“This is not social media.”
So says Snapchat’s end of January blog post announcing the launch of the app’s newest feature, Discover. They’re right—the news platform is a far cry from the social media beginnings of the increasingly valuable app.
Discover is one part magazine, one part TV, and it’s all conveniently located on your smartphone screen. Brands and publishers distribute articles and videos in digestible bites specially made for Snapchat’s unique temporary and mobile format. The content is a blend of previous media formats—video, long-form, photos, and more. It’s one that’s better experienced than described; when you navigate to your first multimedia article on the platform, Snapchat’s vision of the future of mobile content will start to make sense. If you don’t want to give it a try yourself, this video from Phandroid will walk you through it:
If you’ve dismissed Snapchat as just another social media app for millennials, Discover means that it’s time to start paying attention. Here’s what you need to know.
1. Major brands are participating
Twelve channels are featured on Snapchat’s Discover page. So far, they are CNN, Comedy Central, Cosmopolitan, Daily Mail, Snapchat, ESPN, Food Network, National Geographic, People, Vice, Yahoo, and Warner Music.
And that’s not all—advertisers are jumping on board, too. Recently the Daily Mail’s channel was sponsored by T-Mobile, and two T-Mobile branded videos were mixed into the content stream. The Comedy Central channel was recently sponsored by McDonald’s. The ads can be swiped away just like any other video or article that doesn’t look interesting to the user.
A few brands are even creating branded content series, such as AT&T’s upcoming “SnapperHero.” According to The Verge, the show will feature famous YouTube and Vine stars, and will use crowdsourcing to help determine its direction. It’s a bold idea that seems to align with the prevailing thought on how to reach millennials (namely through Snapchat, YouTube stars, and fan interaction), so the results should be watched closely.
2. The content disappears forever after 24 hours
Each channel is refreshed every 24 hours with new content. That means the three videos from today will go away forever tomorrow. You never know what the content will be, and you don’t have any way to access the old content. You can still access the current Discover content as much as you’d like over the 24 hour period, in contrast to a normal “snap” from a friend—which can only be watched once.
In comparison to a feed like Twitter or Facebook, where people tend to scroll through endless amounts of information as quickly as possible, Discover features a nice balance of content for the time-strapped. The content can be quickly digested, and it’s curated to a few select pieces. When you’re done reading those pieces and watching the videos, you’re done. There’s no unread newsfeed nagging at you and no reason to visit the app again until tomorrow.
3. The content is short
Discover features both articles and videos, but the length of the content remains consistent: short and sweet. The articles are heavy on the images and light on the text. The videos hover around two minutes in length.
This is the kind of content you can consume when you have a few minutes to kill on the bus, between classes, or while you’re in the bathroom (come on, we all do it!).
4. The content is varied
The content on Discover is a mix of how-to articles, silly listicles, infographics, videos, quotes, news articles, photo round-ups, animation, recipes, horoscopes, and audio. Every piece of content—even articles—have a teaser-like opener that includes music, video, or some animation to draw readers in.
5. The content selection is limited
We’re talking as little as two to five pieces of content for each channel. The Daily Mail recently posted 15 pieces of content plus two sponsored videos from T-Mobile, but most brands seem to be sticking to a “less is more” mantra.
6. The content is not being pushed out to a feed
Discover is different from the LIVE feature, which appears in your Snapchat Stories page (the page where all your friends leave updates). Both are permission-based—you don’t have to watch unless you want to—but users must seek out the Discover page within the app. Some users might not even know it exists yet.
7. Discover uses easy swipe navigation
Swipe left to get the next piece of content, swipe up to read more, swipe down to get back to the home page, and repeat. Just like the popular dating app Tinder, Snapchat is sticking to the simple swipe throughout its Discover channels. No clicks here.
8. You can’t share, like, or comment on the content
Say what? Yes, I’m serious. When you watch or read something on Discover, there’s no way to interact or engage with it. No way to make it viral. No way to share it with your friends. And no traffic being driven to your website. As mentioned in their debut blog post, Snapchat explained that, “We count on editors and artists, not clicks and shares, to determine what’s important.”
9. Celebrities are getting involved
Madonna premiered her new single, “Living for Love,” on Snapchat Discover earlier this month. I watched Kelly Clarkson’s new single, “Heartbeat Song,” for the first time on Discover. Snapchat’s Literally Can’t Even show recently featured ’90s heartbreaker Andrew Keegan—oh yeah, and it’s written by and starring Steven Spielberg’s daughter. Comedy Central is taking their most popular shows, like Adam Kroll’s The Kroll Show, and creating new content for the app featuring its stars.
Snapchat isn’t just for friends anymore.
10. The content is cleverly designed for the mobile screen
The Snapchat app is accessed from smartphones exclusively, which means small vertical screens. The teaser-like openings of each piece of content are well-designed for mobile; the bright and large images capture the user’s attention while also informing them of the content contained in the piece itself.
Video creators are also getting creative and more savvy when it comes mobile screens with Discover. Snapchat’s Literally Can’t Even show takes a comic book-like design approach, with a split screen that can show two character’s reactions at once, two angles on a scene, and so on. The show itself has received mixed reviews, but its innovative format is a promising take on the possibility of mobile-only shows—something that, like Snapchat itself, once seemed crazy, but now appears to be more viable than ever.
But the content on Snapchat is being viewed—a lot. Snapchat’s “Our Story” clips, which are crowdsourced conglomerations of themed snaps from users, appear on the Stories page for 24 hours and draw more viewers than popular TV shows. According to Gigaom, a recent Snowmageddon Our Story was watched by 25 million people—that’s the same number of people who tuned in to watch the Grammy Awards this year.
It’s still too early to tell whether Discover will pull these same numbers, though according to one tech columnist the numbers during the launch period were “huge.” If you haven’t discovered Snapchat already, it looks like it’s time to start.