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Special Project

Special Project
From the 16th Annual Shorty Awards

Scientific American TikTok

Finalist in TikTok Presence


Scientific American is undergoing a digital awakening. As the oldest magazine in the United States, we've embarked on a journey to bring our legacy media brand onto TikTok. Our goal was to translate science and technology news into entertaining and educational videos that resonate with a younger audience less familiar with traditional print media. We wanted our channel to inspire curiosity and spark interest in STEM, while also serving as a source of high-quality information on a platform rife with misinformation. 

We finally launched our TikTok account on August 28th, 2023 — the magazine’s 178th birthday. Since then, we've confronted misconceptions and helped viewers make sense of the world around them. We’ve also shown a new side of Scientific American – a sillier side, perhaps. We’ve demonstrated that science can be important and goofy at the same time, and sometimes you just need a pickle suit to get your point across.

Strategy and Execution

Launching TikTok was a dream of our engagement team long before 2023. It wasn’t until this last year, though, that Scientific American was able to add new creative staff to expand our digital presence. Finally, we had a dream team of four ready to bring our written stories into the realm of social video.

We planned to start small – simple hosted explainer videos based on classic, evergreen stories. In our first batch we tried out one silly skit, not sure how people (staff or TikTok audiences) would respond. And what do you know – it took off, receiving nearly 300,000 views right off the bat. Our strategy shifted almost immediately: more skits, please! 

But, of course, we kept experimenting. We tried new subjects and new filming techniques. We moved on from formats that didn’t work, and kept iterating on the ones that did. Despite the sometimes mind-boggling complexity of our subject matter (hello astrophysics), we kept finding new ways to deliver nuanced and accurate information with a healthy dose of humor and levity. 

We found hosts on staff and beyond that our audience connected with and kept them in rotation. We were particularly overjoyed to work with drag queen and mathematician Kyne. Kyne’s videos explaining mathematical concepts from Scientific American stories showed that even the most esoteric of topics can be made digestible and engaging.

We usually bring our stories to TikTok, but have taken inspiration from the platform as well. We tuned into viral topics, like dogs communicating with speech buttons and the bed bug outbreak that terrified travelers in Paris. We used holidays to showcase the science of fear, ways to avoid a holiday hangover, and the science behind sticking to your New Year’s resolutions. We dipped our toe into BookTok and found a new community of readers, and capitalized on viral moments like a weather pattern that overwhelmed East Coast weekends with rain. And we set the record straight when AI backlash prompted people to label detractors as Luddites and explained the true intent of those 19th century rebels. We’ve already evolved alongside the platform, introducing more photo carousels like these shocking images of Alaska’s orange rivers

With a small staff and limited budget, we’ve had to be creative and collaborative to bring our visions to life. We had big ideas—and finite resources. So, we leveraged Scientific American’s incredible editors, DIY props and costuming, and lots of creative green-screen editing to make a small operation punch above its weight. 


TikTok is a volatile, dynamic platform. As newbies to the space, we weren’t really sure what sort of response to expect. But over the last six months, Scientific American has thrived on TikTok. Our first video immediately received hundreds of thousands of views – it now has more than 700,000. Since then, half of our videos have received over 20,000 views and a quarter have over 100,000. We’ve gone truly viral a few times already with videos on all sorts of subjects: period products, AI, never ending rain and even gift-wrapping oranges.

We now have over 5.6 million views in total and 613.9K likes across our 50 videos. We’re particularly encouraged by the age range breakdown of our viewers: 25–34 (40%), 35–44 (24%), and 18–24 (22%). We really are finding the younger audience we were looking for. 

Beyond the numbers though, what really gives us joy and hope are the kinds of comments we receive on our videos. Our comments section is overwhelmingly positive, curious, and thoughtful. Here’s just a small sample:

“Never thought about this!! I love learning something new even when I wasn’t looking for it!!”
“Y'all are out here giving real facts, and it's appreciated”
“I need this, my anxiety was high” (when we dispelled worries about bed bugs.)
“Science lesson… with a plot? Yes, please. 👍🏻” 
“Your videos have made me realize that mathematicians are just philosophers with numbers” 
“5 books my dad would’ve loved to read, so I will add all 5 to my 2024 reading list 🥰 thank you” 

It’s just the beginning of our journey on TikTok, but we’ve found our footing. We will continue to evolve and forge a deeper connection with our audience, but we are already proud of the foundation we’ve built on a brand new (to us) platform. We are delighted to take our nearly 40,000 followers with us as we continue to bring high-quality STEM news to the forefront of TikTok.


Entrant Company / Organization Name

Scientific American


Entry Credits