Is Snapchat Discover the future of news publishers?

August 30th, 2016
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It is no secret; news media have been struggling for the last 10 years of digital revolution. Press suffered a tragic blow to its business model and has been trying to recover ever since. News sites and social media have become the main news source and even TV network are feeling the heat from pure players like YouTube. This decrease in popularity is especially true with the younger generations – the digital natives – preventing the well-established media from renewing their audience. In order to survive, the publishers have to reinvent themselves using new digital tools and platforms. While some media brands offer part of their content online or even turn to video journalism to engage with their audience, others choose a more disruptive way of content distribution: Snapchat Discover.

Created in February 2015, Discover is already a big success for both Snapchat and publishers. After a first stage of quick growth, Snapchat Buzz was starting to slow down and the mobile app needed to find a new playground to stay relevant and profitable; while publishers were forced to find a way to reach a younger audience that they had trouble engaging with.

What exactly is Snapchat Discover?

Discover is one of the screen available on Snapchat. Swiping all the way to the right, you will find a panel of 19 channels worldwide. Those who decided to use this distribution channel range from 129-year-old travel specialist National Geographic, to much more expected pure plyers like Vice or Mashable. A tap on one of the icons of the screen will give you access to content created or adapted – every day – for Snapchat and only available for 24 hours. Using the same format as Snapchat messaging, publishers make their content (rich-text and videos) perfectly fit the vertical screen.

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How publishers communicate on Snapchat?

Most of what publishers offer on Snapchat is very different from what one could find anywhere else. Since the content is displayed in-app, mostly to students and young professionals, it doesn’t compete with news, but with entertainment. Content had to be adjusted accordingly.

Snapchat’s language is filled with pop-culture references, emoji or GIFs. And because the content doesn’t last longer than a day, articles aren’t written to score SEO points. It is created with the idea of instantaneity: quickly found, quickly consumed. It has to be both very click-worthy and prompt social shares (i.e. the social media currency).

If this form of communication is not foreign to pure players like BuzzFeed, as they have regular (if not daily) use of the new visual alphabet, and viral content; it is quite a different story for media like The Wall Street Journal, CNN or National Geographic. Those are perceived as producing well documented, high quality editorial content.

And even though they could repurpose already existing content, publishers had to hire and train specialised teams. These included regular journalist, but also new digital talents like community managers or bloggers, as well as graphic designers or video editors to create engaging digital content. Why? Because:

  • Content has to be visual to perform
  • You need to know your audience’s interests
  • You need to be creative

National Geographic, the unexpected winner of Snapchat Discover.

National Geographic has been the reference for travel and adventure journalism for over a century. But the magazine has been struggling to find its own place on the (overcrowded) Internet. Travel is, along with fashion and lifestyle, one of the most popular topics on the web and thousands upon thousands of bloggers, Instagramers and YouTubers create content for the digital native. They had already converted a large part of the natural audience.

In what could be described has a leap of faith, National Geographic communication executives decided to embark on the Snapchat Discover adventure. The result is a perfect mix of high quality National Geographic photographs and editorial know-how (repurposed editorial content) adapted to engage millennials, thanks to catchy titles and short content (like pop quizzes). What we like is that it proves that great investigative journalism isn’t dead or old-fashioned. And all publishers can adapt to the new interactive ways of content consumption.

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What’s next?

Snapchat offers a new interactive way of getting information and is a great opportunity for both historical media to realign their profile with more current positioning and pure players to spread their digital influence.

Since ads were recently integrated to Discover channels newsfeeds, media looking to extend their business model to include new platforms may be getting the best of both worlds with it. They promote their own brand to a critical target and explore new native advertising with their advertising partner. Although one would need to be careful with this new feature; if it is very interesting for them, it could be a major step back for users and could compromise the brand loyalty, Snapchat is slowly trying to create. How far can proper format push good content?

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August 30th, 2016

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