Snapchat is adding another publisher to its Discover feature with Vox.com set to come aboard Nov. 23. It’s not the first news publisher to get a channel on the messaging app, but like BuzzFeed and Mashable, it’s arguably more millennial-focused than CNN, which was among the first on Discover, and The Wall Street Journal, which is expected to be added soon.
With Discover, Vox (part of Vox Media) hopes to extend its reach with the audience that advertisers are salivating over; Snapchat claims to reach more than 100 million users, most of them young people. The publisher is known for its explainer articles in the form of “card stacks,” and its challenge will be to adapt the text-heavy articles to Snapchat, with its playful, quick-read sensibility, without dumbing them down.
“We had to be very realistic. People have a short attention span when they’re on their mobile device,” said Allison Rockey, Vox.com’s director of programming. “People think people are going to spend a lot of time reading articles and watching videos on the mobile device. In some cases, you do. But when you’re in an app like Snapchat, you know the way people are using it is when they’re standing at the bus stop. Having that constraint makes us cut out the fat.”
The solution Vox.com came up with was to distill the card stacks into definitions of terms, charts, maps and short videos of first-person experiences around a topic.
For a Snapchat feature about homelessness in San Francisco that it produced, Vox.com made 10-second videos with people struggling with joblessness and still image with voiceovers and text. For another, about gun violence, it created infographics designed for a 10-second loop. Other topics it will cover early on include gender identity and being transgender; living with HIV/AIDS; and Man buns: explained. Starbucks Doubleshot is the channel’s launch advertiser. It will have a logo running at the top of the main story and three videos interspersed in the content. Starbucks, not Vox, created the ads.
Discover is more resource-heavy than other new platforms such as Facebook Instant Articles or Apple News because it requires publishers to make content just for its format and upload it to Snapchat’s CMS. Like other publishers already on Discover, Vox has dedicated people just for Snapchat (in its case, three, with the plan of adding up to two more).
“It’s a lot of work,” Rockey said. “It’s definitely going to be a full-time thing for at least three people.”
The addition of Vox would bring to 17 the number of publishers on Snapchat, if no others are removed. More publishers means more content to sell to advertisers, but with each additional publisher, there’s a risk of each publisher’s impact being diluted.
Anita Walsh, associate director of social strategy at Horizon Media, said three publishers have maintained that their Discover audiences haven’t decreased and that Discover ad campaigns that her agency has placed continue to over deliver. But that doesn’t mean the concern isn’t there. As one publisher source fretted, “The sentiment is that it’s getting crowded.”