Everyone and their dogs are talking about Snapchat, an impressive feat given that it’s a notoriously difficult app to explain. Words like ‘ephemeral‘ get thrown around, but they don’t seem appropriate for features like Discover.
Despite those labelling issues, Snapchat is an uncontested success story. It’s just overtaken Twitter in terms of daily active users – up to 150 million as of last week – and it has a userbase which appears to be deeply invested in its content.
As we noted in our trends article about the latest Mary Meeker presentation, it also has room for expansion and an impressive history of growth in the areas in which publishers are most interested.
Despite some rather suspect definitions of what constitutes a video ‘view’, those are still impressive figures, driven in no small part by the format.
Reuters predicts video will grow 14 times within five years and account for 70 percent of mobile network traffic. Reuters additionally reported that 54 percent (of 130 leading editors, CEOs and digital leaders) said deepening online engagement was a top priority, correlating directly to the use of video.
— Content Marketing (@LNRContentMktg) June 8, 2016
So it’s small wonder that research predicts the social app is set to overtake both Twitter and Pinterest in some other key metrics as well. From The Drum:
“Snapchat’s stateside user base will jump by 27.2 per cent to 58.6 million, outpacing Twitter which will have 56.8 million users in the US this year according to eMarketer.
“In addition to leapfrogging Twitter, the study suggests that Snapchat’s growth will also see it surpass Pinterest, which will end the year on 54.6 million US-based subscribers. This gap will further widen by 2020 when Snapchat will add 26.9 million users to reach a total of 85.5 million Americans.”
So with all those advantages – why isn’t Snapchat better for publishers?
Its flagship feature, Discover, which was launched with the explicit aim of driving users of the core photo feature to consume publishers’ content within the app, has lain fallow for the past couple of months. Despite some notable success stories – Cosmopolitan has trumpeted its favourable results – there aren’t many publishers sharing their results, much less their advertising revenue figures.
So news that Snapchat is making changes to its Discover feature are likely to be especially welcome for a few reasons. From The Verge’s excellent write-up of the changes:
“Cosmopolitan says it gets 20 million views a month from the platform — a significant number, but far from a smash hit, given how expensive it is for publishers to produce a daily show for Snapchat. (Content made for Snapchat cannot easily be put to other uses, thanks to Snapchat’s vertical-only video format.)
“Subscriptions will give Snapchat another metric for evaluating a channel’s success — to subscribe or unsubscribe to a channel, tap and hold during a story and dialog box pops up.”
So the redesign is in service of shoring up the revenue publishers get from Discover. However, in a case of one step forward, two steps back, it seems the redesign might actually exacerbate some of the existing issues with the feature.
Prior to the redesign Discover content was largely divorced from the photo sharing service on which the platform was originally based. TheNextWeb’s Brian Clark offers the opinion that the redesign does little to alleviate that feeling:
“Snapchat is an ephemeral source of raw and underproduced photo and video content with little reliance on text. Discover flips the script by being overly-reliant on text with a short teaser video (which is closer to a GIF) to entice users to click. It’s an RSS reader slapped on to the top of a platform made for short attention spans, and creativity.”
Additionally, the changes which prioritise Discover content actually risk harming its core proposition, as John Constine argues for TechCrunch:
“Since Snapchat splits the ad revenue from inside Discover channels with their publishers, it stands to earn money from driving them more viewership. But if it’s not careful, it could overrun user generated content with top-down Discover channels, making the app feel more like a billboard than a community.”
The core idea behind Snapchat – content tailored to the platform – and its impressive growth stats are certainly attractive to the publishers taking part in Discover. But the product still feels bolted on to the core proposition, and the latest changes do nothing to change that.