Ask someone in their 50s (a non-journalist) to name a living journalist. They might say Bob Woodward or Carl Bernstein. Ask someone in their 20s, though, and they might say Taylor Lorenz, Dave Jorgenson, or Jack Corbett — because they’ve seen them on TikTok.
Younger audiences aren’t opening up a physical newspaper or turning on the 7 p.m. news (sorry). They’re scrolling on Twitter, Instagram, or TikTok. And after seeing the success of The Washington Post and Planet Money‘s TikToks, other outlets are going to want in. But it won’t just be brand accounts posting these TikToks — it’ll be reporters using their own accounts to explain their reporting.
In 2018, TikTok was seemingly still just an app for cosplayers and children, but it’s become the world’s most popular app. It’s clear that TikTok is so much more than a dance app for kids. Gen Z is using TikTok as a search engine and it’s the most downloaded app for the 18-24 age group.
We’re going to see more journalists using personal (and brand) TikTok accounts to connect with young audiences in new ways. NPR and The Washington Post have proved that TikTok works for building connections with young audiences. The Washington Post has 1.5 million followers on TikTok, and Planet Money has more than 780,000.
What draws people to these accounts are the personalities behind them. We see the same people over and over again and develop relationships with them as individuals. It might not convert into pageviews, and it might not be a moneymaker at first, or maybe ever. But it has value.
We must meet audiences where they are and provide them with news in ways that are easy for them to understand — and today, that’s on TikTok. People are demanding (and receiving) more and more access and transparency to public figures, and that will extend to journalists too. Gen Z demands authenticity from their public figures, and journalists will be more ready to give it.
Jaden Amos is an audience editor at Axios.