Is Snapchat Changing the Way we Get our News?

Long gone is the Snapchat that suffered as the butt of all social media jokes. The friendly ghost sporting app showed it means business with its recent net worth estimation of $16 billion, estimates for ad sales in Live Stories topping $400,000 and 100 million daily active users.

Of these users, the majority are millennials sharing images and videos of what they’re doing that day or events they’re attending with their friends and family. With more and more millennials looking to social media for their breaking news (a recent poll showed up to 61% check social media first), Snapchat wants a piece of the pie. When they rolled out their Live Stories feature last year, users saw it as an opportunity to share their personal experiences not only with their friends, but with Snapchat’s user base as a whole.  Recently, major national and worldwide events have been featured on the feed, such as the Greek bailout vote and the removal of the confederate flag from the South Carolina capital last week. According Re/Code, about 20 million users see these Live Stories over a 24 hour time span, showing that Snapchat is definitely claiming space as a news source for today’s teens and young adults.

By bringing this new option for consuming news, Snapchat is making a smart move. A move that in my opinion benefits both the company and the end user. Snapchat is accomplishing its goals of:

  • Being taken more seriously and earn their place among more established social media channels
  • Taking advantage of the millennial demographic they have established and showing that they care about educating a generation thought to be out of touch with current events
  • Encouraging the use of user generated content
  • Selling ad space that users won’t think is too invasive
  • Bringing users to the source of the news story, whether it is across the world or down the street
  • Allowing users to witness news happening in real time through the lens of another millennial

In return, users receive:

  • An interactive, brief way to get their news in a space they are already used to sharing and consuming information
  • The opportunity to participate in the conversation and have their experience shared with other Snapchat users
  • An assumed “unbiased” point of view they trust that they don’t believe they can get from traditional news outlets

If you’re not familiar with how a Snapchat live story looks and feels, here are two breakdowns using the examples I mentioned earlier: the Greek bailout vote and the removal of the confederate flag. I’m including these two because I think that they accomplish two different goals for American Snapchat users:

  1. Featuring the Greek bailout vote story educated users who may have been aware of the story but feel disconnected to it and its implications on our everyday lives. The images and user-narrated submissions showing spirited opposition or enthusiastic support bring an experience that initially feels distant right into the hands of a Snapchat using millennial.
  2. The removal of the confederate flag has been widely discussed and debated on news outlets since the tragic Charleston shooting in June. Most Snapchat users are familiar with both sides of the controversy and have a formed opinion. In this case, Snapchat brought an unbiased, unedited and live account of the historic event to an audience exhausted of the polarized viewpoints communicated by most traditional news outlets.

Let’s get back to the anatomy of a Snapchat live story. First is an easy to understand overview of the news story unfolding (think Skimm update language):

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Next are user images and videos submitted while in the location where the event is taking place. This content is curated by Snapchat’s team:

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Lastly, the result of the vote and reactions are shown throughout the rest of the story, and are available as past of the live story until removed by the Snapchat team.

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We can see a similar trend with Snapchat’s coverage of the removal of the confederate flag:

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What will Snapchat surprise us with next?

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