Snapchat is a mystery to most older folks and a daily habit of many younger ones. Ridiculed in its early days as a teen app for sexting, news publishers have flocked to Snapchat’s digital newsstand, Discover, which was launched in 2015, in hopes of capturing a sought-after audience.
Audience data shows Snapchat has 158 million users, 100 million of whom are active every day and spend an average of 25 to 30 minutes per day on the app. Seventy-one percent of users are under 34 years old and about 70 percent are women. A recent study found that half of users who follow news outlets and/or journalists believe their presence on the app helps their overall credibility.
Discover has about 60 media partners, from MTV to Food Network to Vogue. While it would be difficult to make a case that following publishers on Discover could completely replace a news site or magazine, it is an interesting way to spread news in an engaging visual format.
Publishers still are trying to figure out what makes a Discover channel succeed, but there are no established rules, and no one can definitively say what makes one channel more successful than another. Generally speaking, many publishers incorporate a mix of news, features, videos, and games into their daily channels.
For the uninitiated, there are many guides to using Snapchat. For those who know the drill, CJR rounded up eight news channels you should check out on Discover:
The Wall Street Journal:
Normally considered a more traditional outlet for an older, business-savvy crowd, the Journal has made great strides in tailoring its content for Snapchat. Its Snapchat team creates stories on a wide range of topics catered to young professionals to high schoolers. Some recent offerings include a multi-slide package doling out advice on practices to save money throughout the college experience, and an article on how to tour the Galapagos Islands in style. Viewers can ultimately expect a condensed, easily digestible version of the Journal’s offerings that provides interesting facts and useful knowledge.
The New York Times:
As one of the newer publishers on Discover (the Times joined April 24), the gray lady is experimenting daily with article styles, story lengths, and videos. Following the success of The Daily podcast which averages about 600,000 downloads/streams per episode, the Times’s Snapchat channel is another avenue for quick news updates. Times representatives noted in interviews that most of its Snapchat content is repurposed from the website. They’ve also added some regular features such as a condensed five-point version of the daily newsletter, repurposed op-eds from the website, and a mini crossword puzzle. Here’s the Times explainer on how to find the paper on Discover.
An early adopter on Discover, Mashable is the queen of experimenting and making the most of Snapchat’s features. The reward is innovative and unique visual storytelling that engages its audience. While Mashable’s website covers a range of topics, on Snapchat the content is heavily geared toward its roots as a technology site. A recent edition of Mashable’s Discover channel focused on what iPhone users can expect from the upcoming iOS 11 update. With a notably bright-colored interface compared to other news outlets’ preference for neutral tones, the channel offers news alongside emojis, drawing, and games.
The central reason viewers should tune into National Geographic’s Snapchat Discover channel: stunning photography and videos, the same core expertise it has mastered on other platforms. James Williams, director of digital video for National Geographic, said in an interview with Digiday that there is a real learning curve in asking visual teams to produce vertical photos and videos—a break from standard practices to always shoot horizontal. They were stubborn at first, but it did not take long to realize horizontal wasn’t going to work. Snapchat’s layout is vertical, likely to accommodate for the way phones are naturally held, so users are not forced to turn devices to the side. The channel combines coverage of animals and nature with games and articles on other topics, and recently featured an interesting read-all about seagull mating.
Serving as an extension of the magazine and website, Essence’s channel covers “black girl beauty, news, culture, magic, and style.” A newer player to Discover (Essence joined in March), the channel mostly caters to young black women who are either about to enter college or already there. One recent edition focused on the struggles of curvy girls—from hard clothing to pull off to finding stores that carry work outfits for plus-size women. Some other features included ways to pull off all-white outfits this summer and instagram trends taking over the internet like backless, strapless bras.
To produce this daily channel, CNN relies on stories and coverage from its global network of correspondents. Sticking mostly to hard news, the channel incorporates quick updates with longer, relevant features while making great use of video and overlay text. Some of the most recent features include a story outlining the political chaos in the UK, a graphic of the White House with text overlay announcing Melania Trump’s official move, and a read on American citizens who decide to become terrorists.
Refinery29 is another outlet that joined Snapchat Discover in its infant days in late 2015. A self-described “modern woman’s destination for how to live a stylish, well-rounded life,” the site’s Snapchat content mixes graphics, bright colors, diagrams, explainers, listicles, and articles with lots of acronyms and the occasional cuss word. Catering particularly to teenage girls, Refinery29 uses its channel to educate and inform viewers in the simplest terms possible. Covering everything from what to know about birth control to the essential lipstick shades, this channel offers plenty of fun and interesting content.
The Washington Post:
When it joined the Snapchat Discover family in February, The Washington Post made some waves with a unique feature. While most channels are live for 24 hours and updated once a day, The Post is the first to incorporate breaking news—which means continuous updating and additions to its channels as stories develop. This came in handy recently, when The Post covered former FBI director James Comey’s testimony. Recent content has included a feature on crazy drug nicknames (the pill form of heroin mixed with Fentanyl is called Facebook), a story that checked in with survivors of the Pulse nightclub shooting one year later, and a short video explainer behind the scenes of Alderson Federal Prison Camp, the inspiration for the popular Netflix original series Orange is the New Black.