How Snapchat's Big Changes Impact Advertisers and Publishers

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Publishers in Snapchat Discover.
Publishers in Snapchat Discover.  Credit: Snap Inc.

Snapchat is a little different today, going back to its roots with a retooling that boosts personal messages and lowers visibility for its publishing partners in Discover.

The reconfiguration is seen as a sign that Snapchat doesn't see the need to keep putting Discover in users' faces. A few months ago it gave the publishers on Discover the most prominent real estate in the messaging page, and gave users the ability to subscribe to channels they liked.

By now, people either subscribed or didn't, and some publishers are said to be thriving while others are seeing smaller audiences. BuzzFeed, ESPN and Cosmpolitan, for instance, can attract millions of unique views a month.

Now, publishers will have a lower profile, because their Snapchat channels appear below the personal messages feed.

"I think publishers will feel jilted at first," said Jill Sherman, head of social at DigitasLBi. "But eventually they'll recognize that people spending more time in the Snapchat app is key to their success, too. If users spend less time in Snapchat because the user experience is flawed, or they aren't seeing what's important to them, all parties lose."

Publishers make money from Discover by selling ads amid their videos and articles, and they split revenue with Snapchat.

Snapchat, now at 150 million daily users and still growing, plans to go public at a $25 billion valuation.

The latest redesign puts personal messaging back at the center of the app's main focus. People will see their friends' messages at the top of the messaging page. For people with hundreds, even thousands of contacts, that throws Discover publishers way down to the bottom of the page.

But moving Discover down is not a concern to advertisers, yet.

"It's all about the forecast and delivery of impressions," said one top Snapchat advertiser, speaking on condition of anonymity. "If the redesign helps ensure ad delivery, that's fine. If it changes how impressions are delivered, then we'd need to monitor our investment to ensure we're getting them."

Ads were also impacted slightly by a tweak to the way people view personal messages. Snapchat had set messages to autoplay in a continuous stream. So, when a person clicked on a friend's video, the stream would automatically move to the next friend's video and the next. People skip videos by clicking to the next.

Now, that's gone, and people view one video then return to the feed of messages to choose another.

That means ads appear at the end of individual videos. People can curate their own personal playlists, however, where friends' videos are selected to play in a stream of stories, and Snapchat will serve ads into playlists.

One of the reasons for the changes is that people had been developing low attention spans inside Snapchat, according to advertisers. People would just start a stream of videos and click, click, click to the next video until the end, never viewing deeply and skipping ads quickly.

The new way could slow people down, because people will only click what they truly want to consume.

There's also the possibility for new ad products. Snapchat could consider serving ads that look similar to messages inside the list of friends' stories.

"It's a likely scenario, selling sponsored stories that appear in the feed," said one advertiser.

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