Weeks ago, everyone opened their Snapchat application to discover some pretty radical changes. While too many people are focused on the fact that the "Best Friend" category is gone, meaning you can no longer look over your friend's shoulder to see who they've been exchanging photos with, Snapchat not-so-quietly introduced a feature that could fundamentally shift the way we consume news on mobile devices: Snapchat Discover.
The Discover feature allows you to select from a menu of outlets, including CNN, Yahoo! News, and National Geographic, and see short videos or graphics about news stories, all curated and produced by the outlet. If you break it down, that represents two monumental steps forward for mobile news consumption. First, outlets are producing bite-sized visual content designed for mobile. Second, it means Snapchat has found a way to negotiate content oriented deals with some of the world's biggest content creators. Let's unpack those one at a time.
These new short videos are a relatively new development in mobile media. They're not only short and snappy, but they're highly visual and they have the "what else" factor; if you like your short snippet, you can scroll down and get more relevant content. That's how mobile media consumption works. Users want a quick, enticing preview followed by the option to delve further (but not the requirement to do so). Third-party companies have been working to convert news into this mobile-friendly package for a while now, some news-summarizing apps even convert stories into stock video for you (like Wibbitz), but those are all third party attempts to convert content that they did not produce. Those summarizers have the right idea for how mobile users want their news, and now the actual media outlets are recognizing the importance of the mobile market in a whole new way. A quick series of sideways swipes through stories in Snapchat Discover will show you that the production value of these videos and graphics is quite high. Even though a lot of it consists of footage the outlet will have already produced for different purposes, the simple act of packaging it in this mobile friendly format seems to be the logical next step for mobile news consumption, and in a move that's hard to believe, it seems that the oft-derided Snapchat got the leg up.
The second issue is one we have far less information about, but is arguably equally important. In order to get all of this exclusive mobile news content, Snapchat will have had to negotiate with big players in media and convince them to create content specifically designed for the Snapchat platform. It's no surprise that with Snapchat's user base it was possible, but think about how tough the sell must have been. So many of us had trouble explaining to our parents how Snapchat could possibly have been valued at $3 billion when all it does is allow you to send pictures that disappear, now imagine trying to explain to a media executive that the app could be a legitimate source for news. That's right, the app that was once used primarily for nude photos wants to be a legitimate source for news. Yet, Snapchat has negotiated some kind of contract that makes it exactly that: a useful source for easy to consume news content. Even the news-snobs in your social group will admit that the videos and graphics on Discover are entertaining and informative.
Well played Snapchat, well played.