Business Column

Snapchat’s move toward news coverage could be what saves it

Daily Orange File Illustration

Snapchat has mastered the use of geofencing which can be seen in local Snapchat Discover stories.

UPDATED: Sept. 4, 10:13 p.m. 

Instagram has been circling Snapchat for the past few months, looking for the kill.

When Snapchat refused a buyout from Instagram’s parent company Facebook, Instagram swiped Snapchat’s “Stories” idea. Now Instagram Stories’ 250 million daily active users easily beat Snapchat’s 166 million, according to TechCrunch.

A graph showing how Snap Inc.'s stock prices have been falling since March.

Andy Mendes | Digital Design Editor

But Snapchat is poised to beat Instagram in a different social media market: news coverage.

Snapchat’s swoop into news started in January of 2016 when it launched its own news platform during election season called “Good Luck America.” NBC followed in July 2017 with its Snapchat-exclusive, twice-daily news program “Stay Tuned,” which reported over 29 million viewers in its first month per TechCrunch. Sixty percent of that audience was under age 25.

It’s been so successful that now, CNN is launching its own Snapchat daily news show called “The Update.”

This success can be attributed, in part, to Snapchat’s use of geofencing. Geofencing uses GPS or RFID technology to fence users into a certain geographic area and push area-specific content. You’ll notice it if you’re on the Syracuse University campus and can watch its campus story.

Now, Snapchat has reached out to college newspapers including Dartmouth, UCLA and Stanford to create local “Discover” stories, pushing their content to students.

Snapchat’s domination of geofencing is approaching new potential: local news. If colleges can prove that targeted local news is popular, it could open a new door of revenue for Snapchat.

News coverage could spark a much-needed increase in investments for Snapchat. Snap Inc. has never turned a profit and in its first earning statement since going public, it’s lost $443 million.

But investment can be a problem for local TV stations, Jennifer Stromer-Galley, a Syracuse University School of Information Studies and president of the Association of Internet Researchers, said.

“When the local TV reporters come to interview me for a story, they’re by themselves doing their own camera work. They don’t have the money to invest in Snapchat news,” Stromer-Galley said. “Local news stations would also have to invest in repacking their content for just Snapchat.”

Creating a Snapchat team could mean hiring designers, animators and even separate Snapchat reporters — a serious investment for a small local news channel, like LocalSYR’s 23-person team.

But this investment could pay off. So, local channels shouldn’t miss out on this big opportunity. The morning news audience has dropped 12 percent in last 10 years, evening news has dropped by 19 percent, and late-night news has taken the biggest hit with a 31 percent drop, according to a Pew Research Center study.

This is all reflective of an aging TV news audience, which isn’t good for local news’ long-term health. Only 27 percent of people between the ages of 18-29 get their news from TV, whereas 72 percent of ages 50-64 use television as their primary news source, according to Pew.

Only 27 percent of people ages 18=29 get news from TV.

Andy Mendes | Digital Design Editor

Local TV news stations are leaving themselves exposed. Clearly they are in the best position to create content for Snapchat news stories, because they already have the infrastructure in place to create video content. And with the right investment, a local newspaper could undercut them before they even take the chance.

Still, there are ways for local media to save money and turn out Snapchat content. For example, NBC has two of their 30 staffers devoted just create content for “Stay Tuned.” CNN’s “The Update” is different. Their hosts and reporters have a dual role of producing content for both Snapchat and the cable network.

Another motive to invest in Snapchat content is profit. In 2016, Snapchat paid out $58 million to its Discover partners, up $10 million from the year before. Maybe the local WSYR channel can’t invest in a 30-person Snapchat news team, but they could certainly spare some time to spin already-produced news segments into content for Snapchat.

CNN’s double-dipping reporters and college newspapers’ use of geofencing to target audiences creates a perfect opportunity for local news. If both prove successful, it’s only a matter of time before local TV hops on the Snapchat bandwagon.

Adam Friedman is junior broadcast digital journalism and economics dual major. His column appears biweekly. He can be reached at arfri100@syr.edu and followed on Twitter @friedmanadam5.

Disclaimer: The Daily Orange has a partnership with Snapchat to create a college Publisher story.

This story has been updated for appropriate style.

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