How The Wall Street Journal hopes to reach young news consumers on TikTok

Illustration of a rocket launching with the TikTok logo on the side.

With its recently introduced TikTok channel, The Wall Street Journal has joined a number of other legacy publishers working to reach Gen Z and young millennial audiences on the platform, where many of these consumers are getting their news.

The Wall Street Journal launched its TikTok channel on Oct. 3, and since then the channel has grown to over 37,000 followers and 600,000 likes. It’s focused on three core content pillars: careers, personal finance and tech. Some videos also cover trending news stories, like the recent changes at Twitter and Taylor Swift’s concert ticket sales.

In a survey published last week, the Reuters Institute and University of Oxford revealed that 25% of people between the ages of 18 and 34 are using TikTok for news. About half of the world’s top newsrooms are now regularly posting on TikTok, according to the report. The Washington Post’s popular TikTok channel has 1.5 million followers. Vox, Vice, BuzzFeed, The Los Angeles Times and Condé Nast have all recently expanded their efforts on the platform, as well.

At The Wall Street Journal, the TikTok channel is managed by the publisher’s visual storytelling team, which falls under its broader social team. The team collaborates regularly with different departments across the newsroom, such as the video and live journalism teams. The New Ventures team, which was created in the spring of 2021 to expand audio and video initiatives across Dow Jones, is also working with the Journal’s TikTok team. 

“We need to introduce The Wall Street Journal brand to audiences that might not otherwise engage with it,” said Ann McGowan, svp of New Ventures. “If we’re only reporting in text, we miss that opportunity.”

Adam Puchalsky, global head of content at GroupM’s Wavemaker agency, agreed with that logic: “It would be a missed opportunity to not distribute their programming on TikTok because that is where people go for news, where they consume entertainment,” Puchalsky said.

The Wall Street Journal does not have a revenue share deal with TikTok and has not yet worked with advertisers on the platform. “Right now we are just working on the content, and getting the right content out there and engaging with the audience and seeing how things go from there,” McGowan said.

Puchalsky said he sees a lot of opportunity for Wavemaker’s advertiser clients to work with the Journal. “As long as it’s authentic to the platform … and not just a plug and play in a different format,” Puchalsky said. 

Clients at GroupM’s MMI agency in sectors like financial services, recruitment and employer branding who have previously worked with the Journal “are looking for the right partners to work with on TikTok,” Dana Busick, MMI group director, said in an email. “The opportunity for them to work with the [publisher] on this platform is very appealing. I also think players like WSJ and other big publications open the door for a lot of other brands to start considering playing in this space,” she added. 

TikTok also gives the Journal’s journalists another platform for their reporting. For instance, personal finance reporter Julia Carpenter has discussed salary negotiations on TikTok, said Julia Munslow, The Wall Street Journal’s senior platform editor. Graphics reporter Emma Brown is featured in a video discussing the maps she created for a Journal story on the World Cup. During the midterm elections last month, the Journal’s TikTok team worked with about a half dozen reporters from the Washington, D.C. bureau to produce videos for the app, said Patrick Hedlund, the Journal’s off-platform editor. Even journalists who prefer not to be on camera but are avid TikTok users flag trends they’re seeing on the platform. Additionally, editors flag stories they think will resonate with a TikTok audience. 

“I have seen [the Journal] posting more about current events as well, which I think is a smart move to hop on current cultural moments and trends to increase followership and engagement,” Busick said.

The Journal’s turnaround time to publish a TikTok video ranges from within an hour to a week, depending on how complicated the topic or concept is, Munslow said. Videos are posted on the platfrom about twice a day on weekdays and once a day on weekends. They are shot from the publisher’s New York City office (“When we’re carrying a ring light around, people know what we’re going to do,” Munslow joked.), from home or onsite.

A number of TikTok videos are associated with specific Journal articles and will feature a screenshot of the story. The Journal’s TikTok team also wants to produce more videos from the publisher’s live events, where some of the team’s members interview speakers and guests. Content from The Wall Street Journal’s Tech Live conference drew over 1.5 million video views, and its WSJ Magazine Innovators event brought in over 1.2 million video views, Munslow said.

The Journal’s TikTok team also wants to get more involved with the comments sections of their videos, by responding to questions with TikTok videos to drive engagement, Munslow said. They will also experiment with more coverage areas going forward. “While we want to deliver on what people expect of us and our journalism and our core coverage of business and finance, we also see it as a great opportunity to expose people to things they may not immediately associate with The Wall Street Journal,” Hedlund said, such as sports and lifestyle. 

“Trends and topics of conversation come and go quickly on the app, more so than on other social media platforms,” Busick said. “Publishers need to be ready to change up their strategy and plans for content fairly quickly and regularly.”

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