Snapchat Discover, nice but flawed

For many news publishers it was a relief when Snapchat started to explore news distribution with the introduction of Snapchat Discover. Why a relief? There are not that many social networks who are willing to work with content creators and balance the feeding of the social masses whilst rewarding the people who create high quality content. Who else stands a chance of reducing the free news industry’s growing dependency on the Facebook newsfeed?

It appears from a news publishers perspective that Twitter wants to operate in a utopian version of the world. Where all content should be given away for free. Only the brave believe that by tweeting you will secure your financial future. Twitter runs the risk of turning into an echo chamber. An environment that resonates to the sound of post event reactions, rather than a source of high quality news content.

The walled garden known as LinkedIn is a peculiar network of professionals. Typically members are too scared for their future employment to make outlandish / entertaining posts. If LinkedIn was to be described as a colour, it started as shiny silver, but it’s looking pretty grey at the moment. The multitude of interest ’Groups’ within LinkedIn turn into areas where Business Development types hunt their next corporate prey or products and services are shamelessly promoted via ‘user’ content. Maybe LinkedIn is too proud to recognise the value professional content would add. It’s easy to see that the members of LinkedIn would enjoy (and benefit) from the content produced by the likes of The Times or WSJ. Unfortunately, there’s no way for the publishers to do this in a mutually beneficial manner.

If you’re a content creator then the most desirable situation is an array of equal social networks, who will work with you to distribute your content in a fair manner to the audience they have brought together.

That’s why ‘relief’ springs to mind when Snapchat Discover was announced. However, it’s not a slam dunk that Discover will succeed with it’s current approach to entice the fickle youth segment with professionally created content.

Snapchat Discover offers a simple news source grid that takes you into a handful of articles from each news source. As you can see from the collection of videos below, the initial loading and article teaser UX is attractive and captivating. Unfortunately the experience starts to deteriorate from that point onwards.

For example Sky News and Sky Sports appear to put minimal effort in at the weekends. Both news sources just provide a rather mundane set of quizzes. I’m not sure any news provider should make a KFC advert the most appealing piece of content in their limited set of articles.

It’s worrying to see the recent price drop ( $0.15 to $0.02) in the cost charged to advertisers for these video adverts. The cost reduction indicates that the ads are not returning enough to advertisers. If advertisers lose interest in Discover a vicious circle of decline is likely; the content providers will put less effort in and the overall experience deteriorates further.

However, if you are based in the US or have a particular penchant for US centric news, then both Yahoo! and the Daily Mail (I thought they were British?) are there to serve your news snacking need.

ps - if you are wondering. I had set the ‘Filter’ to my location ( UK ).

If you are looking for news related to your own continent then Discover is not the place for you.

Sports fans may think that the Bleacher Report looks like a good area to explore. However, it turns out to be just an aggregation of other companies content! In this particular example, video articles come across as rather clunky when compared to the super smooth video clip used for the article teaser.

This is its greatest flaw. Snapchat Discover could be a vibrant, video rich entertainment hub, overflowing with unique content that you want to share with people (who are not on Snapchat).

Finally you get to the normally beautiful National Geographic content. If you consider that one of the selling points of Discover, is the ability to graffiti the content with your own thoughts and graphics, then you have to wonder why Nat Geo is putting up articles about Wasabi. Of all the amazing things that Nat Geo covers, Wasabi on Snapchat does not really work.

Thus you get to the conclusion that the initial fast loading, dynamic content teaser is great, but the rest of the experience is lacking anything worth sharing.

There’s also the issue that none of the content is particularly fresh. The Sun for example had some UK Exclusives and current issues on their mobile app. None of this newer content appeared on Discover during Sunday.

Snapchat Discover needs a reboot as it’s missing a couple of opportunities:

  • how can you express your personal reactions and feelings about the news article you’ve just consumed
  • sharing news content with people outside of Snapchat. This also offers Snapchat other interesting opportunities
  • attract a greater variety of content providers who will provide original and entertaining content for the Snapchat generation
  • insist content providers supply content that is snackable
  • make the UX of the actual article and in article video as slick as the teaser

Come on Snapchat give it a go…

Image courtesy of Photopin.