towcenter
Guide to Chat Apps

Updated 10 months ago

Introduction

Authors: Trushar Barot and Eytan Oren.

Messaging apps now have more global users than traditional social networks—which means they will play an increasingly important role in the distribution of digital journalism in the future. Drawing upon our interviews and case studies, we identify a number of opportunities and challenges for organizations using—or hoping to use—messaging apps for news. We argue that to devise a successful messaging app strategy, publishers must understand regional strongholds, user demographics, and popular features of each app. As happened after the early days of social media, before which a proliferation of services (some with regional strengths) led to intense competition for user attention, we expect to see some eventual consolidation among chat apps. Elsewhere, we conclude that issues around information, privacy, personal security, and mobile data penetration will unfold in different ways around the world; apps like Telegram and FireChat are among those at the forefront of addressing and solving these problems. In developing editorial strategies for some of these wide-ranging messaging platforms, news organizations are not just helping to future-proof themselves, they are also venturing into online spaces that could enable them to reach hundreds of millions of (often young) people with whom they have never engaged before.

Acknowledgements

We would like to thank all the journalists and editors, as well as those representatives from various chat app companies, who spoke to us during the research phase of this report. We list many of them by name in a following chapter, but there were a number of others not mentioned specifically who contributed necessary background briefings and guidance. Many thanks, too, to Claire Wardle, Pete Brown, Elizabeth Boylan, and Abigail Ronck from the Tow Center for their help with feedback, logistics, and proofreading. November, 2015