NBC News’ Catherine Kim and Gadi Schwartz on How Stay Tuned, Which Turns 5 Today, Became Gen Z’s Go-to News Source

By A.J. Katz 

NBC News has one of the most robust digital operations of any news organization. Yes, Peacock and NBC News Now immediately come to mind, but the company’s presence on social media platforms, Snapchat, for example, remains prolific. Stay Tuned was the first news show to launch on Snapchat’s Discover platform, doing so five years ago today, and it’s still going strong. The average episode of Stay Tuned has reached one million views in 2022, up 15% versus the 2021 average. Nearly 90% of the twice-daily newscast’s average audience is under 35, with 57% of those consumers under the age of 25.

NBC News’ Snapchat show is also increasingly popular on TikTok, recently hitting one million followers on the platform.

Who says Generation Z doesn’t care about the news?


We chatted with NBC News global digital news chief Catherine Kim and co-host of NBC’s Stay Tuned Gadi Schwartz about how NBC’s newscast on Snapchat and NBC News as an organization have evolved in their mission to attract and keep viewers of all ages via social media.

TVNewser: How have the show and its audience evolved since the July 2017 launch?

Kim: It’s hard to think of this Gen-Z brand being five years old because it doesn’t quite fit to apply an age to a brand that’s dedicated to Gen Z. What hasn’t changed is, very early on we made a commitment to build an audience and trust that this next generation is a big priority of ours, and we wanted to become the go to news source for Gen Z. I think early on, a lot of it was trying to develop a voice: how do we speak to this audience in a way they want to receive information and news? Also, getting a sense of what stories they care about deeply, and what felt close to home for Gen Z audience. So early years, I think some of it was just trying to find voice, story selection, the mix of stories, and getting the tone, style writing, down for the Gen Z audience.

Snapchat is unique because you can really talk directly to people who are watching your show, and Gadi, Savannah [Stay Tuned co-host Sellers], Maya [Stay Tuned reporter Eaglin] all have a very intimate relationship with people who are watching who share direct feedback, and they’re constantly talking to each other. In addition to that, the show itself does a lot of “call outs.” I think over time, that intimacy has really informed and created a familiarity with the audience, how they feel about the stories we’re covering, what types of topics they think we should be covering. I think in that sense, it has evolved in that we have a much more intimate relationship with Gen Z due to the nature of how the show is on Snapchat, and we communicate with our audience.

Schwartz: It’s funny, we were chatting with some people that we found had been watching [Stay Tuned] since day one. This guy I talked to yesterday put it perfectly. He’s said, “Look, our lives have changed, the world has changed. You guys have changed. But we’ve been through it through Stay Tuned.”

A lot of the people we’ve been talking to started watching in middle school. This particular individual had been in high school, and he was talking to us about how a at first when they had first started watching, all of the conversations in high school centered around what was going on in the world, and they had all the same details. Then, the next thing you know, they’re like, “Wait, where did you hear about that? Oh, from Stay Tuned, this thing I watch on Snapchat.” It had turned out they compared notes, and everyone was getting their their news from Stay Tuned. But that was high school, and then all the way through college, and now he’s a professional getting ready to launch his own startup.

It’s interesting to hear a story like that because these are the formative years, not just for your identity, but for the way that you see the world. It’s been a privilege and a responsibility to make sure that the information we’re providing people with is accurate, presented in a way where people can make up their own opinions about whatever’s going on, but we’re making sure that all sides are presented. It’s consistently there for them in this time where they are not just figuring out who they are, but figuring out the whole world and how it works.

Gadi, talk about balancing your work as an NBC News correspondent with your job as host of Stay Tuned.

It is a very intricate game of hopscotch. In a way, a lot of the things that we learned from working remotely during the pandemic have helped us become a hybrid type of journalist who can jump from platform to platform; whether that’s a Zoom interview, an in-person interview, or just firing up your phone wherever you are, if you’re going live or filing something that looks presentable enough that we can give it to millions and millions of people pretty quickly. So in that regard, it’s been an evolution and the working remotely has helped. But it’s still a struggle because we have so many different platforms at NBC. In one way, it is a dream come true because you have every platform to be able to reach a slew of different audiences. But at the same time, gone are the days of just filing for one show or one platform and it being done and your day being finished. Now, it’s about figuring out where the biggest audiences are and where the audiences for that particular story are going to receive it the quickest. On the Stay Tuned level, a lot of that is social media and the social media consumption. Then, you’ve got like the different platforms we’ve have for Today show, Nightly News that have a different vibe and have a different voice but are just as important and those audiences are obviously larger and they expect rigorous journalism.

Catherine, the NBCU News Group is putting a ton of resources into programming for Peacock right now. Is Stay Tuned still a priority for NBC News, and if so, why?

It’s critical that we continue to reach that next generation of news consumer, and we want to reach them early. On top of that, overseeing the digital editorial side of news here [NBC], I do feel like we’re at the frontlines of behavior changing. We see it every day. Sometimes it’s accelerated, sometimes it’s not, certainly we saw a lot of behavior accelerate during the pandemic. We’ve always known young people were increasingly getting their news from social media, Snapchat being one of those places. We have certainly seen the evolution of more and more audience learning about news, whether they’re intentionally looking for news on social or not learning about news from social.

It’s a big priority for us not just to build audience everywhere they are, but also build this next generation of news consumers. We are committed to this Gen-Z audience, and we’re really interested in not just being their go-to news source, but also developing a relationship, building trust, and earning trust every day. I think we see a rich opportunity to own this generation in terms of being the trusted news provider or trusted news source to this group.

We’ve got a lot of expertise in-house due to Stay Tuned. We know how they like to receive their news, we know the stories that that are surprising that they’re deeply engaged with. We talk to them frequently, we get a sense of trends pretty early on through these conversations, whether they’re on social, whether they’re one on one. I think that’s a huge asset advantage that we have organizationally and editorially, which we flex in all kinds of ways.

Are there plans to expand NBC News presence on other platforms, like TikTok—is that a platform that NBC News is trying to crack?

Yes. We just crossed one million followers on Tiktok for Stay Tuned, a big accomplishment for us. Stay Tuned has been on TikTok since 2019, and we saw that consumption on TikTok and the growth of that platform explode over the early years of the pandemic. We began to really double down on original programming, specific programming designed, built, produced and created for our audience on TikTok, and we’re seeing quite a bit of success with that. Last month, we had somewhere around seven million views on TikTok for Stay Tuned content. We’re only 14 days into July, we’ve already seen double that number in terms of Stay Tuned views on TikTok. I think that’s only going to grow, of course. We’ve set up a seven-person team just to focus on growing and expanding the footprint of Stay Tuned on social.

How has the digital content strategy changed since you were named NBC’s global digital news boss last March?

The way I see it: We’re NBC News, we have a mass audience, and as a requirement, we need to be on the day’s biggest stories, and breaking news with the best reporting. That is a cost of admission when you’re NBC News. On top of that, and we’ve been very committed to this, we are also a premium brand that’s deeply invested in original reporting, original storytelling in words and in video, and we want to amplify that across the many platforms of NBC News in a way that is organic to those channels. I think those two things have become increasingly the key priorities, which is to be the first, best, most accurate on the biggest stories and the biggest breaking news of the day, and on top of that provide deeply reported original distinct reporting and journalism that we share and amplify across our platforms.

Gadi, how do you use social media as a means of strengthening your journalism?

I don’t know if I’m a perfect example of how things should be done, but I’ll tell you how I use them [platforms]. I report to television—Today show, Nightly News—and then I report to Stay Tuned because I know that we’ve built that team and that team is internal to NBC News. The broadcast delivery obviously has changed because we rely a lot on tech platforms to reach our audience, but I am beholden to the audience that sees us through our broadcasts, whether that be from our social media accounts, whether that be through TV or our streaming offerings.

You’ve also got this social world where people want to see a little bit of the behind the scenes and people want to know you. Often, I think it’s easy for young journalists to get confused; to think, “Who am I working for? Who’s my audience? Is it the audience that I have on Instagram, or is it the audience that I have at the place that employs me?” For me, it’s always been very clear.  I work for NBC News, and I believe in the rigorous standards of NBC News. The stories that I’m going to break, I’m going to break on NBC News first.

I know the trick to growing and developing these massive audiences is through consistency and there are ways to optimize the algorithms. I hate to say I don’t believe in doing that, but I think it’s a slippery slope when you start doing that for your own personal brand, and it comes to the detriment of the place where you’re working. So for me,  it’s an easel where I can try things out on the new platforms, and see if they translate, and if they start hitting, then it’s something that we can try on the bigger platform.

In terms of Instagram, mostly it’s just a way for me to keep touch with people that I don’t talk to every single day, and that’s kind of grown. I don’t use Facebook anymore, and so Instagram is the way that people can see what my family is up to. Most of my family lives in New Mexico and that’s the way I communicate with them. Then, there’s the Stay Tuned viewers that have seen me grow up on these apps who will watch what’s happening as well.

Who are some other TV newsers you find to be especially strong on social?

In the social media space, there’s a lot of noise. I respect those who get on the ground and they quickly and succinctly report what they’re seeing, and when they don’t have first person information to add to the conversation, they kind of go dark, or they’re not necessarily participating. When news breaks, it’s very difficult to wade through the retweets and through the hot takes, and to find somebody that’s on the ground actually reporting. On Twitter, perfect example is somebody who gets on the ground they report what’s what’s happening, and then they move to the next story. [NBC News correspondent] Antonia Hylton does a phenomenal job. [NBC News correspondent] Cal Perry is another who does a phenomenal job, just getting on the ground seeing and reporting what he hears, and then he moves on to the next story.

I think we have to keep in mind that journalism is journalism and social media is social media. For me, remembering that my job is to report facts quickly, vet them through our organization and get them directly to people trumps any sort of, “Hey, I need to have an opinion on this, or I need to talk about that,” because at the end of the day that flies in the face of the way we’re trying to report the facts.

Stay Tuned co-hosts Savannah Sellers and Gadi Schwartz