Snapchat Discover is just over two years old now and is undergoing a period of change. Featuring content from partnerships with over 40 publishers, Discover is Snapchat’s central hub of content and programming. As Snap continues to chase profitability, it’s building out its Discover offerings with original shows, licensed content, and more material from publishers.
With increasing competition and mounting uncertainty about Snapchat’s actual value versus its post-IPO valuation, Snap’s at a pivotal point following its IPO. Stemming largely from talk of underwhelming growth and revenue, there’s some doubt as to whether or not Snapchat can survive in a marketplace that’s evolving and spawning more and more competition. Snap, for its part, seems to recognize that Snapchat, as it exists today, won’t survive without innovation, and that recognition likely motivated Snap’s recent pivot.
Rebranding as a camera company, Snap is looking to make it clear that it’s more than Snapchat. New hiring suggests that Snap’s going to innovate outside of the app, likely in hardware, but for now, at least, Snapchat remains its central product. And so, if it wants to maintain its current foothold and avoid losing ground, Snap has to innovate within Snapchat, too. And that’s where Snapchat Discover comes in.
Publisher partnerships have been central to Snapchat Discover from Day One. The driving force behind content creation within Discover, publishers are putting a lot of time, effort, money, and manpower behind making their Snapchat content compelling. Some publications have entire teams dedicated to Snapchat. And for good reason — in some cases, Snapchat makes up a fifth of a publication’s total traffic.
The most recent additions to Discover are Vulture, The New York Times, Harper’s Bazaar, Essence, and Entertainment Weekly. They join the ranks of content creators like Comedy Central, MTV, Vice, Cosmopolitan, Popular Mechanics, The Washington Post, Buzzfeed, National Geographic, CNN, Refinery29, Vox, iHeartRadio and dozens more. Spanning everything from interactive listicles to How-Tos and news articles specifically formatted for Snapchat, Discover content is a way for publishers to get in front of a notoriously difficult to reach demographic (18-34 year olds) in a new way.
(GIF via Snapchat)
Publishers are important to Snapchat, too. Snap recently hired Donna Ogier, who previously worked at Apple helping the company manage its relationship with publishers. With the new title “global publishing manager,” that’s likely what she’s moved to Snapchat to do as well. And managing those relationships will likely prove instrumental to Snap’s failure or success where revenue is concerned in coming months.
Snap’s looking to leave behind the old model wherein it shared a portion of the ad revenue from Discover with its publishing partners. Now, Snap is looking to license some content, keen to keep much of the ad revenue for itself (probably necessary if it wants to become profitable), and is also actively working to create and find a place for original shows on Snapchat, like Planet Earth II, a series of mini episodes airing ahead of the full episodes the famed documentary series. Snap also has deals with NBC, ABC, Turner, and A+E.
In rapidly expanding its Discover offerings, Snapchat is looking to do more than just pull more content onto the platform. Discover is Snapchat’s attempt to be a little less messaging app and a little more content platform. It’s not the only game in town for disappearing messages or spontaneous stories, so it must adapt. What better way to do that than to make something that can’t be copied? In modeling Snapchat Discover after a kind of network, Snapchat is making itself a destination for a singular type of content.
Snapchat Discover is still very much in a state of evolution. It’s changing and developing under the influence of users, publishers, and the company itself. Snapchat’s moved Discover around in the app, which purportedly affected Discover partners, and the way in which it’s going to incentivize publishers and continue driving revenue may change if it succeeds in shifting to a licensing (rather than revenue share) model.
One thing’s abundantly clear, though: As Snapchat continues to fight for users, revenue, and relevance in a crowded marketplace, it’s going to have to progress. And though there’s evidence that much of that progress might be happening in hardware, it’s going to have to start in the app itself, and Snapchat Discover may be one major source of change.
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