Messaging App Snapchat Turns Publisher Portal

ESPN, Vice, Yahoo News Sign on as Launch Publishers

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Mobile-messaging app Snapchat has gone from a way for friends to send disappearing photos to a way for publishers to distribute disappearing stories.

Snapchat has created a publisher portal within its app called Discover for media companies like Vice and ESPN to upload stories each day and sell ads against those stories. Each day publishers will post what are being described as "daily editions" that will include 5 to 10 stories from that publisher.

Discover is launching with 10 publishers in the U.S., including ESPN, Vice, CNN, Yahoo News, People and National Geographic. Snapchat will also have its own channel within Discover.

After people navigate to the app's Discover section, they can click on one of the publishers' logos. That will open up that publisher's daily edition. People can swipe through each of the day's stories and view 10-second previews of each. If they like what they see, they can swipe up to check out the whole thing.

The ads will show up as people swipe between stories. BMW will be the first advertiser on CNN's Discover channel, and Ritz Crackers will be the first for Food Network's. ESPN's first daily edition will include a video of NFL star J.J. Watt and Katy Perry, a ranking of the Super Bowl's top 10 players, a SportsCenter Top 10 NBA highlight clip and photo gallery of the Atlanta Hawks. Daily Mail's Discover channel will have four launch advertisers: T-Mobile, Macy's, Stride and Oxygen Street Art Throwdown.

Vice will be pulling content from all of its 10 verticals including news and sports into a mix of stories formatted as text, photos and videos. The company has signed food-delivery service GrubHub as the first advertiser to run ads within Vice's Discover channel, according to a Vice spokesman.

A Snapchat spokeswoman did not respond to interview requests. The Wall Street Journal first reported on Snapchat's plans to launch a publisher portal last August. And Digiday reported many more details of Discover last week.

As Digiday reported, publishers will be responsible for selling ads against their Discover content and will split a percentage of the revenue with Snapchat. It's unclear how much the publishers are charging for the ads, but agency execs familiar with the matter said the Discover ads are cheaper than Snapchat's first two ad units.

In one sense, Snapchat is following in the footsteps of its social predecessors Facebook, Twitter and Google's YouTube. The company started as a way for people to communicate with one another. And now as more people have joined the service, it has expanded into a way for mainstream media companies to communicate with those people.

By bringing such high-profile media companies into the fold so early, Snapchat may shorten the time it takes for advertisers to get comfortable with and people to become aware of Discover.

"I think programming for the platform is going to be a challenge to get right, but for brands like Vice that clearly know how to tell compelling, modern stories, Snapchat could emerge as a major disrupter," said MEC's managing partner-digital content marketing for North America Gian LaVecchia.