Snapchat publishers weigh in on the pros and cons of Discover

Some publishers are all about Snapchat Discover, the section on the messaging app where digital media and TV networks have dedicated channels. With its prominent real estate, Discover has the potential to capture big audiences, which is why MTV relaunched its vaunted news program there.

Other publishers and brands — either by choice or by default — have sought exposure on the platform a different way, with free, personal accounts. They use these organic accounts as an extension of their newsrooms or marketing departments, and they don’t require as much production as Discover channels do.

Here are the key differences between the two that publishers and brands should know when they’re considering how to use the app.

How does each one work?
Publishers and brands can set up an account like any other user to build a following and share stories. Discover is an exclusive club, requiring higher production value than personal accounts. Discover publishers post interactive articles, photos, graphics and videos and experiment with special editions.

“Organic Snapchat does not do as well as Discover,” said Choire Sicha, director of platform partnerships at Vox Media, which has both a Discover channel and personal accounts for its verticals. “But personal accounts are a true labor of love and fun to experiment with, where our brands can express themselves in cool ways.”

How does a publisher get on Discover?
Snapchat has deals with 20 publishers, including Cosmopolitan, BuzzFeed and IGN, and Snapchat plays hardball with them. “They’re not messing around,” said a publisher source who has negotiated with the company. There are minimum guarantees for the amount of ad dollars a Discover partner must deliver — from as little as $500,000 over six months to as high as $5 million over a year, according to one source. The Information reported on the ad requirement earlier this month.

Snapchat’s attitude is that if a publisher can’t deliver on ads, it shouldn’t be on Discover. The app also has strict content rules about how much each publisher must create daily and how that content should look.

One benefit of a private account is that it allows publishers to experiment and learn what works for their audience, without the pressure of delivering a daily Discover product. Some publishers do both, operating private accounts while working with Snapchat on special pop-up Discover channels. Vanity Fair did this for its Oscars Hollywood issue.

How hard is it to run a Discover channel?
Discover partners can have anywhere from three to 10-plus people on a team. Publishers and brands tend to have fewer dedicated staffers for organic accounts. Taco Bell, for instance, has a six-person social media team that runs its accounts on Snapchat along with other platforms such as Facebook and Instagram.

The content requirements are “lightweight” for organic accounts, said Ryan Rimsnider, Taco Bell’s head of social media. “It’s up to the brand team to play with it and get to the core of what Snapchat is about and it’s not overly polished.”

OK, what’s the bottom line?
Discover publishers said there are startup costs to Snapchat channels, but once they’re rolling, there’s money to be made. Discover partners split ad sales with Snapchat on the video ads that run alongside their content. Non-Discover publishers can’t sell ads but hope the platform evolves to let them sell branded content produced for sponsors.

Discover has more visibility with some publishers, saying they get more than a million viewers a day. Cosmopolitan has said it averages 3 million. Organic accounts, by comparison, are known to reach tens of thousands of followers.

For its part, Taco Bell has 250,000 followers, but to get really big reach, as it did with its latest sponsored lens that was seen by more than 50 million people, it has to pay. Sponsored lenses can cost more than $700,000. The taco chain scored a hit with an animated lens that turned people’s faces into giant tacos on Cinco de Mayo.

“You can’t take Snapchat too seriously — that’s not what it’s meant for,” Rimsnider said.

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