Thrillist is building a six-person Snapchat team from scratch

Platforms require publishers to master new skills. One of the newest: building a Snapchat content team from scratch — and quickly.

Men’s lifestyle publisher Thrillist is one of those publishers, and it is building a six-person Snapchat crew to produce the types of videos of events, festivals and city guides it’s known for online. Thrillist hasn’t had an active personal account on Snapchat yet, but it wants to have one up and running by the end of summer with daily content.

“Whenever you do something new like this, it’s really important to understand your brand. It’s got to be Thrillist on that platform,” said Eric Ashman, Thrillist’s president. That’s why they put David Infante, the No. 3 employee at the company who clearly understands the editorial voice, in charge of founding the Snapchat channel.

Thrillist is going to Snapchat without the benefit of being a partner of Discover, the exclusive section of the app for select publishers. Discover comes with heavy production demands and the need to generate a minimum amount of ad revenue for the platform, however.

Thrillist sees a private channel as a testing ground for what it could do if Snapchat were to expand Discover or present other formal publishing programs, Ashman said. For now, Thrillist wants to capture a piece of Snapchat’s 10 billion daily video views for its own branded content deals by eventually including the channel in its advertising packages.

New York City-based Thrillist blends local city guides, entertainment, and food, drink and culture stories into one heavily branded digital experience. It’s chased platform riches wherever they present themselves, most recently turning its attention to Facebook Live video.

“Publishing into Snapchat each day, with individual 10-second video pieces but in a story narrative, that’s different than a two-minute video that stands on its own on Facebook,” Ashman said.

Infante is looking to fill six Snapchat spots — two producers, two editors and two illustrators. The Snapchat team will be completely separate from the rest of the video department, which has 35 people who produce for platforms like Facebook Live and other digital video projects.

One challenge to building a Snapchat team is that it’s so new that no one has had much experience doing it. Thrillist is looking for producers and editors who know how to tell stories through video and graphic designers who could make the most of Snapchat’s artistic features — filters, lenses and drawing tools.

Snapchat presents logistical and technological challenges, as well. All the content creation — videos and photos — is done on a phone, inside the app, which makes editing tricky. There also are limited ways to promote accounts inside the app. People have to know the exact username — in this case, “Thrillist” — to follow them.

The difficulty of being discovered, creating consistently and measuring the impact of all that effort has deterred many brands from setting up personal Snapchat accounts, said Chad Martin, director of social media at VML.

“It’s really tough to run a Snapchat channel. You need a lot of content, and you need a lot of investment,” Martin said. “Publishers have built-in reach, so it’s an interesting play for brands to partner with them.”

Snapchat has never solidified a policy on publishers getting paid to post brands’ content on their own channels. However, celebrities like D.J. Khaled and Kendall Jenner are making big money mentioning brands on Snapchat.

It’s unclear how far Snapchat will let publishers go to make money off the platform before it wants a cut. Ashman said that’s why Thrillist is joining now, expecting it to develop a more robust publishing platform.

“We want to be there when they are ready for that conversation,” Ashman said. “Snapchat is looking for publishers that create consistently great content. Thrillist wants to demonstrate what it can do.”

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