Facebook, Snapchat and political journalism

Social media competition will be developing ahead of the 2016 election. (Image: Pixabay/CCP

Social media competition will be developing ahead of the 2016 election. (Image: Pixabay under CC license)

As media coverage continues to intensify of the campaigns for the 2016 presidential election, at the helm is social media, and how that will likely influence coverage. There are however new platforms in play compared to events in 2012, and there now appears to be a debate at play among platforms on engaging younger audiences in political coverage.

Earlier this month, a study from the Pew Research Center indicated social media, particularly Facebook, was the dominant platform when it came to young people consuming political news. 61 percent of them got news from the social network compared to 37 percent for local television.

The news of that poll came as the Los Angeles based Snapchat, a social network aimed at younger audiences which is still trying to find its footing, continues its work to hire journalists to shape coverage of the election on the platform. Earlier this year, it hired Peter Hamby, a Washington based correspondent at CNN, to become its head of news.

Both social networks are undergoing significant change when it comes to the broader relationship with social media and journalism. Facebook is doing tests on its Instant Articles initiative and whether users can respond to it, an initiative that may likely be at the center of engagement during the campaigns. Snapchat is also trying to establish an editorial strategy outside of its Discover feature launched in January, and while we are bereft of the facts surrounding it at present, it is looking to become a dominant player among millennials and election coverage, a remarkable rise for the network depending on what Hamby does.

Indeed, these are early days, and a winner of this debate between Facebook and Snapchat cannot be called yet. One thing is for certain, however. In the days, weeks and months ahead, while the candidates face off to be their party’s nomination for the seat in the Oval Office, two social networks will face off to be the preferred network for political engagement with millennials.

News organizations, in order to engage with younger audiences, must be ready to experiment to engage, or be left behind. This campaign will change not just the politics of the United States and how its seen internationally, but how it is covered. It is up to us, as journalists, how we’ll reply.

Alex Veeneman, a Chicago based SPJ member and founder of SPJ Digital, is a contributing blogger for Net Worked, and serves as Community Coordinator for SPJ. Veeneman also is Media Editor and a writer for Kettle Magazine, an online publication in the UK. Veeneman also contributes to The News Hub web site. You can interact with Veeneman on Twitter here.

The views expressed in this blog post are that of the author’s unless otherwise indicated, and do not necessarily reflect the views of the SPJ Digital executive, the board and staff of the Society of Professional Journalists, or its members.

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