Snapchat and #Sotu

Branden Harvey did the first ever Snapchat story from inside the White House, one of a select group of 20 instagrammers invited into the presidential digs.   But Wired writes – that despite having hundreds of thousands of followers who watch him as he goes shopping in ridiculous leggings or fills his mailbox with a 7-11 Slushies  – he’s actually really hard to find on Snapchat.

This points to a key problem with Snapchat: It’s really hard to find new things. This is a drag for users, particularly new users who are trying to figure out why the service is so popular. And it poses challenges for publishers, from Internet stars like Harvey to brands to legacy media companies, all of whom are anxious to crack Snapchat’s code and win the attention of its massive, youthful audience. More than 100 million users open Snapchat every day, says CEO and cofounder Evan Spiegel, and most of them are under 24 years old. And watch some 7 billion videos a day, according to Bloomberg.

The article argues that Snapchat is missing out on a major revenue generator in the form of promoted content, and that it hasn’t yet figured out what it wants to be.

But if Snapchat is comfortable relying on a ’90s media model for finding content on the service, the big question is whether it’s a media company or a tech company. Its $16 billion valuation would suggest investors, at least, believe it’s a tech company, with the ability to grow very large and use the data it collects to sell ads and new products. Media companies command smaller valuations. They stand out in the market for creating and distributing Zeitgeisty content themselves, not as makers of a new, innovative platform for others to do so.   So far, Snapchat is both.

But users don’t necessarily care.  There are over 100 million daily Snapchat users, including 60% of American smartphone users between the ages of 13 and 34.  Those facts were enough to push one of the highest profile Americans onto Snapchat the day before his big moment:  yes, the White House joined one day before the #sotu speech in order to “meet people where they are”.  Don’t expect any rainbow vomit selfies from the hippest administration ever, says the Huffington Post.  Do expect lots of Sunny and Bo. 

Screen Shot 2016-01-12 at 23.12.51

News organisations were busy using Snapchat too, for snap reactions to #sotu.


  1. New York Times Innovation Report 
  2. Last Call
  3. Snowfall

ASSIGNMENT:  Write a 400-word post comparing the treatment of one story in the physical NYT with its online counterpart.   Pick a topic related to the beat that you have chosen.  What are the strengths and weaknesses of each presentation?  How long did you spend on each?  To what extent did the online story fulfil the aims as laid out in the Innovation report?  Please ensure you quote from the Innovation report in your blogpost.  What grade would you mark the NYT for reaching the aims set out in the Innovation Report based on your article?  (for Tuesday Jan 19 8pm)   NOTE: Physical newspapers can be found in the library or in the Comm studies foyer (5F North Quad).  Also in Starbucks.  The rubric is here

Discover Discover

So the latest latest thing is Snapchat’s Discover, which Joshua Benton says is a “significant moment in the evolution of mobile news.”   I like Discover, but – after several days of experimentation – I’m sorry to say that I may just be too old for Snapchat.   Or maybe I’m just so old that noone I know is on Snapchat.

Thanks to Elizabeth McLaughlin, for spotting this article on Politico going both global and local, which namechecks the Texas Tribune, among others.   Finally, we’ve all heard of pop-up shops.  Now the BBC is getting into pop-up journalism with a roving team from the Innovation lab that brought the world initiatives such as BBC Trending, which investigates trending topics on Twitter, the BBC World Subreddit, and BBC Shorts on Instagram.

In the article, one of the journalists, Matt Danzico, describes what the team does saying, “They’re all experiments; 50 percent of what we create fails, but we like it when they fail because we learn a lot of lessons.”

In Tuesday’s class, we will be attempting an Audio editing workshop, hopefully without too much failure. In any case, please bring your laptops and iphones.   It would be helpful if you download Audacity (free audio editing software) to your laptops beforehand.  You will also need to install a plug-in from this site to transform the Audacity audio to MP3s.


Yup, that pretty much is how I feel. Pic from



Selfie sticks and snapchat

Pic Bianca Bosker/Huffington Post

On Thursday, we’ll have a class guest, Gerry Mullany, the Asia editor for, where he runs the site’s coverage of Asia, assigning reporters, determining website play of stories and working to turn The Times’s Hong Kong-based Asia operation into a more digitally-focused enterprise. Previously, he served as The Times’s deputy politics editor for the 2008 and 2012 presidential campaigns, running its daily coverage of the two races. A native New Yorker, he started on The Times’s metropolitan desk where he worked for more than a decade in various roles. He graduated from SUNY Binghamton with a history degree and studied political economy at the graduate level at Brooklyn College.

Before class, please look at his work, as well as read David Carr’s piece on the social media challenge for companies, where he explains how, “Many younger consumers have become mini-media companies themselves, madly distributing their own content on Vine, Instagram, YouTube and Snapchat”.    For the sake of comparison, here’s a very enthusiastic New York Times story on Snapchat with a helpful video tutorial.

Approaching deadlines for:

Google journalism fellowship via the Nieman Lab (Jan 31st)

RTNDA Student Edward R Murrow awards (Feb 3rd)

University of Michigan-Pulitzer Center Student fellowship (Feb 9 2015)

On the application form found via the link, please pay special attention to the 250-word summary of the reporting project proposed and the budget.  Submit a hard copy to the Department of Communication Studies, 5370 North Quad, and an electronic copy to the Pulitzer Center at: