Snapchat Discover publishers see viewership drop by a third after platform tweaks

For Snapchat Discover media publishers, the platform giveth and the platform taketh away.

Shortly after Snapchat tweaked its Stories page to move Snapchat Discover content closer to the bottom of the page — below stories posted by your friends — multiple Discover publishers saw daily viewership drop. Two Discover publishers said they noticed about a 33 percent drop in daily viewers after the change, which was made in October. Two other Discover channels also had viewership decline following the changes but said the percentages were much smaller.

“Since changing the positioning of the featured content on the stories page, the number of daily active Snapchatters on Discover has continued to grow,” said a Snapchat spokesperson in a statement.

For the Discover media partners that saw a drop, it did not come as a surprise, as many speculated that the change would have an adverse effect on how many people visited Snapchat Discover daily. While Snapchat Discover has its own section on the app, it requires users to swipe right twice to access it, which is why the placement of Discover channels at the top of the Stories page — which requires only one swipe — became such an important gateway for publishers.

“We expected there to be less discovery [of content] because now you’re not getting people who saw a headline and clicked on it because it was higher up in the UI,” said an executive at one Discover publisher.

Not all Snapchat Discover publishers said they lost viewership. The fifth Discover partner Digiday spoke with said its “core” viewership has remained relatively flat since Snapchat moved Discover below the fold. This number is the base number the publisher expects to get on any given day. After Snapchat redesigned Discover earlier in the year to feature headline tiles instead of circular logos, viewership has become more volatile with daily unique viewers spiking or plummeting by as much as 200 percent on any given day, the publisher said.

“When it comes to a loyal audience, the unique-visitor number is the most dynamic number we have,” said an executive at this Discover publisher. “That can change day to day depending on the headline, but there’s a floor to it. That’s our base number — the one we can count on. We’re focusing on how to build off of that.”

Other Discover media partners echoed the sentiment, stating that they’re focused on stats like repeat audiences rather than the day-to-day unique viewers. Two Discover publishers said 50 percent of their audience comes back at least five days a week.

When Snapchat redesigned how Discover channels were presented, the app also made it possible for users to subscribe to individual channels. One benefit of getting people to subscribe is that the Stories page now has a separate area for subscriptions.

“The advantage has quickly moved to Discover partners with bigger subscriber numbers, because then you’re showing up based on the algorithm.” said an executive at a Discover publisher.

If there are real frustrations among Discover publishers about Snapchat’s constant changes to the platform, most are choosing to play coy.

“When we go to these platforms, we know what we’re getting into. We’re used to them, at any given moment, changing something,” said an executive at a Discover publisher.

“If anyone’s complaining that Discover got pushed down in favor of organic stuff, my response to that is: A few months before that, they made a huge change by including tiles and headlines, which was a huge help in terms of getting more viewers and us having more control over the content,” added another.

Indeed, in a presentation Snapchat sent to Discover media partners after the tile-focused redesign, the platform said daily viewership for the median Discover channel had doubled from 500,000 to 1 million.

And to be fair, daily viewership, for at least one Discover publisher, is slowly on the rebound. After losing a third of its daily viewers, one of the publishers said it has been able to “claw back” roughly half of that audience. “Though, I don’t think we’ll ever fully get back to where we were,” the executive added.

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