How journalists are using Snapchat and Periscope

First, how Snapchat is being used

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The Washington Post Snap on the Hajj 

As the Nieman journalism lab reports here“As millions of Muslims made the annual Hajj to Mecca, Snapchat set up a Live Story around the pilgrimage. Using a geofence that located [Snapchat] users in Mecca and the surrounding areas in Saudi Arabia, Snapchat let users submit photos or short videos that its editors then curated into a story it showcased to its users around the world.”

In another Nieman report, the lab looked at how six news organisations – The Huffington Post, Fusion, Mashable, NPR,, and The Verge  – are using the application 

On The Verge which began using Snapchat as a small-scale experiment, Nieman reports: “The Verge’s snaps each get about 10,000 views. [It] … still views it as an experiment, trying out new ways to use the format — from covering live events like the NBA All-Star Game or the Oscars to a regular series where … Verge staffers explain what’s on their desks.”

The Verge offers readers this suggestion of 10 Snapchat accounts you should follow 

The news site told Nieman about covering a chicken-wing eating contest: “Two of our photographers … agreed to snap for us while they also captured the scene for the website’s coverage and shared it on Instagram, Twitter, and more. They took videos and photos throughout the day and updated a continuous story on the site. The result gave viewers a taste of the overall feel of the day.

To see how  invites users to join with it in reporting on Snapchat, click here.

NPR (National Public Radio) told Nieman: “The form that we’ve chosen is a fact of the day” presented by one of our journalists each weekday. It’s easy to produce … and right in line with our mission to create a more informed public.”

Here’s how NPA reported on news organisations twinning with Snapchat.

The Fusion lifestyle website said: “Snapchat Discover is a perfect extension of the multi-platform and social-first approach Fusion is known for. We create original videos and articles … 5 times a day, just for Snapchat users… [on] pop culture, science (robots and germs) to sports.”

Here’s now Fusion reported on why Snapchat is getting into the news business.

Huffington Post sees Snapchat as a great opportunity to connect with millennials, and told Nieman: “We’ve posted content that’s popular with the audience: interviews from Comic Con, cute dogs visiting the office, the latest memes as well as interesting guests who visit HuffPost. Our Snapchat strategy was devised with this audience in mind, and we think it helps bolster HuffPost among younger fans.”

Read about how other media groups including CNN are using Snapchat here 

How Periscope is being used by journalists

cnn periscope

This video from CNN (sorry, I can’t embed it here) gives a great insight into how a story can be covered – in this case waiting for a Royal birth. 

The reporter’s account of how using Periscope changed the way he covered the story shows how much potential such audience-engaged, informal, live video reporting offers us.

Covering the refugee crisis in Europe and the Middle East using Snapchat and Periscope

Both the BBC’s Panorama and the German newspaper Bild wanted to get intimately involved in reporting the refugee crisis. Bild did it using Periscope, Panorama with Snapchat.

Bild on Periscope

We mentioned in an earlier module how edited video packages or documentaries can be made later from footage screened live on Periscope. Here’s how the German news outfit Bild did that:

This Guardian report outlines what Bild did and why.

Here’s a summary: The negative side of coverage of the Syrian crisis has been dehumanising references to “swarms” of refugees, and an emphasis on numbers rather than people.

“However, one journalist for German newspaper Bild has found a way to use his smartphone to help those people tell their stories direct to readers. Or rather viewers.

“Paul Ronzheimer travelled with a group of Syrian refugees from the Greek island of Kos across Europe to their ultimate destination of Germany. Although he was filing copy as he went, he was also broadcasting live video using Twitter’s Periscope app.

“’At the beginning I had about 1,500 followers, but now I have around 33,000. It became really big: one of the videos was played and replayed more than 90,000 times,’ says Ronzheimer.

“‘Everybody has smartphones now, so with my small iPhone camera I was able to film without it being obvious that I was media,’ he says – referring to border authorities, as the refugees he was travelling with were fully aware of his work.

“Periscope’s features include the ability for viewers to comment during the broadcasts, which in this case often included questions that the refugees could answer live and unmediated.

“One downside of Periscope for journalists is that videos can only be replayed for up to 24 hours after their live broadcast: follow any of the links tweeted out by Ronzheimer during the journey, and you’ll find the videos have been removed.

“However, the app’s ability to save broadcasts to a smartphone was crucial here: Bild took the saved footage and turned it into a 16-minute documentary hosted on its website.

“’It’s not enough simply to do camera shoots. You have to comment on what you see, and always explain why this story is important. And you have to interact a lot with the people, and answer questions and comments,’ he says.

Ronzheimer thinks that future news events will see more of the participants using apps like Periscope, as well as journalists.”

BBC Panorama on Snapchat

As this BBC College of Journalism account explains, here’s why the BBC decided to use Snapchat, integrating its use into the other platforms it was serving, and alongside gathering material for a major documentary. 

TV reporter John Sweeney, together with a small production team including Ravin Sampat, was following refugees and migrants from Greece through Macedonia, Serbia, Hungary to Austria. He made a documentary screened on Panorama.

However, he also took the opportunity to do some more immediate reporting. As the BBC College of Journalism post explains, the thought process was: But what if, instead of gathering footage and then editing it madly into a documentary, we, the BBC, were to send over interesting clips, pieces to camera, mini-reports to give a flavour of what was happening during filming? And what if we were to try putting that material on to one of the fastest growing platforms for video – and one which might interest a rather different set of people than the folk who normally watch Panorama on domestic TV?’

A compilation of those postings was published on social media, and you can see it here.

The report continues: “That’s why, thanks to social engagement producer Ravin Sampat, John Sweeney has been sending photos and video snippets from Hungary, Serbia and Greece – mini-interviews with refugees and migrants who have just made it across the sea; makeshift sodden camps in Belgrade main square; families waiting at border crossings – and publishing them to Snapchat. Snapchat, by the way, has just pulled up next to Facebook and matched it for the quantity of video being uploaded per day. 

Sampat, senior audience engagement producer for BBC Digital Current Affairs, said: “The BBC is really keen to reach younger audiences – especially 18-35 year-olds. I went to my editor and said ‘why don’t we try something new?’ I wanted to tell the story differently for a new audience.”

Snapchat users who followed the ‘bbcpanorama’ account were able to view these posts for 24 hours before they disappeared. Sampat collated his videos and pictures into a short documentary, to complement the BBC Panorama broadcast.

The BBC college report goes on: “By moving away from agency footage on the television to unedited yet instant digital material, Sampat hopes Panorama has demonstrated a ‘new way of storytelling’.

“‘What we are showing is quite raw. I’ll be honest with you, the type of things we’ve seen so far have been pretty grim, but I want people to see the human side of it,” Sampat said.
Although there are already great innovators using Snapchat, he is new off the mark with his coverage of current affairs and hopes storytelling through Snapchat continues with other reporters.

“‘If you are capturing a great moment it doesn’t matter how it’s been captured – it is just the moment that matters,’ he said.”

Find out more

This SoundCloud podcast from goes into greater depth on how the refugee crisis has been covered on social media.

Using Snapchat to cover the 2016 US Presidential election

This Fortune report looks at how Snapchat is hiring journalists to cover the 2016 US Presidential election.

Here’s what they will do: “Successful candidates will “use submitted Snaps, and their own” to tell stories about the 2016 presidential race—stories that capture “the candidates, the characters and the drama,” the company says. They will also evaluate user-submitted Snaps according to moderation guidelines, and provide 24/7 coverage of the election. Candidates should be “creative storytellers” who have a passion for news and politics, and be “advocates for free expression who aren’t easily offended.””

Will Snapchat become a content creator long term?

This further insight from the Fortune article has a perspective on that: “Obviously, Snapchat’s journalistic plans could go off the rails in any number of ways. The company could decide that it’s simply too expensive and/or time-consuming, and doesn’t scale well for a VC-backed startup. Tumblr hired a team of journalists, only to shut the unit down about a year later, and Facebook also briefly got interested in employing journalists but later changed its mind. “

However, it doesn’t mention Buzzfeed, which arguably has established itself as a creator of professional journalism.