For Sweet, the day starts and ends with Snapchat.
Introduced a year ago, Sweet is a partnership between the messaging app and Hearst, and was the first publication to launch directly on Snapchat. Ross Clark, vp and general manager of Sweet, leads an edit staff of 25 that churns out 12 to 14 stories a day, a modern spin on lifestyle and service. (Recent editions offered mobile phone hacks and tips on how to read books faster.)
Not being tethered to an existing publication gives Clark and his team the freedom to focus on producing the best possible content for the platform. It’s also a lot of work.
“If you’re on other platforms and have a Discover channel, a lot of people are using content that’s run on site and reformatting it for Snapchat,” Clark said. “Everything we’re doing is original to Snapchat. It allows us to think about our content through that specific lens. And it’s also a challenge because we’re doing everything from the ground up and we don’t have anywhere to pull content from.”
To pull it off, the edit team works on stories three weeks in advance. Working out of the 11th floor in Hearst Tower, they’re roughly evenly split between visual- and text-centric staffers, and they collaborate to figure out how to make the best use of the sight, sound and motion that Snapchat affords. The past year has been one of learning what works. Stories that do especially well are ones that encourage interaction, such as a first-person essay on lipstick that invited people to respond; and a quiz about song lyrics that people could share with their friends. Themed editions on topics like music and books have also been popular, so Sweet is doing more of those.
Sweet averages 1 million viewers a day, and beyond the daily user figure, Clark looks at different metrics for each story, depending on whether it’s meant to be read all the way through, shared or screen-shot. Here’s how he spent a recent day, lightly edited:
6:43 a.m.: Wake up, open Snapchat and read today’s edition of Sweet. Our title story is “How to Get the Best Sleep of Your Life” which kind of makes me want to go back to sleep. Instead, I send a few snaps to friends (got to keep your streaks going), then jump in the shower.
8:11 a.m.: Swing by Balducci’s in the ground floor of the Hearst Tower. I get the same thing for breakfast every morning: A large coffee and a Siggi’s yogurt.
8:20 a.m.: Snap the new Christmas tree in the Hearst Tower lobby before heading up to Sweet’s offices.
8:30 a.m.: Put the finishing touches on a proposal for a potential advertising partner this afternoon. “United States of Sweet,” a five-part themed edition celebrating America over the July 4 holiday and GE Appliances-sponsored, was just nominated for a Digiday Video Award.
9 a.m.: Meet with LeEco, a Chinese content and device company, to learn more about their plans for 2017.
9:45 a.m.: Jet across 57th Street to offices of Sacks & Co, an entertainment PR firm, for a special advance preview of The XX’s new album “I See You,” which comes out in January. I’m a huge, huge music fan and this is one of the records I’m most excited for next year. We featured the new single “On Hold” in one of our Friday “Best New Music on Spotify” columns and are brainstorming some cool stuff to do with the band next year.
10:21 a.m.: This record is tremendous. I put together a holiday-themed advertising proposal for a TV network and shoot it over to the ad sales team.
11:13 a.m.: Run back across 57th street to Hearst Tower.
11:30 a.m: First round of ordering tomorrow’s edition. We are doing our first ever gift guide pop-up, Sweet Gifts. It’s a top-snap only, two-day long gift guide pop-up that’s stuffed with amazing gifts, 75+ on Day 1 and 85+ on Day 2. I’m asking Santa for a private Frank Ocean concert ($150,000), a Roli Lightpad Block ($180) and a pair of Sad Ghost socks ($12).
11:40 p.m.: I pause to snap Central Park (where the trees are turning to winter) out of my office window with our new pair of Spectacles.
12:17 p.m.: Scarf down lunch from Semsom, one of the new restaurants in [the subway mall] Turnstyle. They have these great, simple bowls. I get the same chicken, brown rice, hummus, baba ganoush and veggies bowl every time. Creature of habit.
12:30 p.m.: I have two back-to-back interviews with industry press to share the details of our gift guide.
1:45 p.m.: Pop downstairs to meet with the video team to review a special video we’re putting together for an advertising pitch.
2:05 p.m.: Weekly check-in call with Moxie Communications, Sweet’s PR firm. We run through our plan for the rest of the year.
2:30 p.m.: Email catch-up blitz.
3:00 p.m.: Weekly meeting with Troy Young, my boss and the president of Hearst Digital. Run through our checklist, discuss some big ideas for 2017, then turn to more important issues: His family’s epic Thanksgiving mannequin challenge.
3:46 p.m.: Final review and ordering of Day 1 of Sweet Gifts with the team. We have 75 snaps to get through, so it takes a while. The issue looks amazing! I’m so excited and proud of what the Sweet team has created.
4:37 p.m.: Email catch-up, Round II.
6 p.m.: Call with Julian Jacobs and David Anderson at UTA to discuss a few talent programs we’re thinking of for 2017.
6:33 p.m.: Run to Equinox at Columbus Circle to get a quick workout in. No matter how busy I am, I always make a point to exercise every day. I come up with some of my best ideas while running. I run three miles on the treadmill, catching up on some new music — new Flume EP and Childish Gambino.
7:43 p.m.: Review first annual Sweet Gifts pop-up one final time. Last minute tweaks to tile image for tomorrow. My Google search history is embarrassing — “Bella Hadid Christmas,” “celebrities opening Christmas presents” and a few others I’m not including here.
8:11 p.m.: Leave office. Grab some Italian food at a restaurant near my office.
9:17 p.m.: Head downtown for a few drinks with my friends Paul Laskow and Xiyin Tang. I get a glass of red wine. Paul is director of operations at the food start-up Maple, and Xiyin is an entertainment lawyer. We discuss the future of music streaming.
11:03 p.m.: Home. I (finally!) turn off my phone. I like to read in bed for at least an hour with no distractions. Tonight I’m reading Joan Didion’s “The Year of Magical Thinking,” which is probably not the book you want to read right before you go to bed.
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