Snapchat Discover – an opportunity for publishers or a big white elephant?

For publishers looking to target younger audiences with content, social media may seem like an obvious solution. But the reality is that many established platforms are now the preserve of older people with the average age of the Facebook user, for example, now well into his or her 40s. 

Perhaps the most notable exception though is Snapchat. Its demographic is much, much younger. According to Comscore, 71 per cent of Snapchat users are under 34 years old and 45 per cent of them are in the 18-24 year old demographic.  

So when Snapchat announced in January a way for publishers to target users directly via its Discover platform it seemed like a logical move; both for the social media company keen to drive its revenue and for publishers keen to encourage uptake among younger users. So far eleven publishers (mostly US-based) have signed up to Discover which now sits at the top of each users stories list rather than only being accessible by an extra swipe across the screen. Most are producing around 5-10 ‘curated’ stories which are refreshed every 24 hours. 

Targeting teenagers

Partners include CNN, National Geographic, Vice and Cosmopolitan. “Snapchat is where a lot of our audience is,” Cosmopolitan’s editor-in-chief Joanna Coles told Digiday back in February. “I have two teenagers, and after seeing the connection they had with Snapchat, it became clear that this was a good idea for a partnership.” Cosmo’s Snapchat content, which it adapts from previously created content, is a mix of articles, video and original animations. “It’s a daily collection of our best stuff. It’s meant to be a lively, fun intro to Cosmo if you don’t know the brand,” Coles added. 

One company that is particularly keen on Snapchat is The Daily Mail. One of the most prolific of the early Snapchat publishers, its Snapchat editions are published at 3pm in the US when most kids are leaving school and include advertising from companies such as T-Mobile and Stride.  Although much of the content is similar to that on the website, it does include flashy animations, music and some exclusive video content.  “Among the pantheon of platforms, it’s the closest thing to a cable network. There’s actual programming involved here,” says The Daily Mail’s North America CEO Jon Steinberg. What’s more, The Daily Mail recently announced at the Cannes Lions festival that it was launching a new content agency in conjunction with Sir Martin Sorrell’s ad giant WPP and Snapchat themselves. Called Truffle Pig, the agency will produce a wide range of content for The Daily Mail and other publishers including infographics and GIFs, video and photography as well as offering social media management and audience development solutions. According to Steinberg, the venture will be an ‘evolution not a revolution’ of the way the content agencies work. “A truffle pig finds the rare and tasty,” he said. “With the need for story-driven marketing on our sites and those of other media companies, and new ad formats like Snapchat, brands need a truffle pig.”

How important Snapchat becomes as a platform for publishers and brands though remains to be seen with some early reports suggesting that Snapchat’s audience isn’t particularly interested in reading publishers’ content. Recently, for example, The Next Web, ran a story that suggested that Snapchat’s users seriously don’t like Discover – though admittedly this was based on anecdotal evidence rather than statistics. One user wrote “Can snapchat understand that I don’t want to “discover” anything”, while another said: “When will snapchat realize nobody likes discover.” However, with the pressure on from the investors for the social media platform to make money and with publishers keen to reach a younger audience, it’s fair to say that Discover is unlikely to disappear any time soon. 

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