Lester Holt gets 20-plus minutes to bring his viewers the latest headlines on “NBC Nightly News.” The NBC News anchor team delivering a new broadcast via Snapchat will get only a fraction of that.
Savannah Sellers and Gadi Schwartz (pictured, above) will, starting today, help deliver “Stay Tuned,” a new two-to-three-minute newscast that is slated to run twice each weekday and once a day on weekends on the social-media outlet. Its the medium’s first daily program, and the first to guarantee to viewers that it will add special editions when breaking news warrants. Its debut is the latest effort by traditional TV-news outlets to make sure their chief product – video news reports – remain relevant to a rising generation that is more prone than ever to seek out information and entertainment from non-traditional screens.
The program is “crucial,” says Nick Ascheim, senior vice president of digital at NBC News and MSNBC, in an interview. “There is a generation of people who are going to be cord-nevers, cord-cutters. We need to know how to reach them.” Getting an NBC News program on Snapchat is slightly easier than it sounds. NBCUniversal invested $500 million in Snapchat parent Snap Inc. as part of the digital company’s IPO in the Spring.
Several media outlets, both old and new, are trying to get their video reports in front of eyeballs, no matter where they might wander. Bloomberg, one of the biggest purveyors of business news, and Cheddar, one of the youngest, both stream programming on Twitter at different time of the day.
The networks’ future customers don’t need to visit a particular news outlet to get the information it offers each day. A survey of more than 2,000 U.S. adults who get at least some of their news online conducted by Pew Research Center found they were as likely to get news by going directly to a news website, 36% of the time, as getting it through social media, 35% of the time. Snap says its “shows” format, or three-to-five-minute-long video pieces, have strong reach with younger users particularly those between 13 and 24.
“Our audiences are consuming news in many different ways,” said Ascheim. “Our job is to figure out how to reach them.”
Doing so is no small feat. NBC News has put together a team of 30 dedicated to “Stay Tuned” – with at least one person on duty around the clock. NBC News has made a commitment to Snapchat that it will update the reports when news breaks. As things stand, the shows are expected to run at 7 a.m. and 4 p.m. Monday through Friday, and at 1 p.m. on weekends. Andrew Springer, a former director of growth at Mashable, will oversee the team’s work for Snapchat. Each broadcast is expected to contain four to five stories per show, some running as segments and some presented as quick headlines.
“Stay Tuned” may be aimed at younger viewers, but producers see no reason to serve light fare. “We have said from day one we want this to be a news broadcast that is worthy of the NBC News legacy, and so we are not going to dumb it down in any way,” Ascheim said. A single host will take viewers through topics ranging from national and international news to politics, pop culture and more.
NBC expects to monetize the Snapchat broadcasts with advertising. STX Entertainment will be the show’s official launch partner, and will use “Stay Tuned” to help promote the new movie “Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets.” The company already produces Snapchat Shows related to “The Voice” and “World of Dance.”
The Snapchat newscast won’t necessarily be interchangeable with others. Ascheim says producers have found they can’t always use the same types of video their counterparts on other NBC News programs might utilize. The show is shot “vertically,” in order to optimize it for viewing via a mobile screen. “It forces you to think about how you can use footage,” the executive says. Producers must also consider doing more with motion graphics, a popular element of mobile viewing, and how to communicate with users who may often have the sound off.
“We have learned a tremendous amount about storytelling, and we know much more than we knew about a few weeks ago,” said Ascheim.