Gone are the days when news organizations had just copy editors and page designers. Today, there are newsroom titles like digital optimizer, audience analyst and executive mobile editor. As social media platforms have evolved so have job titles, along with the tools journalists use to communicate with audiences. In this series, RJI will learn more about these titles and the people who hold them.

This Q&A has been edited for space and clarity.

Allison MorrowAllison Morrow is an emerging media editor at The Wall Street Journal where her main responsibility is managing the daily production of WSJ’s Snapchat Discover channel. She also helps manage the development of content for the newspaper’s Snapchat account (@TeamWSJ).

Morrow is part of a larger emerging media team led by Carla Zanoni, executive emerging media editor. The team was formed in April 2015 as WSJ’s digital efforts continued to evolve. The six-person team in charge of producing daily Discover editions is a global one, with members in Los Angeles, New York, Moscow and London.

For the most part, stories that appear in Discover have already been published online or in the print newspaper, says Morrow, but visual elements including photos, motion graphics, videos and animations have been added. After 24 hours, all the stories disappear off Snapchat and Morrow’s team starts building another Discover edition.

Describe your role as an emerging media editor at WSJ?

I oversee our story selection, editing and production, and work closely with designers on the visual components of our stories for Snapchat Discover — such as illustrations, animations, and photo and video editing.

With a title like emerging media editor, has your job always involved managing the Snapchat Discover channel?

Since we launched on Snapchat Discover in January, my focus has been solely on that platform. That's our priority for now, but we're always growing and exploring new ways to tell stories and I'm excited to be a part of that process as our team evolves.

Why is WSJ using Snapchat?

Our main objective was to reach a new audience and experiment with mobile storytelling in this highly visual medium. We want to tell sophisticated stories in an accessible way, and we are betting on the idea that just because Snapchat readers are younger doesn’t mean they want to be pandered to. It’s been incredibly gratifying to see how people of all ages, but especially younger readers, are engaging with our stories on Snapchat.

Can you share an example of how your readers engaged with a story on Snapchat?

What matters most to you?The interesting thing about Snapchat is it’s a closed platform and you can’t link out and you can’t share Snapchat content on Facebook or Twitter. But readers can give us direct feedback through our @TeamWSJ Snapchat account.

For example, we did this big feature called “Girls” back in February that was adapted from a page one story. We featured video interviews of young women from all over the world about their priorities, what mattered to them and what they’re looking forward to in their future – whether it’s family, career or education. At the end we did a call-out to readers that asked, “What matters most to you?” and gave four options: education, career, marriage and family.

We got over 500 responses on Snapchat, some answering the question and ranking what’s most important in order or just saying things like “Thank you WSJ. This is a great topic. I’m really excited about my education. ...”
The responses came in the form of selfies, drawings, emojis, all kinds of messages. We responded to pretty much every single person. That gave us a really nice way to engage directly with readers. One 15-year-old girl wrote to us saying, “I don't know if you'll read this but I believe strongly in this topic, oh and by the way my dad is a huge fan of the Journal.” Of course we did read it, and responded back to her, thanking her and encouraging her to take a look at her dad's copy of the paper. The next day she sent us a snap of her reading the print edition. That was just great. I love being able to have that kind of casual back and forth with readers.

What have been one or two of the biggest challenges to using Snapchat as a news publisher?

The Discover platform is unlike any other out there. Its technical requirements meant carving out a production system that's independent of the rest of the newsroom, yet still allows us to collaborate with existing news desks, visual editors and the video department. More broadly, because it's a new product in the publishing world, we're trying to figure out where we fit in, and figure out what this generally younger audience wants when they tap into the WSJ channel.

You said one of the challenges to using Snapchat Discover is trying to figure out what the younger audience wants. What are one or two things you’ve learned about what they want, or are you still figuring that out?

I think it’s evolving. I think not everyone wants the same thing but I think it’s fair to say that a lot of what works well on Snapchat for us are the kind of stories that can give you a leg up if you’re just starting in a new job or you’re thinking of going to business school or law school. And then generally it’s just the news that you need to know to be aware of what’s important in the news today.

What goes into planning content for your Discover channel?

It's parallel in many ways to planning for the site or the paper, but because we publish fewer stories overall, we're more selective. We gather content from all sections, with a focus on business, tech and markets stories for our lede news items.

When you say selective, how do you go about picking which stories fit on the Discover channel?

In the paper you can run a few hundred stories. Online you can pretty much run unlimited stories. We have to choose just eight to 10 snaps, partly because they’re so production heavy. For Snapchat, strong visuals are essential. Most days, we lead with a markets or business story — usually something that is also on page one of the paper or leading the homepage. We do world news or major events like momentous court decisions or terrorist attacks, things that are breaking that day. The first three snaps are always news, and then the rest of the edition is a mix of more-evergreen features.

How long would you say it takes to produce content for a day’s Discover channel?

This varies greatly depending on the type and complexity of the stories. A single top snap — the highly produced visual element that introduces a story in Discover — alone can take anywhere from 45 minutes to several hours.  Each edition has at least eight top snaps, and most of those have text. On the day of the shooting in Orlando, we put together a full edition from scratch in about seven hours. That's incredibly fast.

Snapchat Discover is a newer platform for publishers. What prepared you for this position?

In my experience, news judgment and editorial vision are important for just about any role in publishing, regardless of platform. So for this job I'm drawing on my eight-plus years as a journalist for WSJ while learning to adapt to the new platform. I thankfully didn't have to become a motion-graphics designer myself, but I did have to learn more about the software my team is using to get a better sense of workflow.

Jennifer Nelson  
Senior Information Specialist


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