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How The Washington Post Is Using Politics to Find Younger Audiences on TikTok

With the 2022 U.S. midterm elections underway, The Washington Post has its eyes on introducing younger audiences on TikTok and Instagram to its politics coverage through a slate of new hires

In September, the publisher added four new hires to its NextGen, team including congressional reporter Camila DeChalus, campaign reporter Dylan Wells, social video producer Jillian Banner and deputy politics editor Briana Tucker, who is currently The Post’s deputy editor. The Post’s Next Generation Initiative, which reportedly had a team of 10 this July, launched in August last year with a focus on reeling in younger audiences through different methods of news coverage and content, primarily via social.

“It’s the strategy of putting our reporters forward first and having them explain what they do, how they do it, and the values of journalism,” said the Post’s Next Generation audience development senior editor Phoebe Connelly. “Of the things that’s exciting to me about a platform like TikTok or Instagram is that you are expected to introduce yourself and kind of explain what your qualifications are. And that’s a natural fit for journalism,” Connelly told Adweek.

For newspapers like The Post, finding younger readers is critical to its growth, while maintaining its core reader and subscriber base. The Post keeps its subscription numbers close to its chest, but in 2020, it was reported it is nearing 3 million subscribers. While politics is its bread and butter, the publisher has been making inroads to expand beyond politics, launching wellness and climate verticals.

According to the Post, political coverage through NextGen is taking a “social-first” approach, where reporters post on-ground news content on their personal accounts. With DeChalus’s TikTok with over 10,000 followers, she covers all things U.S. politics and more recently the midterm elections for the Post. DeChalus has over 210,000 likes on the platform. A recent 46-second TikTok video recapping the Michigan governor debate had over 106,000 views and over 550 comments at the time of writing. The Post has over 1,500,000 followers on TikTok, adding 100,000 followers since October 2022, per Social Blade.

In July, the Post told Adweek about its surge in Instagram followers since its shift in expanding brand awareness among younger and diverse audiences that use social media as a source for news in the last year. The Post has over 6 million followers on Instagram.

Political advertisers are faced with a tumultuous playing field this year, in part of Apple’s iOS privacy update last year that’s made it difficult for political campaigns to reach potential voters via accurate targeting, reports reveal. Political ad spend is expected to reach $9.7 billion across mediums by Election Day, AdImpact told outlets.

According to the Post, NextGen’s collaboration across teams internally is the catalyst for 10 new roles in different verticals like politics, audio, platforms and curation since its start in 2020.

“The way to think about NextGen is we’re meant to be the vector for experimentation of The Post,” said Connelly. “And of course, we take every opportunity, so the elections are one of them.”

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