Updated 2/5/15 at 12:07 p.m.
Snapchat's release of its Discover feature has once again shone a spotlight on mobile chat apps as tools for disseminating news, and engaging with the audience.
CNN, National Geographic, ESPN and The Daily Mail are among the top publishers that are taking part in the Discover news platform, which enables outlets to package multimedia news to Snapchat users.
“The most significant thing about the launch of Discover is that it refocuses pretty much every news organization to think deeply about what content works for mobile,” Trushar Barot, apps editor at the BBC World Service and Global News, told IJNet.
“A lot of the brands seem to put a lot of thought into how to make their content very unique for the mobile experience, and especially for the younger audience as well," Barot said. "I think that’s a good thing in terms of making us aware of the traditional belief of what works and what doesn’t work on mobile.”
In addition to Snapchat, a number of media organizations have been experimenting lately with mobile chat apps like WhatsApp and WeChat, trying to find ways to share information through these apps and interact with the audience.
BBC used chat app Line to push content to subscribers. BBC staffers also experimented with popular chat app WhatsApp during their coverage of the elections in India, in which they pushed updates to their subscribers and engaged their audience.
Other organizations that have been trying out mobile chat apps include ProPublica, which used WhatsApp to engage with Liberian citizens, and BuzzFeed, which has recently added a share-to-WhatsApp option to their stories. BuzzFeed is also the first media brand that Barot knows of to try out Viber Chat, which lets people follow conversations between brands and celebrities.
Another example is The Washington Post, where staffers have been trying to tailor their political stories to appeal to the younger audience on Snapchat.
Analytics still remain a big hurdle when it comes to culling data from mobile chat apps, as there is no solid way to measure the media brand’s success through these platforms.
“Mobile chat apps are still very young companies. They were not engineered to consider analytics forms,” said Barot, adding that eventually analytics will evolve in these platforms.
“I think in many ways, we are going to wait for technology to catch up,” he said. For Barot, currently, the best way to get some analytics from apps like WhatsApp is through the share-to-WhatsApp button. Adding a referral link to the WhatsApp share button to stories will enable newsrooms to track traffic coming in from the app. Besides BuzzFeed, examples of other organizations that are adding the referral link are the BBC and Spain's Valencia Sports Club news website.
Barot thinks that the launch of Snapchat’s new update that introduced Discover might herald an era of better analytics for media partners.
“With the launch of Discover, I hope that Snapchat would be able to provide its partners with a deep level of analytics, so that they can assess whatever content these young users are finding interesting,” he said.
Main image by IJNet.