Guide to Chat Apps

Barot, Trushar; Oren, Eytan

Messaging apps now have more global users than traditional social networks—which means they will play an increasingly important role in the distribution of digital journalism in the future. While chat platforms initially rose to prominence by offering a low-cost, web-based alternative to SMS, over time they evolved into multimedia hubs that support photos, videos, games, payments, and more.

While many news organizations don’t yet use messaging apps, digitally savvy outlets like BuzzFeed, Mashable, The Huffington Post, and VICE have accompanied a more traditional player in BBC News by establishing a presence on a number of these platforms.

To complement our research, we interviewed leadership at multiple news outlets and chat platforms, thereby synthesizing key lessons and presenting notable case studies reflecting the variety of creative and strategic work taking place within the messaging space. Most publisher efforts around messaging apps are still in a formative, experimental stage, but even those have often proven effective in diversifying traffic sources for digital content.

Our research indicates that one of the greatest benefits of chat apps is the opportunity to use these platforms as live, sandbox environments. The chance to play and iterate has helped several news organizations develop mobile-first content and experiential offerings that would have proved difficult in other digital environments. As these services primarily—and in some cases exclusively—exist on mobile phones, editorial teams have learned to focus purely on the mobile experience, freeing themselves from considerations about how content will appear on desktop websites or other broadcast mediums.

In developing editorial strategies for some of these wide-ranging messaging platforms, news organizations are not just helping to future-proof themselves, they are also venturing into online spaces that could enable them to reach hundreds of millions of (often young) people with whom they have never engaged before.


More About This Work

Academic Units
Tow Center for Digital Journalism
Tow Center for Digital Journalism, Columbia University
Tow Center for Digital Journalism Publications
Published Here
July 10, 2017