A Chat for That: Introducing The Daily Iowan's First-Ever Snapchat Editor

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Rhiana Chickering (at right) meets with The Daily Iowan’s Snapchat team.
Rhiana Chickering (at right) meets with The Daily Iowan’s Snapchat team.

Snapchat is a curious place where people can post their thoughts unhindered by the bounds of a text post or tweet. In addition to its everyday functions, Snapchat has a space for media companies and celebrities to create and upload breaking news called Snapchat Discover. It’s here that users find snapshots of videos and articles from their favorite enterprises and it’s also here that people will begin finding content from select university newspapers.

According to the Association of American Colleges and Universities, the U.S. boasts 2,618 accredited four-year colleges and universities. Well over a fourth of those colleges support at least one newspaper, if not more. The University of Iowa’s newspaper, The Daily Iowan, distinguishes itself from the crowd, in being one of ten U.S. universities invited to participate in the Snapchat Discover project last year.

Snapchat invited the DI for multiple reasons, but what really caught the media company’s attention was the paper’s excellence in writing and storytelling. The interest to break into the college newspaper market was largely due to the fact most Snapchat users range in age from 18-24. The DI accepted the invitation, requiring the need for someone to step up and lead the Snapchat team.

As a student, Rhiana Chickering (BBA ’18) started her DI career as a senior designer on the paper’s Snapchat team in August 2017. Additionally, she became an Arts & Culture reporter and a music writer. Chickering eventually was promoted to The Daily Iowan’s first-ever Snapchat Editor position this past December.

“We’ve really refined our content to make it more consistent than last semester. When you go into Snapchat, you’ll know this is The Daily Iowan’s content,” says Chickering. “Our different segments like TL;DR—Too Long: Didn’t Read—[are] a shortened mix of the weekend’s top stories, as well as content from DI Films, really help unify our Snapchat page with what the print edition and television side covers.”

Snapchat Discover is a component of the Snapchat interface. Users can swipe to the left to explore different news outlets, magazines, and entertainment sources that help keep readers up-to-date on breaking news, sporting events, and their favorite celebrities.

Chickering leads two groups of 10-15 contributors, each with their own important roles. One group is in charge of the Topsnap, the motion graphic a user views prior to swiping up, while
the other group creates the content watched or read after swiping up.

Snapchat’s real appeal comes from how its users interact with each other. When posting directly to “your Story” using the built-in recording application, Snapchat records when content was posted and keeps the material there for 24 hours. Readers can still post from their phones, and the app notifies users when the photo or video was recorded.

 

“When you go into Snapchat, you’ll know this is The Daily Iowan’s content,” says Rhiana Chickering (BBA ’18).

In the case of Snapchat Discover, Snapchat lets individual publishers determine how long the story remains on their page. The DI typically leaves its content up for one week.

“I definitely think social media, Snapchat included, plays a key role in expanding #MeToo as well as other] movements,” says Chickering. “Even with Snapchat, it makes people feel more connected and willing to share their story.”

Being able to post genuine, immediate reactions that include faces and voices is something that other forms of social media either don’t have or tried to replicate after seeing Snapchat’s success. Regardless of the platform, what really matters is being able to share impactful stories, and the DI recognizes Snapchat as a venue for doing just that.