Instead of simply telling our viewers ‘This is what you want to see and how you should want to see it,’ Snapchat has been an important lesson in listening and, where appropriate, making changes. It’s a dynamic product. Lead producer, social media and platforms of Al Jazeera, Ziad Ramley

The organization has been using Snapchat as a platform for telling stories about extraordinary situations people can’t normally see. Today it integrates almost one hundred news bureaus from all over the world.

Official English account of Al Jazeera, AJENews, posts regular updates drawing from both newsroom journalists and those in the field. Every couple of days new video comes up, ranging from ‘floating schools’ in monsoon seasons in Bangladesh, to the reports on the unstable situation in Syria.

Today there’re dozens of news organisations that do interesting content in the U.K. and the United States. But Al Jazeera wants to run stories that are not so popular in mass media. Al Jazeera English’s head of online, Imad Musa, said that AJENews invites audience to «engage directly with the journalists». After six months of hard working process, Al Jazeera has learned some important lessons.


Video views isn’t effective metric to rate account growth

Al Jazeera’s Snapchat videos are getting several thousands of views, in the early days it was just 200-300. On the occasions when Snapchat has featured AJENews as Live Stories videos began to gain millions of views. Although there is no (legal) way to find out about locations these views are coming from.

In a perfect world Snapchat would be able to tell how many followers the account has. Moreover, how many of them are really interested in this issue. But, as we all know from the Cat Stevens’ song, it’s a «wild world». Today audience retention is one of the most effective metrics in Snapchat. It’s basically almost 70 percent view-through rate for videos that are around two minutes long.


Non-wacky content works on Snapchat

Al Jazeera has strict policy about wacky content. Ziad Ramley believes that there are already too many options to get that elsewhere, but not in AJENews. The main concept of this account is to teach viewers something new. Usually at the end of snap reporter asks for viewer feedback. A huge number of comments shows that it’s not necessary to report about silly and wacky stuff to gain more views, people still like content without it too.


It may be shocking, but you don’t have to plan everything

Al Jazeera has a Snapchat style guide for reporters, rather than centralizing creation. It works perfectly for its diversified content. By the way, internal study showed that reports with no text has only 45 percent viewer retention rate. At the same time it’s even 90 percent retention with some text throughout.


«We know that you don’t want to see selfie after selfie when you’re in an amazing location»

The first five snaps are always storyboarded to set up the piece. Beyond that, reporters have a great chance to show some creativity and to improvise in front of the camera. Al Jazeera’s surveys showed that this strategy leads to higher retention. Besides, breaking news: there’s a lot of things you can’t be prepared for. During the Ugandan election, Al Jazeera’s Snapchat story was the first coverage of opposition leader’s arrest.

Overall, the biggest impact of Snapchat is providing live communication, both within the correspondents of Al Jazeera, and with viewers. Snapchat is a dynamic system. It helps to deliver news in a more engaging format than, for instance, Facebook can do.

Image: courtesy of Al Jazeera English via Facebook.

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