The New York Times turns to social media to bring a 360-degree view of popular news topics and headlines through a new AR lens. The newspaper uses Snapchat to launch its lens, which features an immersive experience where users can read about climate change, the U.S. election, and health care.
The New York Times chose Snapchat for its first AR lens because the platform is popular with young voters, including the 63% of Gen Zers who use the app daily. As Gen Z voters could make up 37% of this year’s electorate base, reaching them on their preferred platform with up-to-date election news could help The New York Times build relevance and engagement with them—during and after the election. With the “What is America?” lens, Snapchat users can click on headlines and read snippets of articles featured on The New York Times’ website. The lens will be spotlighted in Snapchat’s lens carousel beginning November 2, giving users an immersive look at everything election-related. “What is America?” serves as an extension to The New York Times’ digital campaign, “The Truth is Essential”, which features a video showing the publisher’s influence on readers around the world. While many of the campaign’s efforts could reach older audiences, a Snapchat lens could help ensure The New York Times connects with younger consumers, too.
Releasing an AR lens on Snapchat shows how The New York Times can capture the attention of young adults who have proven harder to reach through traditional advertising, such as broadcast TV or print media. By launching a lens for the 2020 Election, the publisher also demonstrates how to keep voters informed beyond website or print initiatives. The initiative follows a similar push from Snapchat that launched “vote early” stickers and a virtual fireworks display to any users near a USPS location or ballot drop-off box. Like The New York Times, the vote early campaign aimed to keep voting top of mind with young users and boost engagement leading up to Election Day. As AR lenses are one of Snapchat’s most popular features, The New York Times’ election-related lens could help it build a loyal following on the app, which could also translate to its other channels. The “What is America?” push follows a larger trend within the publishing industry that takes traditional print content and gives it a virtual life using AR. Other publishers including Allure magazine and National Geographic have rolled out similar campaigns this year, which could increase engagement with readers who rely on their smartphones for entertainment and information, according to a Gartner report on the topic.
With The New York Times’ AR lens, users can stay engaged and informed during the election, but in a space they prefer. The immersive experience could also help the publisher boost connections with younger audiences and set the stage for future socially-relevant activations.