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WhatsApp for war reporting, Reddit for search and Twitter for GIFs…

WhatsApp for war reporting, Reddit for search and Twitter for GIFs…

Social platforms keep evolving in unexpected directions. Here's three changes that have become clear in recent weeks.

1.  Messaging apps are becoming a critical part of our reporting infrastructure

There's been plenty of discussion of the Ukraine as the first major TikTok conflict but, as Joel Simon writes for Columbia Journalism Review, for journalists it's all about the messaging apps:

What’s changed, says Cameron Barr, Senior Managing Editor at The Washington Post, is both the “scale and severity” of the Ukraine conflict. The Post relies on a WhatsApp group with about two dozen reporters, editors, and security consultants to manage the reporting teams on the ground.

WhatsApp, Signal and Telegram are all becoming essential tools in the journalism toolbox when you're trying to co-ordinate with journalists in the field. If your newsroom doesn't already have a security-conscious policy on this, it's time to get one.

For journalists, Ukraine is a WhatsApp War
<p>Lindsey Hilsum, a correspondent for Britain’s Channel 4 News, is one the most experienced conflict reporters covering the Ukraine war. But she never heads out without an electronic tracking device that allows editors to monitor her every move. She is in constant and nearly instantaneous contact w…

It's also worth remembering, that you can evaluate any digital tool against three main roles:

  • Content promotion
  • Story-finding and research
  • Networking and communications

While some interesting work is being done with messaging apps and the first of those (promotion), it's for the latter two that they really shine.

2. Reddit: your new SEO challenge

Have you given any thought to your Reddit search strategy? Any at all? No? Well, you might need to. The site we once called a “social bookmarking” service, but which is probably better regarded as a platform for niche communities, is becoming a star for certain searches:

So how can we regain authenticity? What if you want to know what a genuine real life human being thinks about the latest Lenovo laptop?
You append “reddit" to your query (or hacker news, or stack overflow, or some other community you trust).
Google is dead.
Long live Google + “site:reddit.com”.

While that's more about the weakness of Google (and the outsize success of search marketers on certain query categories), Reddit certainly seems to be leaning into the idea:

Reddit Continues the Process of Refining Its Search Results
The first iteration of its new mod notes feature was released.

I suspect Reddit is due a serious re-evaluation in audience strategy circles.

3. GIFs. GIFs everywhere.

Let's face it: GIFs are a prehistoric format. Those of us who remember the 1990s web will recall when they were the only viable way of putting any video or animation on your homepage. They are old, clunky and bandwidth hogs:

And yet, they're still a central part of the way we communicate online (for a certain subset of “we” at least. Apparently they're passé amongst Gen Z.) And so, Twitter, which has long supported really modern video formats, now allows you to create them within the app:

Why would you do this, rather than just create a short video clip? Well, you might experiment with it for the reusability and viral potential of the GIF. But, as always, the true potential of new functionality only becomes clear when people start playing with it. It'll be interesting to see if they unleashes another wave of viral creativity on Twitter, or quickly becomes another forgotten piece of functionality buried in the app.

I image you can come up with better than this:


Written by

Adam Tinworth   Adam Tinworth

Adam has been a blogger for over 20 years, and a journalist for more than 25. He currently works as a consultant and trainer, helping people do better, more engaged online journalism.


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