When Seventeen.com’s target readership was impacted by the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting, the coverage of the tragedy became the top priority for the magazine. Producing same-day coverage, as well as reporting first-person accounts, Seventeen knew that its core audience would be looking for content that not only reported the events to them, but also highlighted the activism that followed shortly after.
“That’s our audience who is being affected by this, these school shootings,” says Kristin Koch, digital director of Seventeen.com. “The bulk of our audience are teens, age 13 to 24, and this is absolutely an enormous issue for them.”
Spearheading the coverage of the shooting, Koch tells Folio: that it became the goal of Seventeen.com to provide a platform for the survivors of the massacre to share their stories and to “amplify their voices and their cause” in the fight to end gun violence.
Though, what’s really important to Koch and her team is advocating for their audience’s safety. “Teens, young people, they should be allowed to go to school and to feel safe and not worry about school shootings, and they’re calling for an end to gun violence,” she says.
Following the massacre, several of Hearst Magazines’ digital brands, including Seventeen.com, changed their website headers to include #EndGunViolence in support of reform.
Seventeen has seen a tremendous amount of action and interest from its readers in response to the shooting and in an effort to feature stories that are important to their audience, they prioritized the development of such content for their sites, including a special edition Snapchat Discover story.
“We have such a big audience on Snapchat and that’s really a huge place for young people to get their news and to be reading Seventeen, so we felt it was important to publish important pieces on the site,” says Koch.
As Snapchat’s Discover page blossoms into a go-to news source for audiences made up of primarily Generation Z and Millennials, the way publications reach their youngest readers has greatly shifted. This is especially the case for publications like Seventeen.com, so when breaking news like the shooting occurs and involves and impacts the youngest generations, reaching those audiences on platforms they frequent is an important measure to take.
Within a day of the Feb. 14 tragedy, Seventeen.com had already begun collecting and reporting on the events of the massacre. By Friday, Seventeen’s Snapchat Discover story featured dedicated content to the shooting, including a first-hand account from a survivor and five ways to help end gun violence. The story received nearly 3 million uniques and had over 28 million total views.
According to Koch, the focus of the story was to not only tell the narrative of the events, but to branch out and do what they could to support the survivors’ mission to help prevent another shooting. “The edition did incredibly well, we saw a hugely positive response to it,” she says.
In addition to Snapchat Discover, Seventeen.com has put its presence on other social media platforms to use by talking about the shooting and activism coming out of the tragedy. “We had an editor call a representative on our Insta story,” says Koch. “[To] give young people, who might be sort of nervous about calling their representative, a script for it and to show exactly how you do it.”
Koch tells Folio: that the decision to focus heavily on the tragedy wasn’t one that should come as a surprise and that Seventeen will always talk about the issues that matter most to their readers, whether that is fashion, celebrities or current events.
“I think teens have always been interested in more serious issues; they care about social justice very passionately,” she says. “I just think that the world has woken up to the power of young people and the power of their voices.”