CNN on social media and matching the right platform to the right audience

At FIPP and VDZ’s Digital Innovators’ Summit (DIS) in Berlin last month, Samantha spoke in-depth about the growing use of social media platforms by CNN, and the lengths it was going to to establish the brand as a social media news habit in 2017. Here, in this exclusive interview for FIPP, Barry explains the different nuances involved with different channels, explores the idea that social media has now become the establishment itself, and talks about monetisation and audience growth strategies. 

Read the interview below or watch it here.

We began by asking Samantha to give us a brief introduction to her presentation at DIS …

Today (at DIS) I was talking about creating a CNN news habit for every generation on every platform. So really about the experimenting we were doing, particularly around the election last year in the US, how we experimented with our storytelling across Snapchat and Facebook and Instagram and all of these messaging apps. And really went after different types of audiences and different generations using different types of storytelling.

Social media has come a long way in recent years, to the point where the current President of the US is using Twitter to communicate with voters – and even conducting international politics – directly. Does that mean that social media has become the establishment now?

I think the reality is social media and messaging and all of the things that people can do on their phone have just become such a part of day to day life. They’re used by so many billion people globally. So I don’t think social is either establishment or anti-establishment, its honestly just everyday life now. The amount of things people can do on social and messaging apps: it’s gone beyond just consuming news, or talking to your friends, there’s a lot of ecommerce on social media, a lot of people are parts of networks on social media groups or threads, and it’s such a part of everyday life for people now. 

To what extent are you still seeing social as a marketing channel to drive traffic? Or are publishers such as CNN thinking more about monetising their content directly on social in 2017? 

Yeah, I think a lot of people in my job up until recently, their only metric for success was to drive to owned and operated media. I think that can’t be the only thing that you’re using social media for because you’re going to … lose that game because social platforms want to keep people within their actual ecosystem. 

One of the things you should look to do is grow reach and engagement on the platform and work with the platform partners in terms of how you actually significantly monetise on those platforms. Because there are a lot of walled gardens in social. You see that on Snapchat, you see it more and more on Facebook. It’s harder and harder to drive back to owned and operated. So it’s about your brand on the platform and monetising [directly] on that platform. 

Have you had to become more reactionary with the advent of social? As in not only thinking about social in terms of distribution channels, but also as a source of breaking news in itself?

I think newsrooms are in their essence reactionary. At CNN we cover breaking news and we also break news. We are covering the news of the day, and we have got smarter in how we do that across social platforms. And we are also in the business of breaking news, right? So what are the big breaking investigative stories that the teams at CNN are working on? And how do we distribute that to all of our audiences, wherever they live? 

In terms of advice to other media brands – be they news or more feature driven titles – where does your experience suggest would be a good place to start in terms of ramping up social?  

I will never pick a favourite child amongst the social platforms! But I think for different audiences you’re looking for different things. Like if you want to go after a millennial audience and really, really want to dig into how people should do vertical video, Snapchat is a great place to learn. If you want to experiment with Live… well then Facebook Live is a great place to learn. There are so many different ways to reach people. Messaging apps, I talked about in my presentation. I think there is so much growth in the chatbot messaging world that we’re only seeing the very, very start of that evolution. 

*See the video of Samantha’s full presentation at DIS in Berlin.

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