Snapchat, the same app that is popular with young adults for sending disappearing selfies and videos, is growing up. Following in the footsteps of BuzzFeed, which wants to pivot from a publisher of listicles to a serious news publisher, Snapchat too is going after news and media legitimacy, and it’s not messing around. Recently, it hired Peter Hamby, national political reporter from CNN, to lead its editorial content.
A few days later, the New York Times dove into what we all were thinking: Snapchat is taking on news in a big way starting with the 2016 presidential election. Snapchat hasn’t confirmed this in so many words but we should have seen this coming, really. In January, Snapchat introduced its “Discover” section (read Danielle’s blog about Discover here), an area inside the app that showcases original content from about a dozen established publishers including ESPN, National Geographic and CNN.
Why the election? Well, whenever an election comes around, the topic of how to attract and appeal to young people comes into play. Politico targeted young voters in 2008, BuzzFeed in 2012, and now Snapchat slated for 2016. When you think about it, it really is the perfect match. The company told Bloomberg Business more than 60 percent of 13- to 34-year-old smartphone users in the U.S. are active on the service and together view more than 2 billion videos a day. That’s already about half the number of videos people watch on Facebook, which is seven years older and has 10 times as many members.
Why Peter Hamby? Besides being a national political reporter, Hamby has been a huge supporter of pushing CNN ahead in the digital era, encouraging his colleagues to share their work via social media. In fact in 2013, he wrote a 95-page report for Harvard’s Shorenstein Center that criticized how campaigns were covered in the digital era.
It has also been reported that Snapchat will be creating its own original content as opposed what they’ve been doing with the “Live” feature. Essentially users within the boundary of an event – such as the Kentucky Derby or the Pacquiao vs. Mayweather fight – could upload their personal snaps to the story and it would play for anyone clicking on that live event. Creating their own content is a big investment for Snapchat, something that most social platforms have stayed away from, because it’s very expensive. But don’t worry, Snapchat can afford it. The app is currently valued at $15 billion.
Like the way this is shaping up? That’s exactly what the man at the helm of Snapchat’s ship, Evan Spiegel, is working towards. There are growing signs Snapchat is evolving into a media firm, one that given its appeal to young and diverse audiences could be a formidable competitor to both traditional media companies and other social media outlets.
I’m interested to see how they tell the election story from the social media platform and if they really can influence that key young voter demographic. I guess only time will tell if whether it will pay off at the polls.