- The Washington Post is expanding its TikTok team after building a fan base of 1 million followers.
- The company is hiring a producer and community manager to engage with users and test new formats.
- One focus area for the team is live video, an increasingly important source of engagement on TikTok.
The Washington Post is beefing up its investment in TikTok. The publisher is hiring a new video producer and community manager as it looks to expand into new formats like live video.
The 143-year-old newspaper was an early adopter of the app, posting its first video in May 2019. Peers like The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal have avoided TikTok so far. But other news organizations like USA Today, Yahoo News, and NPR’s “Planet Money” have amassed sizable TikTok audiences, and some publishers in verticals like sports and entertainment have grown quickly on the app. Barstool Sports’ CEO Erika Nardini, for instance, told Insider that 45% of its new audience growth in 2020 came from TikTok.
“We are reaching an audience that is new to us,” said Micah Gelman, director of editorial video at The Washington Post. “We don’t think that we’re going to get a lot of younger teens who grab their parents’ credit cards and all of a sudden want to subscribe to the Post. But we also know that we are building a fandom … and when those young users are ready to subscribe, they’ll already have a relationship with us.”
A spokesperson for the Post declined to share how many of its subscribers had arrived from TikTok.
In its first two years, the company’s growth on TikTok has centered around the work of video producer Dave Jorgenson, who has been the face of its account. The 30-year-old dances in videos, taps into TikTok trends and memes, and doesn’t shy away from using audio from Spongebob Squarepants to explain Congressional gridlock to viewers.
“We spent a lot of time building up Dave as a trusted communicator on behalf of the Post,” Gelman said. “We wanted to build that personality, but it was always part of the strategy to move into news coverage in a way that still feels native to the platform.”
With the addition of two new hires for its TikTok team, the company plans to test out formats like livestreaming and have more people on hand to engage with fans on the app. An exec from TikTok’s music team told Insider in July that livestreams and engaging with user comments can help drive follower growth.
“We absolutely do want people who are deeply engaged with TikTok [and] who do understand how audiences respond on TikTok,” Gelman said.
Other publishers like Yahoo News have found success using TikTok’s live-video feature to broadcast events like the White House press briefing. But Gelman said his team is less likely to add live programming from tentpole events to TikTok, instead using the feature to have Jorgenson and other team members do deep dives into Post stories and current events.
“Most video consumption happens off platform, whether that’s YouTube, Facebook, Instagram, TikTok, and so it’s very much about reaching people who may not be familiar with the Post at the start but will come to sample other types of our journalism,” Gelman said.