November 14, 2016

[Social] Snapchat takes further steps in breaking news

The battle to retake Mosul from the so-called Islamic State organisation by the Iraqi forces started last Monday after months of planning. The battle is sought to last for weeks, and all the prominent broadcasters have sent reporters in Iraq to report daily on the conflict. Along conventional/classic media broadcasters such as the BBC, CNN or the New York Times, people also had the opportunity to follow threads from a rather newcomer in the media landscape: Snapchat.

For 24 hours from October 19 to 20, the California-based app featured a special feed in their Story section: “Attack on Mosul”. The thread featured curated videos from the frontline and other related events like U.S. officials, notably President Barack Obama, addressing the nation about the offensive, and supporting messages from anonymous users from Iraq or Kurdistan.

This is the latest in Snapchat’s on-going effort to shift people’s perception of their company, from a mere social platform to a camera company, “capturing perspectives” as put by their Head of Content Sean Mills, by making a clear move into breaking news. The firm has been featuring a growing number of Live Stories related to national events and celebrations, from Memorial Day in the US to Holi in India. With threads dedicated to more serious news recently, such as Hurricane Matthew or Mosul, Snapchat is establishing itself as the broadcaster of grassroots journalism, and is working on implementing the synergies between its Live Stories (with mostly user-generated content) and its Discover services (as partnerships with established media broadcasters).

As Sean Mills puts it, Snapchat’s challenge is “less about giving people information and facts in a traditional third-person way and much more about bringing people into a news event first-person”. Building on its greater affinity with the millennial public compared to all other media, Snapchat is paving the way to the future of broadcasting in the digital age, and is saving a place of us in the front row.

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