Putting the News on TikTok

By Sky Chadde | Investigate Midwest

More than a billion people are now on TikTok, and last year it was the most visited site on the internet. People spend an average of 89 minutes a day on the app. With a young and growing audience, newsrooms are looking to join the platform.

Julia Munslow led the launch of Yahoo’s channel on TikTok, and now she’s working on The Wall Street Journal’s foray into the short-video app. She said newsrooms should stick to what they cover well but to do it in a way that’s appealing to younger audiences.

When she worked at Yahoo, Munslow said, it took about six months to see consistent success, she said. Their strategy included trusting that young people — 42% of TikTok is 18-24 years old — care about the news, but that they need it delivered in a way they find engaging — with diverse voices, faces and perspectives, as well as a their sense of humor when appropriate. When she moved to the WSJ, Munslow said, the newsroom’s channel focused on topics it’s been known to cover well: personal finance, careers and technology.

Munslow offered this advice for newsroom’s starting a TikTok channel: 1) stick to the strategy; 2) leverage the app’s native features, which its algorithm favors; 3) keep videos between 11 and 17 seconds (newsrooms might only have 1-2 seconds to grab the attention of someone who’s scrolling through the app); 4) use closed captioning (this also helps the app better understand the video); 5) provide practice information; and 6) have fun. 

When it comes to 5G, Munslow said faster mobile internet could make video streaming more popular than it already is. It could also mean making streaming videos could be done faster, which has implications for breaking news.

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