Snapchat and the Future of News On Social Media

BradleyTMacDonald    March 14, 2016

At this point, many people are likely using Snapchat just for fun.

Business Insider reported in Summer 2015 that nearly half of the app’s users were under the age of 24 years old (while only 19 percent of Twitter users, and 16 percent of Facebook’s are of the same age demographic). That’s huge!

So Snapchat possesses a massive chunk of the 18 to 24 year old age group, and while right now, many of those people are using it to share videos of their dogs, clips from the big concert, or shots using the face swap lens…at some point one could see them wanting more.


A recent study by the PEW Research Center says that 62 percent of Facebook and Twitter users get news from those sites. Which makes a lot of sense, really. Pretty much every credible reporter has a presence on Twitter these days, and every media outlet imaginable seems to have at least one Facebook page promoting its work at all hours of the day.

But Snapchat really adds an interesting aspect to the news media on social media.

In Winter 2015 Snapchat launched their fairly ambitious Discover feature:

“Discover is a fun new way to explore stories from different editorial perspectives. It is composed of unique channels, one for each publisher. Each Channel publishes a daily edition filled with hand curated stories that refresh every 24 hours.”

Basically, Snapchat provides a little television in your pocket that delivers over a dozen different channels. BuzzFeed, Vice, Wall Street Journal, Vox and more are all there!

Fusion (they have their own channel as well) said when Discover first launched that it “could be the biggest thing in news since Twitter” – a huge comparison, but not necessarily an outlandish one.

Because why not?

Discover has been really well received by Snapchat users and by those in the media industry. A year after its launch, IBT reported that “Snapchat may have a few problems, but Discover ain’t one,” and broke down the ways its found success. The key they say, is that media companies have identified the app as the best way to reach millennials (those 18-24 year olds again) and it appears they have.

IBT’s Kerry Flynn also wrote that the media companies don’t even consider their Snapchat offerings an experiment anymore. It’s the real deal:

“Over the past year, publishers have made it clear that their Snapchat channels have moved from experiments to core offerings. Cosmopolitan’s Snapchat Discover channel generated, on average, 19 million views per month, Poynter reports. generates 20 million unique visitors per month, according to its website. BuzzFeed CEO Jonah Peretti has said views from Snapchat make up 21 percent of his company’s total traffic.”

People are turning to social media more and more for their news – what can be more convenient, really? – and we know that nearly half of Snapchat’s users are young adults or approaching the age that many enter into the workforce, and despite what’s anecdotally out there…young people care about news.

So this begs the question all over again. Why not Snapchat? Why not go further with it?

They’ve proven themselves to be competent hosts for news channels, and their platform allows for images of any event (with a decent WiFi or mobile connection) to be shared with the masses, instantly. You may argue that Facebook and Twitter offer the same perks, but with Snapchat this stuff comes directly to your account on your own phone.

Snapchat seems to agree as they actually have a “news division. Peter Hamby – formerly of CNN – heads that up, and Snapchat hired reporters to “snap” the 2016 U.S. federal election campaign. Hamby is also hosting a weekly “snow” during the campaign, called Good Luck America, and go figure, it’s “aimed at young people.” You can also see snaps pretty much any time a major event is happening on the Live page.

Snapchat clearly has its eyes on the future, and with their core demographic of millennials expanding all the time, they seem well equipped for the future they’re hoping to create.


Lessons for Others

It may be a bit of a gamble, but it seems to be one that will pay off. Snapchat has found credible partners to work with on their Discover service – and that list appears to be growing all the time.

They’re clearly looking to target the 18-24 age group. No doubt they’re aware where the majority of their users fall, and this obviously prevented them from going into something as ambitious as Discover, blind.

Editors from several news sources have been contacted about the use of Snapchat in news reporting. This post will be updated as those responses come in. 


Organization: Snapchat
Industry: Video Messaging Applications
Name of Organization Contact: Peter Hamby, Head of News

Authored by: Brad MacDonald

If you have concerns as to the accuracy of anything posted on this site, please send your concerns to Peter Carr, Program Director, Social Media for Business Performance.


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