Inside Publishers' Early Experiments With Snapchat Discover

Publishers DiscoverThe most-cited reason Cosmopolitan, CNN, People, Yahoo News, Food Network and National Geographic jumped to participate in Snapchat Discover: access to millennials in a mobile platform with high engagement.

Discover also has an environment pleasing to advertisers, enabling messaging via text, images or video in a section of a popular app curated by premium publishers.

Publishers share revenue on the platform with Snapchat. One publisher rate card showed an effective CPM north of $50, while Re/code reported some publishers charged $100 CPMs. The idea of publisher-platform revenue sharing likely won’t be unique for long:Facebook is exploring such a model, too.

So far, advertisers have been one-off and usually buy by the day. But these early brands are big names across numerous verticals: BMW America, Victoria’s Secret, T-Mobile, NBC and Ritz Crackers.

Which isn’t to say that Snapchat is a tried and true advertising medium. Both brands and publishers are still doing limited tests.

“We took a wait-and-see approach,” National Geographic VP and publisher John Campbell said. “We want the right brands to tell the right story. We don’t want a 15-second TV spot smooshed into a 10-second Snapchat spot.”

It also wants to sell Snapchat as part of larger sponsorships across its different media properties.

The Snapchat Audience

Snapchat claims to have 100 million users, mostly aged between 14 and 28. ComScore, which only tracks users 18 and older, saw 31 million users in February, a 42% increase from the previous year.

Snapchat says 75% of its users return daily. Its Discover feature gives each publisher the ability to reach users through a half-dozen articles daily that combine text, images and video.

“You have a very desirable millennial audience and a model that’s a really compelling way to present a brand image,” said Troy Young, president of digital media at Hearst Magazines.

For Snapchat Discover publishers, millennial presence is the biggest reason for their participation. 

“We’re reaching a whole different audience,” said Sam Barry, CNN’s head of social news. The average CNN TV viewer is in his or her fifties, so Discover helps the news organization build its brand among younger viewers.

“There’s this misconception that these people don’t want news,” Barry said.

“They’re huge news consumers. It’s getting it in front of them in a way the want to consume it.”

Time Inc.’s Anne Toal, associate publisher of digital, saw a similar advantage – an opportunity to strengthen its standing among the younger readers within People’s 18- to 49-year-old female core.

National Geographic likewise saw Discover as a way for a century-old brand to reach new users.

“There was a little bit of a surprise factor that we were one of the brands,” Campbell said. “But we’re the No. 1 media brand on Instagram and the No. 3 on Facebook. When we saw the ability to deliver content to a 14- to 28-year-old audience in a unique way, it was a no-brainer for us to get on board.”

But the format has also affected the way the publishers select their content.

“It’s exciting to program for a whole new audience,” said Yahoo News’ head of studio, TonyMaciulis. “With a traditional newscast you feel bound to lead with [the] museum shooting in Tunisia, but that might not be top story in Discover because you try to understand what that audience might gravitate to first.”

CNN’s Barry suspects that Discover will help Snapchat gain traction with older users, noting that she’s encountered many people who “are not big Snapchat fans, but love Discover.” And if that happens, Snapchat may follow in the footsteps of another social network that started young: Facebook. Or not.

“Snapchat is amazing,” Barry said, “but maybe six months from now it will be Yik Yak we’re talking about.”

Measurements In A Snap

Snapchat advertising is mostly about reach as opposed to targeting, as the company doesn’t provide much data.

“They throw away 99% of the data they collect and store on users,” said Ann Lundberg, SVP of digital sales for Food Network. “That’s the part of the value proposition they give to users.”

Advertisers must buy contextually: Food lovers probably check out Food Network’s Discover channel, and Snapchat guarantees a young-skewing audience.

Now four years old, Snapchat seems to have shed some of its early bad press, when it was known for teen sexting and security issues like a leaky API and an FTC ruling chastising the company because messages didn’t truly disappear.

But this bad press no longer draws concern. “[It hasn’t] come up on one single conversation we’ve had,” noted John Campbell, VP and publisher of National Geographic Magazine and its digital media.

“Most of the people we talk to who have money to spend have seen some of the coverage about misplaced Snaps. But the most sophisticated buyers have read a lot more than that since,” said Lundberg, of Food Network. “They have realized that the platform has become a tool for broadcasting. It’s not even a social platform right now, because you can’t share what you discover.”

How Advertisers Measure Success

Victoria’s Secret and Sperry’s have been among the advertisers on Cosmo’s Snapchat experience. “We have been extremely enthusiastic about the advertiser response,” Young said, citing the millennial audience and Snapchat’s multimedia format.

But advertisers still must figure out how to evaluate success. “It departs from traditional models in certain ways, in that there aren’t interactive or engagement metrics that are traditional, like click-through rates,” Young said.

Since the launch of Snapchat Discover, People Magazine has talked to advertisers “based on the days that are important to them,” said Toal of Time Inc. That includes Victoria’s Secret, which bought around its swimsuit show, and NBC, an advertiser for the iHeart Radio Music Awards.

Food Network had Mondelez’s Ritz as its launch sponsor, and Lundberg said the ad pipeline is flowing strongly. As for measuring success? “We can tell advertisers the number of completed views and, for a 10-second spot, who watched it vs. who moved on,” she said.

Those same metrics apply, of course, to publishers’ owned content.

“We look at who stays until the end and converts to the bottom [half of the article]. People are coming and staying for a longer time, which for me is a true level of engagement on something like Snapchat,” Barry said.

“The most encouraging thing to advertisers is that we hold consistently across the snaps,” Yahoo News’ Maciulis said. “They’re very likely to click across all six videos, not like they’re watching the top snap and it dies. They can flip through those videos in a minute, and you have a good sense of what’s going on today.”

“I played with Snapchat for the past year, because I have three teenagers,” Lundberg said. “The idea is you keep it crisp, short and entertaining. We’ve gotten smarter about programming, using the idea that it lasts 24 hours and disappears to create social currency and a sense of urgency. For St. Patrick’s Day, that could mean green velvet cupcakes and corned beef pasta from Guy Fieri: content that’s meaningful when consumed that day.”

The Distribution Model

Snapchat takes a cut of advertising dollars from its Discover publishers. That’s different from Facebook and Twitter, which help publishers drive traffic to their sites but don’t invite them to share in any revenue created by content consumed on-platform. Of course, that may change as Facebook explores such a model as well.

While the power Facebook wields, both with the size of its audience and its algorithms, has given some publishers pause about the idea of bringing their content on that social platform, Snapchat Discover publishers weren’t worried about having their content and advertising hosted by a platform they don’t own.

“We can’t live in a bubble of only providing content in our own space,” Yahoo’s Maciulis said.

Time Inc. is also fine with this trade-off.

“Everything that’s produced on Discover is produced by our editorial team, and has a People feel,” Toal said. “It’s a new, highly engaged audience we can get our brand in front of. Things are changing so rapidly, we want to make sure that we’re in front of these people who will be our next best loyal readers.”

 

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