was said to me as a joke, but it’s kind of true. (My Great Aunty Janty, no longer with us, was a SUPER FAN of BBC East Midlands Today.) As audience numbers drop, perhaps some of our loyal viewers have gone to a better place. (And I don’t think viewing figures from the afterlife count.)

Traditional TV News, particularly regional news, has an ageing population. The average viewing age of BBC 1, for example, is 61.

TV IS CHANGING

The way people watch TV, and the way media is consumed, is changing rapidly, and the trouble is, broadcasters are often lagging behind. (One journalist confessed that their regional broadcaster in Spain had only created a Facebook page in 2017. SAY WHAT?!)

Which means we’re missing out on a huge audience. Only 33 % of those aged 16–24 years old watch BBC News. TV is OVER… (ok, not yet, but things are changing)

What are the remaining 66% of those young people doing? Where are they? Why don’t they want to watch Simon McCoy? (I mean, maybe they do when he comes in BuzzFeed list form)

BUT WE ALREADY USE FACEBOOK IN OUR NEWSROOM…

Ok. So if they’re not watching TV, they must get all of their news from Facebook, right? RIGHT? THOSE KIDS LOVE “THE FACEBOOK”, DON’T THEY? Well, not necessarily. A recent study predicted that the number of teens (that’s age 12–17) using Facebook in the US will decline for the first time ever.

Whilst those in their twenties and thirties are still on Facebook, younger age groups are turning to other social media platforms. Their Mum is on Facebook. Even their Grandparents are on Facebook. (I mean, I’m 31, and some of MY friends’ Grandparents are on Facebook.) It’s OLD.

Think about how the platform has changed even since you signed up in 2005 or 2006 (If you were one of the lucky ones with the right university email address). What did you use it for? Probably writing cringeworthy third person statuses, uploading entire digital camera albums of nights out, and stalking the fit guy who sat near the stacks in the library. Now, my Facebook feed is reams of memes, cat videos, and VERY occasional holiday snaps. I joke that I don’t have friends anymore, I see more of ‘Hide the Pain Harold’ and the ‘Roll Safe’ guy tapping his forehead.

This means that when TV newsrooms think that simply putting videos on Facebook, ticks all their ‘digital engagement’ box, they’re losing out on a huge potential audience. The ones that are still young and healthy and could watch us for years to come. Guys, it’s time to download Snapchat and Instagram, and start making stories.

SNAPCHAT? ARE YOU SURE?

The idea of shoving a flower crown filter on a reporter’s piece to camera may sound horrific. But using short snappy ‘stories’ creates engagement and they are often broadcast in real time. (Instagram stories allows you to upload the ‘story’ at a later date, and you can keep the files)

Take this example from Eva Shulz from the German ‘Deutschland 3000’ (an online news project funded by two major mainstream broadcasters). She went to America, had a go at shooting guns, stuck some emojis on it, and got her followers to comment.

Instagram and Snapchat have useful features like locations, interaction and can reach a wide audience very quickly. But it won’t work in every news situation. It needs to be carefully planed. And yes, it’s annoying that once again, journalists are asked to do more with less. You roll up to some major unfolding news story, you’re now expected to tweet, facebook live, instastory, do radio lives and tv lives, make a radio package and a tv package. Well, that’s impossible, so plan what’s going to work best for the story and the age group you want to speak to. Treat is a project, rather than a daily newsgathering or news broadcast tool.

But we can’t ignore this new audience, and we do need to find ways of serving them. I imagine when journalists were first asked to file copy for the website, they thought that was a faff. Now tweeting and sending info back for online is second nature for most of us. So embrace the faff. Try it. Instagram stories is accessible, and you probably already have the app.

And then you can do cool things like this to your face too.

Victoria Holland

Written by

Video Journalist & presenter in East Yorkshire & Lincolnshire for BBC Look North. Also a cyclist, skier, country pub enthusiast & cake baker. My views, etc.

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