Chat Apps as Media Outlets

Contemporary society is constantly changing. Media sources must recognise this in order to maintain a far reach and widespread audience. Recent trends have seen online user popularity venture towards Chat apps, a change from previous successes of social media alone. These apps include Facebook Messenger and WhatsApp, along with other similar apps such as WeChat which took off in countries like Japan and took the audience before the more recent apps could (Evans, 2015 p.67).

The podcast in this link endeavours to describe the change of journalistic practices:

#197 – Solutions journalism: Recipe for engaging local communities

In regard to news, it is the adaptation to “go where your audience is” (Evans, 2015 p.68) which has seen the shift of news outlets using chat apps to reach audiences. These platforms however, are more useful for local news and smaller, contained audiences. It is difficult to handle more than 1,000 odd users in a chat room scenario, and this does prove as a limitation. Those hoping to harness tens of thousands of users may have trouble with resourcing this. But for smaller media sources, a niche group of loyal users attributes to success.

The Ebola WhatsApp project is a prime example of the success of such an endeavour. The BBC were able to distribute information to 20,000 subscribers, many of which were from West Africa. Despite the staggering numbers, they were able to contain this and inform individuals of the latest public health concerns within their regions. Aside from this, it also allowed users to pass on information they had, to the news corporation.

This two way relationship harnesses the idea of everyday individuals as journalists. Not only are we consuming the news, we are creating and contributing to it. It is an easier way for members of the public to share minor bits of information that may contribute in major ways to a story. A limitation of this is that the validity of the information should be confirmed before being widespread shared.

Snapchat’s launch of the “Discover” feature saw widespread success in January 2015 (Lichterman, 2015).  This was short lived and lasted 3 months before a decline in interest (Evans, 2015 p71). Since, it has become more accessible and visible, being viewed on the home page.

However news by the people and for the people is proving quite popular. Another feature of Snapchat, “Live Stories”, has taken off and continued to. It enables users within a certain vicinity to contribute to breaking stories or widely covered events. These include the American Election lead up and result, and ANZAC Day. Individuals may contribute to the coverage of these events if Snapchat approves so(Lichterman, 2015). Although this is an unconventional and sometimes colloquial way of providing information, it does inform the public to an extent.

Santiago Tarditi, an international editor at Fusion (one of the companies that features on Snapchat Discover), believes that “what this has taught us is that our content no longer has to be fed in the traditional way.” We see that news consumption is often easier when it is available on Apps which are already part of our daily routine. We are not seeking the news, it is coming to where we are. This many be difficult for a journalist to have to learn and relearn, but in order to gain, engage, and keep their audiences this is an important innovation.



Posetti, J., Lu, A., Evans, J., Cherubini, F., Waldhorn, A., McHugh, S. and Veseling, B. (2015). Trends in Newsrooms. 1st ed. Frankfurt: WAN-IFRA, pp.67-76.

Lichterman, J. (2015). Snapchat stories: Here’s how 6 news orgs are thinking about the chat app. [online] Nieman Lab. Available at: [Accessed 12 Nov. 2016].