News broke yesterday that, confirming recent speculation based on job postings, the NFL will become the first professional sports league with a Snapchat Discover channel. The league will post live content based on all its games during the upcoming season which, combined with the custom geofilters for all 32 teams, it hopes will help it connect with younger audiences who may not be huge sports fans because they’re too busy torrenting Orphan Black outtakes or some such.
The development, though, got me thinking about how Discover will have to evolve in the near future in order to maintain the attention of the media who want to similarly reach Snapchat’s audience in new and innovative ways. Right now Discover publishers are selected by Snapchat and kept to a small number, though membership changes from time to time with some outlets falling out and others replacing them. The main criteria seems to be having a dedicated production team and the ability to sell ads against the content that’s published.
At some point, though, Snapchat will have to open up Discover to any and all comers in order to maintain the attention of a media industry that’s flailing around looking for salvation from ad blockers and other disruptive technology, a category that includes Snapchat itself.
Imagine a system where a publisher can easily submit to be part of Discover as part of a system that lays out the requirements and then is approved by a team within Snapchat. After approval the outlet becomes part of the Discover ecosystem. Users, then, can go in and search for the brands they’re interested in, selecting as many as they like and having them all live within the Discover tab of the app. Outlets can be followed and unfollowed as that person dictates. It becomes much more casual and easy for someone to make their own choices as to consumption and usage.
If that sounds a lot like what’s in place on other platforms, that’s because it it. This is how RSS, Twitter, Facebook and others work. Snapchat right now is creating the illusion of exclusivity by controling the velvet rope used to keep anyone it deems unworthy out of Discover. You have to know the password to get in.
But this needs to become transactional at some point in the near future. Media will begin to abandon Snapchat because discoverability is a real problem on the platform, with it being hard to tell what’s official and what’s not, along with how promotion on other networks like Twitter are clunky workarounds that those networks are increasingly tired of supporting. That problem will need to be addressed by Snapchat or media brands will abandon their experiments, which are tentative at best for platforms that have more established processes, moves that will be hastened by changes like what Instagram implemented.
I won’t be surprised at all to see Snapchat roll out big changes to the Discover vetting and approval process before the end of the year. There may still be restrictions but it will become much easier for brands to participate and that will be accompanied by changes to how search and discovery within the app are handled. We’ve already seen changes by Snapchat to start acting like a more “traditional” social publishing platform and this is the next logical step.