Snapchat Content Service Offers Major Lessons to News Channels
Discover service points to new direction for shareable news everywhere
Last week, mobile messaging platform Snapchat launched Discover, a video and media hub that shares stories from editorial partners including CNN, Yahoo, Vice, and ESPN. Discover represents the first media initiative for the mobile app, better known for sharing short-term videos and photos amongst friends than for distributing news.
To access Discover (available on the newest app update), Snapchat users must go to their “Stories” page and tap the purple dot in the upper left corner. The dot opens a new page displaying twelve media partners. Click on a partner’s logo to access videos, photos, and even long-form articles. Swipe up for more information about an article, swipe left for a new story, or swipe down to return to the Discover menu.
News content has been trying to integrate into the social media experience for several years now. What makes Snapchat Discover unique?
1. Content is Not a Popularity Contest
Most news content, when distributed on social media sites such Facebook and Twitter, gets buried within feeds unless it is heavily “liked,” “favorited,” and shared. News distribution turns into a popularity contest—media providers must decorate articles with clickbait in order to entice viewers, creating an environment where a dog in a spider costume is more important than international developments.
By letting content providers control what displays on their Discover feeds, Snapchat leaves the responsibility of determining importance with the experts. While Snapchat has 12 fixed sources on their Discover page now, it will be interesting to see whether users will be able to curate their channels in the future.
2. Familiar (and Functional) User Experience
Current mobile news sites—Twitter and Feedly among them—have a pretty boring user interface. Readers often scroll through articles in list form, and have clunky transitions between text and media. Discover applies fluid social ticks to news: users swipe left/right (Tinder), play short videos (Snapchat), and seamlessly transition between video and text.
Discover does include advertisements, but they are relatively unobtrusive; some of the stories are sponsored (i.e. CNN, sponsored by BMW) and certain videos have optional ads, similar to YouTube.
3. News Feels Real-Time
Unlike timestamped posts on Twitter or Facebook, Snapchat’s user-to-user interaction—compiled MyStories, video responses, and geotags—conveys the feeling that content is exchanged in real time. The real-time effect has served as Snapchat’s strongest competitive advantage, forming an emotional dependence with users who fear missing out on friends’ activities.
If Snapchat is able to translate this connection to its news content side, then Discover will be able to achieve what no social news platform has yet accomplished: creating news that feels “unmissable.”