Why Snapchat Discover will Change Publishing

Publishers love Snapchat Discover — for a good reason.

Feb 20, 2015 · 4 min read

Snapchat recently unveiled Snapchat Discover, a way for select publishers to share video content to users.

Snapchat, valued at $19B, has no problems getting new users. Their main focus right now is finding revenue streams. While it’s still early, it looks like Discover is gonna be a big deal.

The Publisher, the Platform, and the $$$

There’s been some great writing on the blurring line between platforms and publishers. Innovative websites like Buzzfeed are finding ways to distribute native content across the web, relying more on social media and less on their own website. Some have even entertained the idea of normal websites (like Buzzfeed.com) becoming obsolete, and everyone consuming nearly all their media on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, etc.

Companies like Buzzfeed and Vox Media are publishing some content exclusively on social sites like Facebook and seeing promising results. The problem is, if the majority of your audience is seeing your content exclusively on Facebook and YouTube, how do you make money? Snapchat Discover’s answer is sponsored content.

It took way too long to find this ad

Discover ads aren’t that intrusive. You can skip an ad by swiping. These ads will keep getting smarter as Discover matures, but what I find unique is the revenue split. If an advertiser wants an ad on Discover, they go through the publisher, not Snapchat. However, Snapchat gets an undisclosed portion of the money the advertiser pays for the ad.

With the Discover system, Snapchat is incentivized to deliver the best experience to get users coming back to Discover so more advertisers hop on board, and publishers are incentivized to find advertisers and publish great content.

In other words, Snapchat has found a way for the publisher AND the platform to get paid for showing ads.

New Controls That Make Sense

To start watching Discover content, you have to go to the 4th tab on Snapchat and tap on a channel to get started. Unlike a regular snap, you don’t have to tap and hold to continue viewing content.

I thought that Snapchat shouldn’t try to retrain its users to use a different type of controls to view content. However, after using Discover for a while I realized how annoying it would be to use Snapchat’s typical tap-and-hold control system with this kind of content. The new controls make sense for the content they’re displaying.

Discover is all about interactivity, not just passive consumption. That’s what makes it more than just a TV in your pocket. You can move between stories in a single swipe, and between publishers in a swipe and a tap.

Discover’s unique layout is conducive to skipping around. You get to decide whether or not to dive deeper into a story, and switching publishers is easy. Snapchat rewards your short attention span.

The Website Fades

Follow me: @SomewhatJustin

When I scroll through Twitter, I’m seeing links from a variety of sources. In fact, there’s little need for me to visit my favorite websites like TheVerge.com or WIRED.com because their content is showing up in my timeline.

Snapchat is doing something similar. If you flick down and tap once, you’re already looking at a different publisher’s content.

What this means for publishers is that they are not going to be able to rely on brand name loyalty as much. While baby boomers may have tuned to the 7:00 news on NBC every night like clockwork, millennials can thumb through videos, images, and articles from dozens of sources in a matter of minutes and not even think twice about it.

Snapchat Exclusives

Along with the publishers that it showcases, Snapchat has a channel of its own. In fact, it launched its own original series, Literally Can’t Even. While initial reports say it’s pretty awful, I doubt this will be Snapchat’s last stab at original content.


Easily the most engaging experience for me on Snapchat Discover was Motherboard’s Snapchat Discover exlcusive on a Chinese Bitcoin mine. For 24 hours, you could only find that video on Snapchat Discover (now it’s on YouTube). I ended up watching the entire video and enjoying the experience.

Snapchat’s main focus with Discover should be getting the best content onto their platform as possible. If Discover gives me better content than browsing whatever.com, you bet I’m going to use it more often. I’d love to see a Buzzfeed channel, but the deal fell through — which is a shame considering the overlap in audiences.

Paradigm Shift

Either way, Snapchat is going to influence how we consume media tomorrow. Considering Snapchat’s size, audience, and demographics, they’re in an excellent position to do so. Snapchat’s approach seems to be making publishers happy, so we’ll just have to see how well Snapchat can keep users happy and coming back for more.

Justin Fowler

Written by

Find me on Twitter @SomewhatJustin. Product Manager at Upswing.

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