News via instant message

News messaging header

In our digital age, news is becoming all the more instant and all the more personal. Currently social networking platforms such as Snapchat, Twitter and more recently, Instagram, (as reported here) have employed built-in ‘live moment’-type features. Many of these make use of user curation, to offer the most immediate sources of news. Media organisations have been quick to see the potential of such an instant form of communication so they too have made sure to harness the capabilities these platforms offer. By infiltrating the most popular apps and platforms, news organisations seek to reach as wide an audience as possible. The latest in this news infiltration is to the most personal of social apps: instant messaging.

Organisations who have introduced such a service include the BBC, The Guardian and The Wall Street Journal, all testing the deliverance of news to various different messaging apps globally. You can read more about their strategies in this article by journalism.co.uk.

The most appealing advantage about sending the news to messaging apps such as WhatsApp and Blackberry Messenger (BBM) is that updates will pop up on the receivers phone as a push notification, unlike updates posted on social networks. By sending notifications, the news organisations are targeting consumers directly and do not have to rely on them logging into social networking platforms such as Twitter to see updates or visiting their website. As Nic Newman, author of this Reuters report on UK news consumption on social networks, stated:

“The digital generation expect the news to come to them. Young people rarely go directly to a mainstream news website any more.”

Furthermore, by delivering news to consumers directly, media organisations provide an easy method of inviting feedback. This means that the organisations can not only deliver news but can also gather sources to curate news.

But does news distribution via instant messaging apps work? When I posed the question to my Twitter followers, no one had signed up to such a service and the majority voted in opposition to it:

Screen Shot 2016-01-12 at 16.43.59

Screenshot taken from my Twitter.

The Reuters report had similar findings, with only 2% of UK survey participants using WhatsApp for news. A possible discouragement from subscribing to a news distribution instant messaging service may be that chat apps are a more intimate digital setting. Many may be comfortable following and interacting with strangers on social sites like Twitter but reserve chat apps, that are often connected to phone numbers, to engage with family and friends.

However, in this article, the BBC documented their success with implementing a news distribution via instant messaging service during the Indian elections in 2014. The use of emoticons to invite feedback proved successful, while here they describe short video clips and illustrative data as effecting. Clearly a visual approach seems to work well for them on chat apps.

What we can conclude is this: whenever a digital platform begins to grow, you can be sure the news will follow. News organisations are quick to tap into the most immediate forms of networking which is why their interest in instant messaging is growing. Allowing for a space to deliver and gather news, chat apps are clearly beneficial to news curators. Only time will tell if consumers find such a method beneficial too.

Header image by Chloe D’Costa.

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