In this instalment of our Social Media Series we turn once more to Snapchat to consider the platform’s latest update: an interface adaptation that has seen the ‘Discover’ feature take centre stage. The move has sparked many questions about Snapchat’s future, along with a raft of criticism from some users. It is a clear attempt to monetise the app by promoting its advertising potential and thereby fulfilling CEO Evan Spiegel’s much publicised goal to launch Snapchat as a business, not just a medium for sharing pictures and videos with friends.
What is ‘Discover’?
Snapchat sells the Discover feature as “a way for publishers to tell great stories”. Leveraging its popularity in the face of a general decline of traditional media consumption by millennials, the platform has partnered with a range of carefully selected publishers to deliver native advertising likely to be of interest to its unique and highly engaged user core. In the UK, for example, the Discover feature contains content from publishers including Sky Sports, MTV, Mail Online, Cosmopolitan and Yahoo. Upon opening a Discover article, a story will be shared from that publisher. These stories do not look like classic video advertising, however: they feature exclusive brand-related content or videos in-keeping with the platform’s general style. For example, the Sky Sports Discover icon recently featured Lewis Hamilton drifting in a Mercedes. Users are able to share such stories or videos from the Discover page with their friends via Snapchat, and this sharing power is perhaps where the real potential for advertisers lies: the goal will be to create content that is so engaging that Snapchat users share it in the same way they would their share their own Snapchat stories.
Snapchat’s use of adtech for commercial success
The commercial logic behind increasing the prominence of Discover seems sound. Snapchat’s advertising income works on a fee-per-view basis, and Snapchat has just lowered this fee in the US to $20 per 1,000 views in an attempt to attract more advertising. Placing the Discover feature on the same page that users currently use to interact with friends drastically increases the visibility of the advertising. This move could be the key Evan Spiegel needed to finally unlock the potential he alone envisioned when he turned down Facebook’s $3 billion all-cash acquisition offer last year.
Are they alienating their millennial USP?
Reaction on social media to moving the Discover feature to the forefront of Snapchat has thus far been overwhelmingly negative. This begs the question: Is Snapchat’s focus on building their business through adtech alienating the very millennial generation they have relied on for their success? It should be noted at this stage that most social media platforms, especially Facebook, have had strong initial resistance to change to their interface without losing users. However, Snapchat have just removed their failed messaging service which was only launched this year, and there is a growing feeling that such a refreshingly simple idea is being needlessly complicated. Whether the new emphasis on Discover will successfully reach the millennials remains to be seen, and future developments on Snapchat’s adtech strategy will certainly make for interesting analysis.