Snapchat Inc. downplayed a popular feature Tuesday as it attempts to better promote less-watched content from the likes of ESPN, BuzzFeed and Cosmo.
Snapchat’s Live Stories -- highlight videos developed mostly from user-submitted clips at special events -- are now bundled among links to stories from major media companies.
Live Stories previously had their own section at the top of Venice start-up’s app, which gave them great prominence. The area just for Live Stories is now lower on the app. And links to content produced by media companies that were previously promoted with small logos now appear with bigger logos, images and short headlines.
The moves simplify Snapchat’s look. But how they will affect viewership of various types of content is unclear because Snapchat didn’t test the redesign prior to release.
Two dozen publishers have been working closely with Snapchat to provide content to its Discover section. Those companies have been seeking changes that would give them more consistent viewership. Individual Live Stories, whether about a music festival or the latest NBA Finals game, could collect tens of millions of viewers. But companies in Snapchat’s Discover section have attracted fewer than 5 million viewers on a good day.
That meant a media giant such as Viacom drew far more people to a Live Story about the MTV Video Music Awards than it has to its daily-updated MTV feed of articles on Discover. Big events are great traffic boons, but they also allowed companies that weren’t participating in Discover to rack up huge numbers of viewers with successful Live Stories.
Participating media companies -- and Snapchat -- hope that Discover can become a regular source of high traffic and significant advertising income.
Snapchat’s old design gave an edge to the NFL, NBC and other organizations that have partnered with Snapchat to produce Live Stories for events in which they are involved. The new look places Snapchat’s two sets of business partners on more equal footing. If anything, the Discover channels have a fresh advantage: Starting Tuesday, users can “subscribe” to a media brand to get links from that publication to display first in the Discover section.
Should the changes not boost viewership of the daily dose of articles and videos, the media companies may encourage Snapchat to become more like Facebook. That would involve analyzing information about users to individually notify them of content that would interest them most. It’s a level of personalization that Snapchat has worked to avoid. The company declined to make executives available for interview.