It's been only a year since Snapchat launched its Discover platform, which gives its media brand partners, such as Cosmopolitan and People, a daily content channel on which to post "stories" to the über popular app. The mobile messaging service was recently valued at $16 billion and has 100 million daily users. Naturally, traditional publishing companies are intrigued (Cosmo EIC Joanna Coles even joined Snapchat's board recently), as they should be, even if they aren't Discover partners.
CEO and co-founder Evan Spiegel addressed how magazines and Snapchat can work better together at The Association of Magazine Media's American Magazine Media Conference in New York on Monday. In conversation with The New Yorker’s Ken Auletta, Spiegel explained that his company is in the process of "building an advertising business" and that, despite audience questions suggesting otherwise, Snapchat isn't a threat to magazines. "I don't think we hold a candle to any of our publishing partners." Spiegel sees the relationship as a unique and profitable partnership that he hopes to build in the future. Read on for seven pieces of advice and insight Spiegel shared about Snapchat's user preferences and how magazines can better attract them.
Snapchat users want to watch, not read
"When we look at desktops I think that the core defining feature… is that people tend to start their experience on desktops with text, so they enter a search query or they write a document. But mobile phones are much more about creating media and for us that means visual storytelling rather than text-based storytelling. And so for us we always start a story with a video and you can swipe up and read if you want to get more depth on an article, but we've really seen in the last year that video and visual storytelling is resonating."
Millennials are optimistic and recognize disingenuous behavior
"I think the reason why millennials are so optimistic is because they feel like they have a sense of choice that maybe prior generations didn't have. And arguably the thing that really defines millennials is that they are unbelievably good at detecting disingenuous behavior and they also feel they can exercise their right to choose."
Magazine brands shouldn't change to try to cater to millennials
"The biggest challenge we've come up against when working with folks is that oftentimes people want to change their brand so it appeals to whatever they think a millennial is. And so we talk to a lot of people who are like, 'How do we talk to millennials?' When really I think that our audience wants to hear from that brand. These brands are iconic, they've been around for a very long time, they're very good at storytelling... You don't have to dilute it for our audience. Our audience is looking for the Wall Street Journal, believe it or not. It just hasn't been presented historically in a very easy to access format, and we try to do that by removing all the friction from the stories."
Stay tuned for more Discover publishing partners with less content
"Today we launched a Vanity Fair edition to cover the Oscars and their Hollywood Issue and that's an example of how we're trying to accommodate publishers who maybe can't publish 20 videos a day, which is a lot of work, but still want to reach our audience and still have interesting stories to tell."
Advertising needs to hit a sweet spot between creepy and irrelevant
"On the creepy side: two days ago I damaged my sunglasses so I was looking for a new pair of glasses and for the last two days, every single page I go to has those glasses on them… But on the other side, an example of not really being known by a platform is someone who is 17 and [signed] up for a service and started receiving Alzheimer's ads. The goal always for our business is to make the Snapchatter feel understood... But for us, and I think it's a big difference for our platform, we also try to give users choice. If they see an ad and we screwed up and they got an Alzheimer's ad instead of an ad for Coca Cola, they can tap to say they're not interested."
Users might be able to shop through Snapchat in the future
"Our 3-D advertising has a feature where if you're really interested in something, you can just swipe up to learn more about it. And I think in the future that can really be a foundational way to drive purchases."
Users don't want more of the same content
"We found that [users] are really excited about reading and learning about lots of different things and so what we've done instead is made a home for publishers who have a unique editorial voice and are publishing on a consistent basis to kind of garner a following that way. It's not a topic-based following. It's really like a brand affinity, for example for Cosmopolitan... On one of our top performing channels, it wouldn't be unusual to see 60 percent of their reader base coming back five out of seven days a week. It's that sort of loyalty that we're interested in, not so much the black hole of the same content that you see on a lot of the Internet."