How Yahoo News hit 1 million followers on TikTok by covering breaking news, going live, and messaging fans

  • Yahoo News recently hit 1 million followers on TikTok.
  • The company’s success shows how interest in news content is on the rise on TikTok.
  • Insider spoke with the team behind the account to learn more about Yahoo’s TikTok strategy.
  • Visit the Business section of Insider for more stories.

On January 6, Yahoo News broke into a TikTok posting spree.

The team had planned to cover the results of the Senate runoff elections in Georgia and the electoral vote certification. Its day changed when an insurrection began at the Capitol.

As news broke, Julia Munslow, a 24-year-old special projects editor, coordinated the brand’s TikTok coverage from her apartment.

The team posted clips of senators’ speeches and shots of rioters storming the Capitol doors. One video of an interview with a woman who had been maced drew 31 million views. All in, Yahoo News posted 35 videos throughout the day. 

The company’s marathon effort is a case study for how TikTok can be used to cover breaking news on an app typically known for lighter fare like dance challenges, music trends, and comedy skits.

Since joining in March, Yahoo News has built an audience of over 1 million followers on TikTok, joining other news organizations like NBC News, USA Today, and CBS News that have launched accounts to reach the app’s Gen-Z user base. Other traditional news outlets like CNN or Fox News have yet to create official accounts on the app (though some of their reporters have become stars). For our part, Insider has focused on running explainer videos on TikTok rather than covering straight news (though Insider News recently launched a TikTok account).

Yahoo News said it had found success by using TikTok’s built-in features like livestreaming and focusing on new stories that appeal to a younger audience. 

“We play close attention to the topics in the news that Gen Z cares about,” Munslow told Insider. “So looking at things like social justice issues [and] student loan debt.”

As with other news publishers like The Washington Post and NPR’s Planet Money that have built loyal audiences on TikTok, Yahoo News approaches the app with humor and doesn’t shy away from engaging with users. Munslow will often chat with the account’s followers in the comments section, asking users to submit questions about the news and occasionally gossiping with fans about their personal lives.

Reaching out to Gen Z users

Yahoo is aware that some of its TikTok followers may be discovering its brand for the first time. Unlike the Gen-Z favorite TikTok, Yahoo is a holdover from an earlier internet era.

“Yes, we still exist,” Munslow wrote in the company’s TikTok bio.

Verizon Media, which owns Yahoo and a hodgepodge of other internet brands like AOL and TechCrunch, is on a charge to reach new audiences and deliver content in fresh ways. The company recently signed a deal to livestream some NFL games in Yahoo Mail inboxes, streaming to about 2 million users in its mail app last quarter. 

“Yahoo News’ expansion on TikTok comes at a pivotal time in our history,” Verizon Media CEO Guru Gowrappan told Insider in a statement. “TikTok accelerates our strategic focus on next generation journalism that ultimately changes the way people consume news.”

Using TikTok effects and features to cover the news

Since launch, Yahoo News has treated its TikTok videos as an extension of its broader news coverage. But the company also capitalizes on some of the built-in features that differentiate TikTok from its own sites. 

Its team regularly uses TikTok’s livestreaming feature to broadcast events like the White House press briefing. The company has used its comments section to gather questions and feedback from users and then host Q&As with Yahoo Finance and politics reporters. Munslow uses TikTok’s “green screen” effect to add backdrops to videos and has prompted users to “duet” or “stitch” videos in order to drive engagement on the app.

“We’re keeping a close eye on trends on the platform to begin with, and then we’re really just leveraging all of the features that TikTok has to see what resonates with our audience and what helps us to deliver the news in the most effective way possible,” Munslow said. 

Yahoo hopes to one day draw in TikTok users to the platforms it owns

As TikTok continues to grow, some media brands have been using the app to acquire new customers.

The Washington Post offers a special subscription rate to its TikTok fans. “Planet Money” uses TikTok’s comment section to link to podcast episodes using an NPR link shortener that lets the team track referral traffic. The team at Yahoo News is also considering options for how it might draw its new TikTok fans onto other Yahoo and Verizon Media platforms. 

“The brand halo effect of actually having this highly engaged followership on TikTok is fantastic and also means that we can also start to think about how to address these audiences in other formats that we have,” said Jo Lambert, who leads Verizon Media’s consumer division. “The brand recognition might mean that they too might come and [download] the Yahoo News app at some point.”

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