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InContext / An inside look at the business of digital content

Snap rises as Facebook falls

August 2, 2018 | By Mark Glaser, Founder and Publisher – MediaShift @mediatwit

For so long, Facebook has been the classroom bully in social media, with Snapchat taking it on the chin when Facebook copied Snapchat’s Stories format on FB, Instagram and WhatsApp. But now, the little tyke is exacting revenge as Facebook deals with blow after blow in the public arena: ongoing Russian meddling on the platform, incendiary posts inspiring real-life violence in Myanmar and Sri Lanka, and a stock market plunge that encapsulates its challenges fighting misinformation. Meanwhile, Snap has been quietly rolling out new deals with publishers and making itself out to be a much friendlier space to do business.

While it’s hard to compete with Facebook’s 1.47 billion daily active users, the story of Snapchat as the underdog fighting back is one to watch — especially as publishers tire of Facebook’s litany of problems.

‘Brand Safety and Control’

While Facebook consistently dominates tech news coverage, Snapchat also turned heads recently when it launched a private marketplace for advertisers akin to its own premium programmatic advertising marketplace. Now, advertisers can book space on specific shows and channels from a variety of publishing partners, including BuzzFeed, ESPN, and NBC Universal. Previously, brands could buy Snapchat ad inventory, but not target their advertising to specific publishers.

The beauty of this? Publishers can set their own ad rates, target only certain segments of a show’s audience, and advertisers can find more brand safety on Snapchat than they currently do with Facebook and Google’s YouTube. This is of course a boon for Snapchat too, as AdAge’s Garrett Sloane put it:

“Advertisers have been concerned about the type of content that appears on both YouTube and Facebook. Snapchat is trying to take advantage of the industry’s unease by offering a higher level of brand safety and control: Discover already operates as a gated community for professional publishers only, and the private marketplace now lets advertisers expressly select the shows they want while still using ad tech.”

On top of this, Snapchat is planning to sell six-second, unskippable ads in the private marketplace — meaning the chances of sustaining audience attention is even higher.

Broadening Discover’s Horizon

Snap also recently announced a new Discover partnership with an LGBT publisher — its first one — the U.K.-based website PinkNews. According to PinkNews CEO and editor-in-chief Benjamin Cohen, part of the incentive is that Discover is still a curated platform, meaning that accessing the humans behind the automation is still possible. Snapchat was also enticing in part because Facebook traffic for PinkNews— as is the case with many publishers — has gone down, Cohen said, and so he was looking to broaden audience traffic elsewhere.

The idea of working with a social platform like Snapchat that is actually willing to pay publishers became even more attractive for PinkNews. The partnership is also, undeniably, a win for Snapchat. It gains an outlet that will help the platform attract a young audience willing to push the boundaries of sexuality.

Indeed, it’s obvious that Snapchat is on the hunt to broaden its 191 million daily active users. In addition to working with traditional publishers, Snapchat has made a bigger effort this year to partner with digital publishers and social media stars that appeal to younger audiences. That includes Daquan Gesese, a hip-hop and pop culture personality with a huge presence on Instagram, and Fanbytes, an 18-month-old digital media company that runs four popular accounts on Snapchat, and operates a network of mostly 15- and 16-year-old creators who run their own accounts and publishing brands on Snapchat.

In May, Daquan launched his own Discover channel, and Fanbytes and Snapchat are currently trying to figure out whether “official” versions of its channels could be tailor-made for Discover.

More Flexiblity

But here’s what’s ironic about the Snapchat comeback: It wasn’t that long ago that Snapchat was ridiculed for a redesign that paired friends and family in one stream, and publishers and advertisers in another. Audiences complained, publishers worried.

“Content producers from eight publishers I spoke to said that the redesign had made their metrics go haywire,” Vanity Fair’s Maya Kosoff wrote. So it seems pretty natural that some publishers don’t necessarily see Snapchat as a particularly good long-term strategy if they can monetize better elsewhere, as one publisher anonymously confessed to Digiday last month.

However, it’s also understandable — decent, really — that Snapchat is letting publishers introduce non-exclusive shows to Snapchat Discover. Syndication is not particularly sexy, but even if shows have already aired on YouTube or Facebook Watch, this is a chance for Snapchat to build a Discover audience — and it’s a chance for publishers to ignite new revenue streams for its most popular intellectual property without having to create something original for each platform.

While publishers aren’t going to give up on a massive platform like Facebook anytime soon, Snapchat is getting back in the game on two counts. First, it’s actually the steady performer as Facebook struggles. And second, it is finally serving publishers in more ways while opening itself up to newer creatives. As with all platforms, there’s only so much trust publishers can give third parties who change their practices and rules on a whim, but it’s a good thing that Snap is trending up at just the right time – finally getting off the mat to give Facebook a few good licks.

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