To Peter Hamby, Head of Snapchat News, On the Future of Snapchat
My News Diet
I generally go to the New York Times, the Boston Globe, the Washington Post, and Vox. Otherwise, I follow most major news outlets on Twitter and Facebook, and find my news via those platforms.
I use the Discover feature occasionally. To be honest, I sometimes forget that it exists and only use it when I accidentally swipe to it. The first Discover channel I ever watched was Vice, which I loved purely because of the bizarre subject matter.
When I do watch them, I always find the subject matter interesting, and I enjoy the graphics, especially National Geographic’s. However, I don’t have much motivation to go out of my way to watch them. I think if the channels rotated, instead of having so many options always available, I would be much more likely to watch them. Alternatively, I’d love to know the subject of the story before watching it so that I can decide if I want to watch it or not. I tend to lose interest if it’s not immediately clear what the subject is.
I do think that Discover has the potential to be something that people visit every time they use Snapchat. Renaming it to something that makes the information sound urgent might help to draw in users — something along the lines of “Learn Something New Today” or “Today’s Scoop.”
Live stories are my favorite feature on Snapchat. I think that feature really transformed Snapchat from something private — time-bound photo messaging with your closest friends — to a vehicle for users to experience a city or an event in virtual real-time, in a way that traditional news media cannot. I particularly liked the Live Stories that featured cities all around the world, especially ones that aren’t considered to be popular travel destinations.
I am also enjoying Snapchat’s campaign and event coverage. I think Snapchat definitely has a market for covering breaking news. The advantage of being able to crowdsource video, geographically and in real-time, is an innovation that traditionally media companies have not been able to capture successfully.
I think there is a lot of debate about Snapchat’s future as a news source. Some argue that Snapchat does not provide enough comprehensive coverage of events or particular locations; however, I am often reminded that Snapchat is primarily an entertainment-focused social platform. In my eyes, the news feature on Snapchat right now is more of an entertainment-based complement to traditional news, rather than a primary news source in itself.
However, I can imagine a partner app — Snapchat Crowdsourced — to maximize the potential of Snapchat’s live platform. Activists could utilize the platform to share real-time information, and users could choose which locations or movements to follow based on their interests or involvement. This would modify Snapchat’s primary mission and control over their content, but I imagine that it could be an interesting avenue to explore, especially if Snapchat wants to continue to innovate what “news coverage” means.