Snapchat Discover puts its users first – to an extent

by: Lucinda Southern on 05 August 2015

Snapchat realises just in time that Buzzfeed is more on the mark with its user base than Yahoo

Recent Snapchat Discover shake-ups indicate it both values its user-base’s preference while simultaneously is willing to forgo user experience for publisher and advertiser dollars.

Snapchat Discover launched January 2015, partnering with media outlets like CNN, Vice, Daily Mail, Cosmopolitan and People and allowing them to host up to 20 pieces of video and text content a day. Last week Snapchat redesigned its layout making Discover much more visible and above user’s personal Snaps – the ephemeral content they share with friends – in their feeds.

The redesign had always been on the cards according to CEO Evan Spiegel, who told Adweek the company’s initial placing was more inconspicuous in order to iron out any content problems before making it much more prominent.

While you can see Spiegel’s reason for pushing this content front and centre of the app will offer a more attractive prospect for advertisers, it has not gone down well with users, the 200 million monthly millennials advertisers are so keen to court.

Reports from the Guardian covered the backlash, stating that people were "rubbishy" Discover more generally. Business Insider also reported on the number of lower-star ratings the app recieved in Apple's App store off the back of its decision to place Discover and live events above other people's individual snap stories.

Although Apple’s App Store may not be the most accurate yardstick for the platform, Snapchat’s average rating before the design is only two and a half stars, and has since dropped to one and a half, (out of a possible five). It fares better among the Google Play community. Even so, the complaints range from users feeling frustrateted they can no longer hide Discover’s stories, to some fully not understanding the point of Discover. Spiegel and team need to keep in mind the reasons Snapchat is currently so successful with its audience.

Buzzfeed trumps Yahoo

In other ways Spiegel is making sure it is responding quickly to the demands of reader and user preference, carving it out as a much more agile content publisher than established players. Indeed, hosting publisher content on platforms gives a quick and obvious indication of what is being shared before having to delve into more complex metrics.

In this instance Snapchat has removed from Discover Yahoo and Warner Music Group and exchanged them for Buzzfeed and iHeartRadio.

Data from Global Web Index shows that more Snapchat users visited Yahoo (67%) than Buzzfeed (33%) during the last month. However, how this indexes against average internet users is more telling; Snapchatters are 1.5x as likely to visit Yahoo but they 3.8x as likely to visit Buzzfeed, (see image).

It seems Yahoo was getting eyeballs from Snapchat users, but overall this demographic wants the likes of Buzzfeed, and Snapchat is not shy of switching partners to better fit this profile even after several months. Existing partners would do well to bear this in mind.  

For publishers the benefit of using Snapchat has not yet been verified; key in hosting stories on social platforms is driving referrals and traffic back to the publisher’s site, this is not possible in Snapchat.

The reasons the platform ratchets 200 million monthly users are tied to its specificity, so many media outlets are having to make bespoke content from scratch for Snapchat, rather than simply copy and pasting existing material. As a result players like CNN and Daily Mail have their own Snapchat content specialist teams.

Publishers are investing heavily in content creation teams so they can sell ads against their stories. Snapchat’s user base is no doubt engaged, and quick to share opinion, and its new design should go some way in introducing them to what Discover actually is. As long as the platform continues to match its partners with the users then advertiser dollars shouldn’t fall on deaf ears.