The image messaging mobile app, Snapchat launched in September 2011 and in six years has amassed 166 million DAUs. Originally, Snapchat connected individuals and peer groups. However, on January 27, 2015, Snap Inc. announced the launch of Snapchat Discover, a feature that repositioned the app as a distributor of news.
Snapchat Discover gives users the option to view Stories created by publishers and TV networks, among the likes of CNN and The New York Times, that create disappearing Stories comprised of text, image, and video.
As of late, Snap Inc. has taken pointed measures to transform Snapchat Discover. Perhaps in response to increasing competition and in search of profit, Snapchat is leaning into video and expanding what outlets can do on Discover. Here we’ll break down Discover’s history, explain how the feature works, outline its recent developments, and discuss its future.
Snapchat launched. In the beginning, the photo-messaging app gave users the ability to send a disappearing photo or video directly to another user, which vanished after a set number of seconds.
An update arrived which allowed users to capture photos and video using the same button and also capture content horizontally in landscape mode.
Snap Inc. launched Snapchat Stories, which allowed users to publish public photos and videos for all of their Snapchat friends to see. A story lasted 24 hours before disappearing and users could also see who had viewed their Stories.
Another feature, Snapchat Chat was launched, allowing users to direct message each other within the app in the form of disappearing text messages.
Between 2011 and 2015, Snap Inc. increased Snapchat’s capabilities and features, allowing users to do more with the app. Facebook also offered to purchase the company during this time for a reported $3 billion.
The launch of Snapchat Discover on January 27, 2015, marked the company’s large monetization effort. The four year period before the launch of Snapchat Discover was characterized by improving the app’s user experience. Conversely, Snapchat Discover was aimed at generating advertising revenue.
According to sources, Snapchat started by partnering with 11 main publishers, which included CNN, Comedy Central, Cosmopolitan, DailyMail.com, ESPN, Food Network, National Geographic, People magazine, Warner Music Group, Vice, and Yahoo News.
Outside of the core 11 publishers, Bleacher Report and Fusion also had Snapchat Discover channels. Each publisher created a new edition each day that was replaced every 24 hours. Individual editions comprised of five to 10 stories, and publishers could also include swipe up links taking users to larger pieces of content.
To make money, publishers paid Snap Inc. money to maintain a channel on the Discover page. Advertisers also paid Snap Inc. to show their ads within publisher stories, which generated ad revenue for Snap Inc. and publishers.
Sources outside of Snap Inc. announced that the company was in talks with major television and entertainment companies, including the NFL.
Snap Inc. began expanding beyond partnerships with media platforms and secured Snapchat Discover partnerships with NBC, ABC, Turner, and A+E Networks. As of March 2017, Snap Inc. features more than 40 different partners on Snapchat Discover.
Users can access the Snapchat Discover feature by opening the Snapchat app on a mobile device and swiping right twice to the official Discover page. There three types of Discover content can be found.
1. Our Stories
Our Stories is a form of Snapchat Discover content which compiles submissions from Snapchatters around the world. Snap Inc. employees curate the submitted content to create a cohesive story surrounding a specific event or location.
For instance, Snapchat recently created an Our Story centered around the event of college midterms. Students from colleges and universities around the U.S. submitted photos and videos of themselves studying, stressing, and dreading upcoming exams.
Geofilters like Dartmouth College and the University of Colorado Boulder were also used to identify the schools students attended. Snapchat selected and edited the submitted content to create a narrative around the event, which was available on the Discover page for 24 hours.
2. Publisher Stories
Publisher Stories is a form of Discover content that various publishers and TV networks create in partnership with Snapchat. Outlets such as Vogue, The Economist, and ESPN maintain channels on the Discover page and publish daily editions that disappear after 24 hours.
Each edition is comprised of multiple Stories which often contain how-to guides, swipeable links to website pages, and breaking news stories optimized for viewing within the app.
The men’s fashion magazine GQ is one publisher in partnership with Snapchat. GQ’s daily editions primarily consist of style guides, intel on the latest menswear trends, and swipeable links to recent articles. Notably, the publisher uses images and text, but rarely video content on Discover.
The last type of Discover content is Shows. Similar to Publisher Stories, outlets partner with Snapchat to maintain a channel on the Discover page. However, instead of publishing a daily edition that consists of text, images, and/or limited video, the channel will publish a video segment.
The television Network A+E Networks, which owns Lifetime, History, and other channels, is one outlet that has seen significant success using Shows. A+E created an original short-form video series specifically for Discover Shows called, “Second Chance” that averages 8 million viewers each episode. Another show, “The Rundown” by E! News averages 8 million views each episode as well.
Much of the current news surrounding Discover deals with the changing ways outlets are using the feature. In August 2017, the news outlet CNN replaced its Discover channel, which had previously been comprised of a combination of text, images, and video clips with a news segment called “The Update.” The news segment is made exclusively for Snapchat, disappears every 24 hours and spans between three to five minutes. It appears that Snapchat is encouraging its Discover partners, particularly those that are TV networks or news providers, to adopt a video segment style.
Not only is Snapchat leaning into video, the genre of Discover Shows is also changing. In the past, Discover Shows primarily fit into the TV genres of documentary, reality television, and news. For example, the E! News show, “The Rundown” appears on Discover twice a week and is a video segment on the latest entertainment industry news.
In late October, it was announced that Snap Inc. would partner with NBCUniversal to make scripted shows on Discover, a departure from the video content that has characterized the feature. Perhaps Snap Inc. is looking to keep its young demographic engaged and capitalize on the growing online streaming trend.
Snap Inc. also recently announced a partnership with college newspapers on Discover. According to sources, Discover will initially start by featuring content from UC Berkeley, Texas A&M, Syracuse University, and the University of Wisconsin on a joint “Campus Publisher Story.” Notably, the content will be “geoenforced” so that users must be physically at one of the schools to view the Discover channel. 63% of Snapchat users are between the ages of 13 and 24, and the college newspaper partnership presents a new way for Snap Inc. to reach college-aged students who fall its dominant demographic.
The future of Snap Inc. is uncertain. Discover gives the company a means to monetize, and its increasing focus on young users, online video streaming, and social media as a source of news bodes well for the feature. However, it remains to be seen whether audiences will truly buy into Discover as a video platform.
On August 9, 2017, Facebook announced Watch, a feature that allows users to view television shows on mobile, desktop, laptop, and on one’s home television using the Facebook video for TV app. The feature sounds a lot like Shows on Snapchat Discover, except with several more viewing options. Comparably, Snapchat users can only access Snapchat Discover through the Snapchat mobile app. YouTube Red also includes original scripted shows, which can be watched on mobile, desktop, and through YouTube TV.
Social media platforms like Facebook and YouTube offer similar news and video content to Snapchat Discover. Therefore, it’s difficult to identify what factors, if any, will compel audiences to choose Snapchat Discover over other social media sites that offer similar content with a greater number of viewing options.