An entree to the news diet with @thedailyaus

Five Insta news stories a day; a necessary spoonful of current affairs for a rushed millennial.

In tandem with our… let’s admit, quite cynical [but enthralling] piece exploring the delivery of news to young people on social media and the rise of online activism, we spoke with the creators of the news Instagram account @thedailyaus (TDA), Sam Koslowski and Zara Seidler. What they had to say about their page provided some insightful contrast to our lamentations on the topic of millennial media consumption.

Sam and Zara were university students when they brought TDA to life. Two years later, they have 1,000 regular readers following their very simple formula of five news stories a day – breakdown of the daily news that takes less than a minute of your time.

Read our full interview with them below.

How did thedailyaus get started? 

Sam: I started TDA in March 2017 in an attempt to get more of my friends to read the news. I knew that if I couldn’t get them to download a news app, I would have to put the news in their way while they scrolled through social media. I didn’t want to do it alone, so I went looking for a business partner and content creator, and stumbled across Zara. Together, we’ve been doing TDA since June 2017, and have published over 3500 news tiles on Instagram Story. 

What was the vision behind it?

To create a news service that was objective, digestible and punchy. We wanted it to cut through the noise of mainstream media and deliver clear and concise news bites for the busy millennial. We designed it to be read in under a minute and on the run as part of a weekday morning routine. Excuse the language, but we basically wanted a news service that would cut through the bullshit that we as millenials were being bombarded with on a daily basis. 

Who is your audience?

Our audience is mainly 18-30 year old Australians who are looking to get into a habit of reading the news, but don’t know where to start. They’re keen to learn, ask a lot of questions, and read TDA on the way to work or university or over a coffee. 

They also don’t think that what’s currently offered in Australia as ‘millennial news services’ is a fair representation of what they want. They want to go deeper than Bachie recaps and gossip, but they might not be ready to read 1000-word op-eds. 

Why Instagram? What were the pros and cons of the platform?

We don’t want to interrupt the way that millennials consume content, so we brought TDA to them. We didn’t want to fight for our readership, we wanted to integrate our page into an app that, on average, most of us spend more than two hours a day browsing. We’ve worked hard to make the news both aesthetically pleasing and informative, and believe that Instagram Story is the best platform for integrating this dual purpose. We can’t wait to play with the ‘swipe up’ function of Instagram Story to direct readers to a deeper dive on the issues we cover – but we need 10k followers for that, so get following! 

What have you achieved in your time running the account?

We now have 1000 regular readers, and have created a page of almost 3500 interested millennials who engage with us daily. We’ve built a reputation for being a constant, and anecdotally we are many of our readers’ only source of news. We are especially proud of the fifth story in our bulletin – the good news – that gives people something to smile about every day. 

How do you pick your stories?

First, we spend time digesting the news ourselves through reading a wide variety of publications (often before we start our days). These range from Australian mastheads to diverse foreign news services. From there, we begin the process of curating TDA. This involves designing up the stories and sending it to each other for editing. We recognise that the act of curation is itself an exercise in subjectivity, but through moderating each others work, we aim to counter any bias that may arise. We make sure the stories are up by 9am, before the start of each of our work days as a lawyer (Sam) and political analyst (Zara). 

Instagram has the capacity to widely engage and mobilise younger audiences, particularly around social justice issues, e.g. the Amazon burning. However, due to limited understanding of issues and the restrictive nature of the platform, a lot of the content being shared can often appear surface level and only convey the tip of the iceberg of a particular issue. Sometimes this can result in the spreading of misinformation and “fake news”. How do you deal with this tension in The Daily Aus? 

We see TDA as the entree to the news diet, not the whole meal. We are trying to provide the access – the objective, factual presentation of news – with the intention to arm millennials with the tools and information to begin their own deep dive into the news. It’s best to be frank about our role as a soft entry to new consumers of news. We see a space where we can break down a story into important characters, plot twists and high-level developments. If you can understand the cast of the soap opera that is the news, then you will follow the stories with a new familiarity and ease. 

The problem with the current media landscape is that it is completely saturated by opinion pieces and unbridled bias. Young people have never been offered a news service for them that is free of commercial interest, and serious in its intention to inform on issues that don’t collide with pop culture.  

And finally, on the issue of fake news: short form doesn’t facilitate error in reporting, in fact, we’d say that it creates clarity on big issues, something that the hundreds of op eds a day potentially dilutes. 

What other challenges do you grapple with in running a news Instagram account?

When people know about TDA, they love it. The hard part is getting it in front of them for the first time. We haven’t taken the leap into paid advertising, so we still rely on word-of-mouth and organic engagement. We are very reliant on Instagram’s algorithms, which may prove a challenge in the future as well. 

Our other major challenge is being consistent in our strict objectivity mission. We work hard to make sure that a story is presented fairly, but when you only get 20 words per story and one minute in total to tell someone what’s happening in the world, it’s a tricky balance to strike. 

Is there anything new and exciting coming up in the next while for TDA?

We’re excited to launch on other platforms like Facebook, to grow our audience.

You can follow The Daily Aus on Instagram @thedailyaus, and on Facebook.

Nell Cohen is an editor for Et Cetera and studies Arts (Media and Communications) at the University of Sydney.

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