Chat Apps for Journalism

Samvel Martirosyan

Media researcher

News outlets today are seriously employing chat apps. Considering the penetration of online chat, these apps are starting to be an alternative to social networking sites. And so it is that WhatsApp passed its one-billionth user mark in February.

1 billion users on WhatsApp

Online chat is convenient for making news media available, since nearly every mobile device user has these apps. The success of WhatsApp, for example, is due to the fact that the app is available for nearly all types of phones, including phones that use the no-longer-produced, but still quite widespread Symbian OS.

Visiting news sites from mobile devices today, you may have noticed that added to the buttons to share on social media is the WhatsApp button. On BuzzFeed, for example, readers now more often click on the share-to-WhatsApp button than the share-to-Twitter button.

Share-to-WhatsApp button on BuzzFeed

In addition, WhatsApp allows creating groups for readers. This is how the BBC, for example, used the tool to report on the elections in India. The app allows creating group chats, which, however, have one drawback: they include a limited number (only 256) users. However, users can create an unlimited number of groups.

The other highly popular chat app is Viber. Though the number of users is a few time less than WhatsApp, Viber gives its chosen partners and brands the option to open chats with an unlimited number of readers. But this option is not currently available in Armenia.

Russian media group RBC on Viber

Another not so prevalent but growing chat app is Telegram, which, like Viber, offers unlimited group chats. Which is good — it works in Armenia. Besides, Telegram has another interesting feature: users can create information robots that respond to readers’ commands. For example, providing the day’s most important stories, currency exchange rates or weather report, and other interesting things. The bots are already quite common.

Russian-language media platform Meduza's bot is very smart

Which might scare the editorial staff, the need to work with the audience through awkward phones. This problem is easily solved, since all chat apps also have programs for desktop computers.

Samvel Martirosyan

The views expressed in the column are those of the author's and do not necessarily reflect the views of Media.am.

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