The Secret of National Geographic's Longevity Revealed

David Maxwell Braun

Pierpaolo Basso, Guest writer

David Maxwell Braun, Social and Digital Director of Outreach for National Geographic, was recently invited to Naples (Italy) at an event organized by the NAstartup Association, in collaboration with the US Consulate in Naples, to talk to Italian journalists about the future of journalism.  The purpose of this conference was to explain how the U.S. media has been able to reinvent itself, diversify its portfolio and embrace the world of social media to boost its reach. 

Braun started his presentation showing National Geographic's mission: “We believe in the power of science, exploration, education, and storytelling to change the world”.  He went on saying: “We have an overall audience of 600 million people, 130 million followers on Facebook in several pages categories (science, travel etc.) while on Instagram we share pictures from our best photographers. We use Twitter as well as Linkedin, which are preferred by journalists”. 

Braun told attendees about the most effective techniques to raise one's audience using social media and how he personally had to reinvent his way of working several times during his 40-year career. He gave a concrete example of how his publication uses social media: “Once, when the trending phrase of the day was #FridayThe13th on Twitter, which is an unlucky day in the US culture," – he said – “we organized a special report on the origins of this superstition."

Braun also explained how Millennials are used to getting their news from social networks, which is the reason why National Geographic's homepage registers fewer readers than direct links.  “We are also investing in a Snapchat algorithm, since we need to focus in new, fast-growing social media outlets”.  He also confirmed how mobile rules newsfeed and, even on cell phone screens, his company's commitment is on sharing quality content, such as video, photos and articles.

Finally, Braun underlined how after 125 years, National Geographic is still an example of successful publishing thanks to its ability to evolve. 

During the conference, Gianluca Manca, founder of a Neapolitan startup called Intertwine described its project which consists in managing group writing where several people can contribute to the creation of a “collective novel” through writing, images, videos, etc.

While some news organizations such as National Geographic have demonstrated success, others have failed. What is certain is that experimenting in the Media world is not over yet.