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The millennials´ new media platform

By Ida Eri Sørbye

It might have all started with sending off selfies and nudes. And sure, people still do. But by now CNN, Vice and Mashable are on board, and Snapchat is not just lightweight entertainment anymore. Even though BuzzFeed, Cosmopolitan and MTV keep the celebrities close at hand. The new Discover channels are transforming Snapchat into a platform where young people read the news.


With 1.8 million users in a country of five million like Norway, the user base is definitely already there. Meri Hellman Sørgaard, Head of Content in SMFB Engine in Norway, says that apps like Snapchat becoming news platforms is a development which media companies cannot expect and should not try to get around.
– If media companies want to reach the young audience, they have to realize that they need to use these platforms. It is not room for five hundred words, so they have to adjust their content to the platform. It is not enough to produce content anymore; content has to be produced specifically for the platform. Media have to be aware that they speak to different users in the different channels where content is distributed.


Meri Hellmann Sørgaard. Photo: Jeton Kacaniku

The Discovery channel
The newest feature on Snapchat is the Discover channels from different media serving as online magazines. Everyday a series of short catchy intros are posted and the user can choose to swipe further and deeper into the material. Snapchat serves as a common platform, because media cannot assume that the user comes to them anymore, according to Sørgaard:
– The media have to be where the user is. In the Discover channels on Snapchat media gain visibility. For instance CNN shows that it understand the young audience. If the users like what they see, they might go on to check out the news site as well. This is news the way young people want it.


CNN confirms in an article on their own website that they are using Snapchat as an opportunity to reach younger audiences. They dismiss that young people are not interested in hard news anymore, which they say is “a myth that has been recycled in every generation”. According to Samantha Barry, head of social news for CNN the clue is to “understand how different generations and demographics find, engage and share news”. According to Graham Mudd, director of ad product marketing in Facebook, millennials consume digital content 2.5 times faster than older generations. In that sense Snapchat has managed to shape its content into the time frame of the millennials, as a snap is never more than ten seconds long, Sørgaard says.


So how do they make money?
Making the young generation interested in the news, nothing sounds better than that. It might not be the only interest Snapchat tries to serve. According to an article on Digiday, Snapchat has promised to focus on making money for their investors. Money flows in when daily editions of the channels are sold to advertisers, which sponsors all the content of the day. According to the article the top publishers are able to reach up to a million users per day, and have had an easy time selling advertisement space.


The article does not mention how it is to be communicated to the user that all the content they read as news on a channel is sponsored by a third party that particular day. Native advertisement is becoming a regular in the news. The question is whether it is possible to convey the message that the content is sponsored in ten seconds, and if that is a priority from the sender´s side. If not, the triangle of Snapchat, publishers and advertisers will make the money flow for sure, but it might leave the user as the looser in the information game.


And regarding the nudes.
In the end of October Snapchat updated their Privacy Policy to what they say is to a language the users can understand. It sparked worldwide complaints, as people understood the message as Snapchat now owning all the rigths to pictures and messages sent through the app. Snapchat cleared up the message in a blog post saying that they will still delete the private pictures you share, but collect the stories you share on MyStory. So it might be wise to always take a second or ten deciding exactly which parts of your body you send off anyways, but from now on it might be an even better idea.


Ida Eri Sørbye is a Norwegian freelance journalist currently pursuing more journalistic brain food at the University of Amsterdam. Check out her LinkedIn and Twitter account.