An exercise in storytelling: Opportunities for publishers on Snapchat Discover

Publishers are concentrating their efforts on better reaching new and existing audiences, and a considerable part of this interaction now takes place through social networks or inside chat apps.

When Snapchat launched in 2011, its main appeal to users was that pictures and videos disappeared within 10 seconds, but news organisations found a way to use the platform to their advantage when the app introduced its Discover feature in January.

Discover originally launched with 12 publishers, including Sky News, Vice and CNN, and expanded at the end of August to feature additional media outlets, such as BuzzFeed and Mashable.

Alan Strange, senior producer at Sky News, said the broadcaster’s experience over the last six months has been a “really good exercise” in storytelling.

“It has allowed us to think carefully about the kind of stories that we want to tell, how we source them and the way in which we want to tell them to a new audience.”

There is no set style and we don’t have a big, single identity that we need to stick to – it’s a case of what story gets in on its meritAlan Strange, Sky News

He explained in a recent podcast that Sky News has taken different approaches to their Discover content, making the most of the platform’s room for flexibility and creativity.

Each story is headlined by a top ‘snap’, which is ten seconds long and can sometimes include just “a great piece of video that doesn’t need much explanation, context or depth”.

Users have also been able to dive more into stories by swiping up on the top snap to access the longer story behind the headline.

“With [these] drop-downs, we’ve taken some of the lessons that we’ve learned from our website, with galleries, lists, long form articles and authored pieces.

“There is no set style and we don’t have a big, single identity that we need to stick to – it’s a case of what story gets in on its merit,” he said.

Snapchat Discover is not designed to be used as a standalone news service for breaking news, bulletins or bite-sized updates, like Twitter, he said.

Instead, journalists and producers should “marry their experience with data and intuition” in order to create a good ‘daily issue’ on the platform.

One type of story that Sky News has found success with is its “tab writing share feature”, Strange explained, where users can caption a “newsy or interesting photograph” each day and share it with their friends, allowing them to “join in with a particular conversation”.

And quality video will “always win” on Snapchat Discover, he added. “Vertical video is one of the strengths of [Snapchat Discover], because it’s compelling and it allows us to play with and manipulate video footage in a way that you wouldn’t get on traditional platforms.”

It’s really opened up a new door to so many creative collaborations that there really wasn’t a place for at this level of exposureJeff Petriello, Mashable

A trickier aspect for publishers on the platform is measuring the much sought after engagement with the audience, but Strange said analytics should only serve to give a general overview of what stories perform well.

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