Up Close With Snapchat’s New “Discover” Feature
Snapchat launched its “Discover” feature Tuesday, marking a major shift from the company’s roots as a mobile messaging app.
Discover is more online magazine than social media platform and is intended to feed Snapchat’s young audience a daily flow of content from major media companies. Those companies are eager to tap into the lucrative millennial demographic, and Snapchat is determined to make good on its $10 billion valuation by kickstarting its revenue generating potential.
In a blog post announcing Discover, Snapchat emphasized how different it is from other social platforms:
Snapchat Discover is a new way to explore Stories from different editorial teams. It’s the result of collaboration with world-class leaders in media to build a storytelling format that puts the narrative first. This is not social media.
Social media companies tell us what to read based on what’s most recent or most popular. We see it differently. We count on editors and artists, not clicks and shares, to determine what’s important.
Discover is different because it has been built for creatives. All too often, artists are forced to accommodate new technologies in order to distribute their work. This time we built the technology to serve the art: each edition includes full screen photos and videos, awesome long form layouts, and gorgeous advertising.
It’s not certain that Snapchat’s millions of users — CEO Evan Spiegel reportedly told potential partners this summer that it had 100 million monthly active users — will embrace the new format. It’s a major pivot, but Snapchat has been evolving steadily from its original, disappearing-selfies-between-friends service.
In late 2013, Snapchat introduced Stories, compilations of Snaps that last 24 hours instead of disappearing immediately after viewing. By last June, the company said, Stories were the most popular part of the app, drawing more than 1 billion views daily. Around that time Snapchat introduced Our Story, compilations of user generated Snaps from music festivals, college football game days and other major events, which also proved to be wildly popular.
With Discover, Snapchat is making a more traditional media play, enlisting publishers in an ad supported revenue-sharing partnership. We spent some time swiping around the updated app (available in both the iOS and Android stores) and can offer some first impressions.
It Looks Like An Online Magazine
No question, Discover looks great. That was my first thought when I swiped left from my Snapchat contact page, now renamed Stories. There you’ll see icons for the 11 launch partners — CNN, Comedy Central, Cosmopolitan, Daily Mail, ESPN, Food Network, National Geographic, People, Vice, Yahoo News and Warner Music — laid out in a neat three-by-four grid. There’s also a Snapchat icon in the middle; the company has hired an editorial team that will produce and curate content.
To dig into a channel, you tap, then swipe left to flip through different content items. To view an item, you swipe up on the screen. Handily after you have finished going through a channel’s items, the icon’s background color turns white, as you can see in the screen grab above.
The content is as varied as the sources, a mix of text stories, video and photos, both long form and short. ESPN has SportsCenter highlights; Vice has a 27-minute video documentary about a 78-year-old man who lives naked and alone on a Japanese island; National Geographic features spectacular photos and a 3,700 word feature about the development of babies’ brains during their first year; the Food Network has recipes; Warner Music has a Blake Shelton music video; People and the Daily Mail are full of entertainment and gossip tidbits.
And none of it will be there after 24 hours. In keeping with Snapchat’s the ephemeral nature, Discover resets itself daily. That fact is made clear by channels’ messaging at the end of their content: come back tomorrow.
Major Advertisers Are On Board
We counted five advertisers on the platform on the first day, all major brands that sponsored channels — BMW for CNN, McDonalds for Comedy Central, T-Mobile for the Daily Mail, the Universal Pictures movie “The Seventh Son” for ESPN and Ritz Crackers for the Food Network. Adweek reported today that Cosmo said Sperry and Victoria’s Secret have signed on as launch partners but apparently not for the first day.
The advertisers were given a “sponsored by” spot at channel’s title page and all but McDonalds presented a multimedia interstitials between editorial content items. The Universal fantasy adventure movie showed a short trailer and BMW ran something that looked like a typical TV commercial. T-Mobile and Ritz each had fun with the format, which loops as long as you stay on the interstitial screen. T-Mobile presented a fake news story, spread over two segments, about a stolen cupcake that somehow related back to its data roll-over plan. Ritz cut up its Team Sweet vs. Team Spicy ad into two “Ritz Bowl” pieces.