The term “news feed” originates from Facebook, where it began as a feature for users to keep track of birthdays, baby announcements, and their friends’ political opinions. However, it soon devolved into a moshpit of misinformation that brought Facebook under fire and sparked celebrities like Selena Gomez to speak out against the platform, leaving it with a new, polar-opposite label: fake news feed. Can The Washington Post reinvent the newspaper?
As fake news becomes even more common and viral than real news, the need for a trusty, convenient, and reliable source of information is imperative. The Washington Post is recognizing this with its new marketing strategy, which sees Travis Lyle in a new role, “Instagram Editor”. While the role of “social media editor” is not new, Lyle’s title strikes a different note against the backdrop of the all-but-forgotten newspaper industry.
Though newspapers have taken a backseat in the business, Lyle’s new role and strategy could be the start of a brand refresh for the faded medium. In fact, under Lyles, the Post’s Instagram account shot from 675,000 followers to 4.5 million followers. One reason for this was Lyle’s eye for engagement in particular. For example, instead of opting to share images, which the platform is most known for (hence the polaroid camera logo), Lyles focused on shareable headlines, which quickly became one of the account’s main growth drivers. When users scroll through the Post’s Instagram account, they’re met with crisp black and white typefaces that reflect the growing nostalgia trend and are similar to a real newspaper, minimal imagery, and short, punchy headlines that may not be flashy, but are easy to digest and share. These curated elements play nicely with the familiar grid, and give the term “news feed” new meaning on what is considered a powerhouse platform, according to Gartner insight report on choosing the best digital channel for your brand.
Though this battle is still uphill for newspapers, as Instagram has faced scrutiny for misleading information as well, brands can look to Lyles and the Post for a lesson on leaning into nostalgia and focusing on engagement over optics as a way to embrace modern media without erasing older components.