Nov 29, 2022 - Economy

Nat Geo's new editor lays out plan for social media dominance

Wearing a protective suit, Armando Salazar, an emergency specialist in the Spanish military, collects samples during a 2021 eruption at La Palma’s Cumbre Vieja volcanic ridge. Photo: National Geographic

National Geographic's new editor-in-chief Nathan Lump plans to invest more in social video as the brand continues to modernize, he told Axios in an interview.

Why it matters: The company doesn't plan to reduce its monthly print magazine publishing schedule, despite its shift to digital, he noted.

  • "We feel good about our monthly cadence," Lump said in an interview at National Geographic's headquarters in Washington.

Driving the news: National Geographic on Tuesday unveiled its third annual selection of the year's top photos, in a newly titled franchise called "Pictures of the Year."

  • The rebrand is meant to signify a shift from selecting photos that captured news headlines over the past year to showcase the most moving photos taken by the company's 132 photographers globally.
  • This year, over 2.2 million images were filed from 60 different countries. The top photos feature a range of images from wildlife photography to pictures of Ukrainians waiting out Russian attacks in a Kyiv bomb shelter.

Between the lines: National Geographic is the largest brand on social media, with more than 340 million followers across all of its accounts on Instagram.

  • But Lump said he's trying to expand the company's digital footprint to include more short-form video, specifically via TikTok and Instagram Reels.
  • In the future, Lump wants more National Geographic stories, whether in print or online, to originate from social videos captured in the field.
  • "Our incredible social reach is largely based on our strength on Instagram, which is based on our strength in photography, which is great," he said.
  • "But obviously, we know that video is driving a lot of engagement in social, and that's where a lot of growth is in terms of engagement and users and social platforms. And so we need to put a lot more emphasis there.

The big picture: Earlier this year, National Geographic magazine laid off six top editors. Lump said those cuts were strategic and not a reflection of the company's health.

  • National Geographic is mostly owned by Disney, which acquired a majority stake in the brand as a part of its 2019 deal to purchase Fox media assets. The brand underwent cuts after the acquisition, and Disney's leadership said earlier this month that layoffs are on the horizon.
  • The partnership with Disney, Lump said, has helped the company expand its brand broadly, especially via Disney's streaming presence Disney+. While the National Geographic channel sits within a separate division, Lump's team and the television team collaborate on specials.

What's next: Looking ahead, Lump says he aims to build an integrated production model within National Geographic so that the company can better expand across different platforms.

  • The brand, which turns 135 years old next year, currently has an audience of 25 million across its print and digital channels, according to the latest figures from the Alliance for Audited Media.
Go deeper