According to Bloomberg Technology, photo/video sharing app Snapchat recorded 150 million users per day in June 2016. While the platform was originally created to send ‘disappearing’ photos to others, Snapchat’s evolution over the last five years has encouraged more news organisations to use the app to tell lasting stories.
The nature of the app is to get information out there quickly. This provides, as Tanya Minsberg from the New York Times says, “a somewhat unfiltered view of people’s lives. Unlike with Instagram, Facebook or Twitter, photos and videos must be posted immediately, so there is no drafts folder or photo editing”.
This does pose some challenges. For journalists, this ‘unfiltered view’ could compromise accuracy. Fact checking is more difficult because content is posted instantaneously rather than being processed through review channels first.
But as Minsberg goes on to say, Snapchat is a great way to tell stories in a “personal, visual way that pulls in and keeps the viewer”. Snapchat has the ability to literally take its audience to a place it has never been before.
This is what I tried to achieve with my Snapchat news story. I decided to focus on the controversial public murals of Melbourne street artist Lushsux. The angle of my piece was memes in public art, after the artist said he gains inspiration for his work from the internet.
I thought this story would work well on Snapchat because Lushsux’s work is found all over Melbourne. As I went around the CBD capturing his work, the viewer would be going on a journey with me. I also found the light hearted topic allowed me to play around with different Snapchat elements like ‘selfie’ PTCs, videos, screenshots, text posts, and photos without compromising the integrity of the story.
I did find there were some challenges and limitations. One aspect was video length, as a single video can only last for ten seconds on the app. I had to be extremely concise to keep my work relevant and engaging. I also had to be cautious about what I posted in the story. Graffiti is illegal in most parts of Melbourne, so I chose to focus most of my footage and images inside Hosier Lane where street art is legalised.
While it was at times difficult, I can definitely see the benefits of using Snapchat as a news platform. It’s a win for the viewer- they are able to live through experiences they might not have had before. But it’s definitely also a win for journalists. This platform will only encourage journalism to be more creative and innovative with its story telling.
(First published on The City Journal on September 7th 2016)