Adventures in mobile and off-platform storytelling

By Emily Case

Thumb-stopping content is key in an environment where most audiences are getting news through phones, CNN Worldwide’s Ashley Codianni said. 


In her presentation, she shared her team’s strategies for using platforms like Snapchat and Kik to delve into stories and connect with audiences. This is increasingly important in CNN’s newsroom, where 80 percent of its content is accessed on mobile.

As CNN Worldwide’s Senior Director of Social Media, Codianni manages a 24/7 publishing team of 21 journalists and producers.  Her job revolves around leveraging social platforms to give CNN’s stories more impact.

Tailoring content based on each platform’s strengths and main audiences is at the core of mobile-first storytelling, Codianni said. For example, in a piece about refugees crossing the Mediterranean Sea, her team made a “build your own adventure” experience on Facebook Messenger and published vignettes on Instagram Stories following the boat’s journey. This content allowed audiences to connect with the story in unique and compelling ways.

Social apps also allow reporters across the globe to quickly disseminate information. CNN’s Will Ripley uses Snapchat, Instagram Stories and Facebook Live to share breaking news from North Korea with audiences.

“We have reporters all over the world, and I want to make sure we’re taking advantage of that,” Codianni said.

Navigating ever-changing platforms is no easy task, Codianni acknowledged. It hasn’t even always been easy for CNN reporters. She said three years ago, it would have been strange to see a journalist gather Snapchat content — but now it’s a part of the workflow.

It’s all about finding a balance and establishing priorities, Codianni said. But she also underscored the increasing significance of using social apps for news.

Social platforms allow journalists to brand themselves and their organization while connecting with audiences moment by moment, she said.

“Your mobile phone is such an incredible and powerful tool to let everyone know where you are and what you’re doing,” she said. “The story doesn’t end with publishing it.”