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Snapchat builds hub for news, media from more than just friends

Snapchat announces Discover, a new feature that ropes in CNN, ESPN and others as partners

YouTube’s latest competitor is a surprising one: Snapchat.

The globally popular app that specializes in self-destructing messages gained a reputation as a tool for friends to exchange scandalous photos. Now, the Los Angeles start-up is pushing for a more refined image, announcing Tuesday a new feature that prominently displays multimedia content from ESPN, CNN and other media organizations.

The feature works similarly to YouTube. A Snapchat user, for instance, clicks on a channel such as Comedy Central and sees five to 10 stories “hand-curated by the editorial team at each company,” Snapchat said. In line with the ephemeral nature of Snapchat’s traditional features, each channel will be refreshed every 24 hours and old content removed.

Snapchat said Discover, the new feature, continues on the thread of authentic sharing. The media companies will “count on editors and artists, not clicks and shares, to determine what’s important,” according to a Snapchat blog post.

Other media companies participating include VICE, Daily Mail, CNN, People, Comedy Central, Cosmopolitan, Warner Music Group and Food Network.

Snapchat’s attempt to become a hub for news and entertainment is a big move for the privately held company as it seeks to justify a valuation estimated at about $10 billion.

The new content will include “gorgeous” advertising, the company said, with revenue split between the media companies and Snapchat. Rather than provide computer-generated recommendations to users, YouTube-style, Snapchat is betting that hand-picked content will drive more readership and higher prices for advertising.

Consumers have flocked to Snapchat since it launched in late 2011 in part because it doesn’t have the “like” or “favorite” buttons typical of other social media apps. It prompts users to show their true selves without worrying about metrics.

Last year Snapchat began assembling photos and videos that people were willing to share publicly into a single video. On Tuesday, the app featured user-generated content from people caught in the putative “Snowpocalypse” on the East Coast.

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