TikTok may be a relative newcomer to the global media stage, but it’s nailed its addiction metrics. Journalism fits right in, as the next six examples show.

The format and platform are perfectly designed to capitalise on short attention spans and users’ seemingly insatiable appetite for more, more, more of whatever makes them smile, laugh, dance, or nod wryly.

For light entertainment and news-agnostic content it’s a no-brainer, but it’s increasingly becoming a tempting proposition for news media too. And it’s not just about creating entertaining - or, in our user needs for news speak, ‘divert me’ content. It helps users get the whole picture - just as long as journalists are properly aware of the parameters (and opportunities) it presents.

From a western point of view, TikTok is often viewed as a somewhat controversial platform., especially since it emerged that European users' data can be shared with the Chinese government. That's something worth keeping an eye on. Right now TikTok is worth paying attention to because it's somewhere online where a chunk of your audience is - as well as potential sources.

Marieke Kuypers, Dutch journalist who has made a name for herself on TikTok with her platform-appropriate fact checking shorts, puts it this way:

The thing with TikTok is that you have to tell the whole story in a minute. So the storytelling has to really innovate, and you really need to lead with something that grabs people - otherwise they're going to swipe away. You only have a couple seconds at the beginning to hook people. You have to tell people why it matters to them.

Marieke Kuypers Journalist Pointer

1. Fact checking, Marieke Kuypers, Netherlands, 100.6k followers


In lockdown, like many others, Dutch journalist Marieke Kupyers found herself getting really into TikTok. It didn’t take long for her to notice a problem with the platform - the rapid, unchecked spread of misinformation. With her journalistic background, she began making explanatory, fact checking videos in response to various viewpoints being shared - and she’s become extremely well-known and trusted for debunking headlines and clickbait (TikBait?) that spreads so easily there.

In this TikTok Marieke fact checks a viral video of two girls in headscarves, handing out flowers. Someone had posted on TikTok that they were connected with Gülen (a Turkish controversial group) and things escalated. Through her own research, Marieke was able to affirm the truth (that they weren’t) and give the girls a voice through her own platform.



Give me Perspective, Educate Me


TikTok isn’t just about putting out content that fits with the platform. It’s as much about recognising its potential as a news gathering source too. Marieke is well known for her fact checking videos, but it was TikTok that provided the source material for those videos. She recommends setting up an additional account (if you use it socially or personally) that’s dedicated to whatever you’re researching, to capitalise on the algorithm’s ability to serve highly relevant stuff.

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Marieke Kuypers TikTok

2. British politics news, Victoria Derbyshire, UK, 434.1k followers


British journalist, and - until 2020 - long time host of her eponymous BBC daytime news programme may have the traditional broadcast journalism chops, but she’s also recognised the benefit of embracing TikTok, with a mix of commentary on pop culture and analysis of key news events. As someone outside the more typical demographic of TikTok users, she’s nevertheless using the platform judiciously.


THE USER NEED: Educate me

Do you want to learn more about user needs? Read this:

The evolution of the User Needs for News Model

THE THINKING POINT: In the US, 31.3% of TikTok users are above the age of 40, but globally only 4.5% of content creators on the platform are over the age of 35. Is there an opportunity to capitalise on this? Might older audiences respond better to older content creators?

Victoria Derbyshire

3. Topic & campaign specific news and updates, Sophia Smith Galer, UK, 445.1k followers


Another British journalist, but this time one from a more typical age bracket for TikTok. While she cut her teeth at the BBC, she’s now senior news reporter for Vice News. Along the way she won ‘Innovation of the Year’ at the British Journalism awards and was among Vogue’s 2022 list of 25 Most Influential Women in Britain.

She’s a journalist and linguist with a particular interest in women’s rights, so her feed is a blend of topic-specific news, and fun, educational videos providing insight and context.


THE USER NEED: Educate me, Divert me

THE THINKING POINT: Just as certain TikTokers become synonymous with certain tropes (think life hacks or dance memes), so too can journalists build authority and trust by showcasing their interest and expertise in a range of issues or subjects.

Sophia Smith Galer

4. Public reactions to news items, Omroep Brabant, Netherlands, 55.1k followers


Regional news outlets might not necessarily have the budgets for huge teams doing groundbreaking stuff with a global reach, but that’s kind of the point. Publishers like Omroep Brabant have a responsibility to serve their audience, who are - as the name suggests - located within a specific region. TikTok works brilliantly as a way to connect in a very human, authentic way with the voices and issues in a specific area.


THE USER NEED: Connect me to my locality

THE THINKING POINT: Short form video lends itself perfectly to man-on-the-street interaction/ reaction videos like this one. The advantages are twofold: obviously by using real people you’re putting your audience at the centre. Secondly - and perhaps less obviously - you’re able to start conversations with the community in a fun, relatable and real way. By inviting members of the public to comment and react on video, you’re involving them in the news cycle - and hopefully boosting engagement further.

Omroep Brabant

5. Public service announcements, The Washington Post, USA, 1.5m followers


Of all the newsrooms in the world, it feels that the Washington Post was the first to really grasp the potential of TikTok, and run with an idea of how to get it to work for them. In the US, one in three TikTok users regularly use it as a source of news.

Is it on-brand for WaPo? Possibly not. But then again, if they’re trying to carve out an identity for themselves among TikTok’s core demographic, perhaps this approach is smart. What it is now is instantly recognisable as theirs.


THE USER NEED: Educate me

THE THINKING POINT: Finding an approach that is both platform appropriate and on-brand is obviously tricky. If it wasn’t, everyone would be doing it. The success of WaPo’s TikTok adventures is that they’ve embraced the ephemeral nature of the platform and just had some fun with its potential.

The Washington Post

6. High energy explainers, The Guardian Australia, Australia, 222.8k followers


Now, it might be the Washington Post that gets all the love for their TikTok account, but the Guardian Australia definitely deserves a shout out too. WaPo might be masters of the skit, but Matilda Boseley has nailed the high-octane, source-rich, direct-to-camera explainer. The presentation might be TikTok through and through, but make no mistake: this has all the hallmarks of excellent journalism too.



THE THINKING POINT: There’s a lot of information squeezed into these shorts, but if you’re after a sub-minute primer on a bunch of world news events, this proves it can be done. These are clearly not off-the-cuff videos, but cleverly plotted, researched and planned shorts. It’s the delivery - TikTok-quirky, shaky-cam, conversational - that makes them completely at home on the platform, but also totally in line with the values of its mothership, the legacy newsroom. So yes, you can have it all: stay on brand, connect with younger viewers (and frankly anyone who finds lengthier articles and broadcasts a bit much), and move with the digital times - all with journalistic rigour.

The Guardian Australia

Should your newsroom go all-in on TikTok?

Listen: that’s not for us to say. You know your newsroom best, after all. Adopting any new channel requires time, strategy, skill and patience - as well as an audience. If your demographic doesn’t tend to dip their toes into the TikTok ocean, then you’ll either have to nurture a new audience, entice your readers across to the waves of short-form video, or abandon the idea entirely.

That said, TikTok lends itself perfectly to sharing information in an easily digestible way, and its immense popularity demonstrates how enticing - and addictive - this form can be. Of all the social media platforms in the last decade, this one feels most suited to complementing the output of the digital newsroom.

But remember this: platforms come and go.

It’s not about TikTok as much as it’s about recognising where your audience is, why they’re there and how you can reach them authentically (short form thrives on Instagram and YouTube as well, of course). Right now, it’s an opportunity worth exploring, if your circumstances and setup suit. There’s a lot to learn from content creators like the ones highlighted above, and plenty of notes to take from other TikTok creators as to how best to harness the potential of the platform. Above all, there's an opportunity here to grow your audience and carve out a niche for your newsroom too.

It's a place where you can reach people. So if you're doing really good journalism, or you're making really great stories, you can reach a lot of people there.

Marieke Kuypers Journalist Pointer