Week 134 (7 - 13 May 2016)
Climbing Mount Everest, like running a mile in under four minutes, was once thought impossible. Now, however, the challenge lies in maintaining interest in the repetition of these feats. JTA's Communicator of the Week is a team of mountain climbers who are doing just that.
The team of Cory Richards and Adrian Ballinger is currently on Everest, as they attempt to reach the summit without supplemental oxygen. Nearly 40 years have passed since Reinhold Messner and Peter Habeler were the first to achieve such a climb. And almost 200 successful summits without supplemental oxygen later, what's the big deal?
Richards and Ballinger have found a novel way to bring the mountain to millenials. They are the first climbers to Snapchat their experience.
Snapchat is currently the most popular social media platform for teens. Whereas Facebook and Twitter start with a text box inviting users to update their status, Snapchat's starting point is the camera of your mobile phone.
Once a photo or video content is created (and often annotated with emojis and text or run through fun filters) users can send content immediately or use it to make short stories that remain online for 24 hours. The platform now generates 10 billion daily video views, a figure that has almost doubled in the last six months.
Thanks to solar panels to charge their phones and 4G coverage across the whole of the mountain, Richards and Ballinger are able to provide a constant stream of insights into their efforts. The title of their expedition (and their Snapchat name) is EverestNoFilter. That choice is very deliberate: Richards and Ballinger are working hard to subvert the heavily curated and epically glossy National Geographic imagery of Everest to which even they contributed in the past.
Before the climb, Ballinger explained: "Our goal of this trip is to show the good and the bad of Everest. Everyone knows it's bad over there, but it's not really understood. Then they see these beautiful photos that make it look amazing. We want to post something every day. You know, even when Cory is projectile vomiting out of the tent. That's part of it. So I kind of hope that takes away the mystique about Everest, but also shows how much goes into it, which people never see. I hear at the bar all the time, 'anyone can climb everest', and I'm here to say that's bullshit. It is hard physically, mentally, and emotionally. We want to show that."
The team's Snapchat stories leave little doubt as to the beauty, the boredom and the backbreaking hard work involved in climbing Everest. Their stories show them shovelling snow off their tent at more than 8,000 metres up, in the middle of the night, using only their gloved hands, or unzipping their tent door to reveal the stunning views outside or simply brushing their teeth. The combination makes for honest, immersive and compelling viewing.
With millenials demonstrating a clear need to feel authenticity throughout the digital experience, Richards and Ballinger have demonstrably delivered. Theirs may be just another trip up the world's highest mountain. But they are conquering plenty of new peaks along the way, blazing a trail for others hoping to connect sport with young people.
Photo: Snapchat (pictured is Cory Richards)