The U.K.’s favorite tabloid is launching on Snapchat Discover today as it adds another notch to its post-paywall platform strategy.
While much of the engagement on Snapchat is outside of Discover, that is where the ad dollars are, so it’s where media brands are setting up shop. Discover now has some twenty media partners, up from eleven at launch, including Vice, National Geographic, and Cosmopolitan.
Derek Brown, head of strategy at The Sun, is confident the publisher can add value where others can’t. “When we started this I had a good look at what everybody else was doing and I wasn’t convinced people were using the platform as well as they could be,” he told Digiday. “My rule for Snapchat is the swipe down should be just as intriguing and colorful and bright and the top snap,” he said. Some Discover partners front load a top snap with engaging visuals, only to cut and paste a Web article underneath when users swipe down.
Snapchat tries to avoid too many Discover partners in the same category, such as sport or female lifestyle. The Sun promises to not simply replicate the paper onto Snapchat, instead covering more positive, uplifting news and celebrity gossip with that British self-deprecating sense of humour.
The Snapchat editions will be highly visual by necessity. Each day will feature the best pics from the Internet from yesterday, (“we check Imgur so you don’t have to”); paparazzi pics of the day, (“people just want the images and the location”); vertical videos, (“we were really excited about the “Doctor Strange” trailer so we recut it into a vertical video to fit”) and interactive polls (readers send in whether the grimacing emoji is a happy or awkward face).
It’s a recipe that Brown is confident will prove popular. “From the off I want the unique users to be in the decent hundreds of thousands, and then grow this number every day.”
The Sun will start by posting 12 snaps in each edition, seven days a week, at 6 a.m GMT. This gives it a head start on other media brands that publish around noon in time for when the U.S. wakes up. In fact keeping this focus on the U.K. audience is something The Sun is keen to maintain. User testing has shown there’s an appetite for the U.K. reality TV stars, “Geordie Shore’s” Vicky Pattison or “The Only Way is Essex’s” Mario Falcone, that wouldn’t get coverage in other outlets. More local advertising and publisher partners is also something agencies have been keen to see too.
In three months Brown has built a team of 12 people, two of which are interns, under Snapchat editor Sophie Tighe. They boast skillsets that have previously never been needed in the newsroom, particularly in motion graphics. All of which adds up to a costly investment for the paper.
“We’ve done a lot of soul-searching about whether it’s worth us being on this platform,” said Brown. “I’m not even convinced that the Discover platform has proved its point of being something really monetizable yet. It’s like all these platforms. I don’t think anyone has stood up and said ‘by the way we’re making loads of money on Snapchat.’ Clearly there’s a massive brand building opportunity here for people who don’t read the paper or go to our site. But we want to make money out of this, we’re still a business.”
Gaming companies 2K Games and Activision are advertising partners at Tuesday’s launch, with more agencies getting involved after the first two weeks. But not all brands are ready to create for Snapchat’s formats, that’s where Brown’s Snapchat team can assist. “Advertisers have said to our commercial team that they need a longer lead times to get their head around the format,” he said, “so for those who are unsure I’ve extended the olive branch and said we’ll make the ads for them.”