I was an early adopter of Snapchat. In a world where Facebook was making posts more public, the ability to create content that self-destructed upon consumption was very comforting. I’ve been a dedicated user ever since, with a total of 42,783 snaps sent and received. I love sharing whatever-the-fuck I want with my friends and blasting out slightly safer content to a small group of followers via “My Story.” Although there have been many great updates since launch, such as geotagging, filters, My Story, and Our Stories, Snapchat has started to depart from its core vision in the last few months.
First, there was Snapcash, Snapchat’s response to the success of Venmo, Square, and even PayPal. I sat with my friend’s 18-year-old (Snapchat’s median age) two weeks ago to walk through the feature and he was pretty confused. “Why would I send money to my Snapchat friends? Is this an attempt to get my parents on the app as a way to send money to me at college?” The idea of his parents being on the app horrified him.
Then Snapchat launched the Discover feature a few months later. Discover is a new page you reach by swiping all the way right. It begins with a page of app icons touting major brands such as Cosmopolitan, CNN, and Vice Magazine. Tap into the app icons and you receive highly produced content in the form of video, long-form text, and photos. The content expires after 24-hours, which is the only thing this feature has in common with Snapchat’s existing features.
As as loyal Snapchat user, I cannot get behind the new Discover feature. Here is why:
There Was No Demand
Nobody cares. When the update launched, Twitter was flooded with complaints about Snapchat revoking the “Best Friends” feature (which allowed us to see who other users interacted with the most — basically making it easier to see if bae had another bae). It’s as if nobody even noticed Discover, at least none of the 18 year old Snapchat users who don’t watch CNN anyway.
It’s Not Fair
Brands use many social media platforms: Twitter, YouTube, Instagram, you know them all. In every case, platforms provide the exact same content creation tools to both users and brands. Twitter users have 140 characters to work with, no matter who they are. Instagram users, brand or not, have the same tools to create beautiful photos. And so on.
The snaps created by users are low-fi photos and videos, all recorded in the app, with some overlay text and images. That’s it and that’s what users love. The content created by brands on Discover, however, is highly produced video/photo and long articles, in multiple screens which are interactive and dynamic. This is not what users are accustomed to or have the ability to create. I want to see my friends’ blizzard selfies, not Katie Couric’s blizzard coverage.
Discover Should be a Seperate App
Snapchat may be making the same mistake FourSquare made when they dramatically switched the core experience from creating content (checking in) to consuming content (explore). Snapchat is going from creating content (sending snaps) to consuming content (Discover).
Discover alone is not a horrible idea. If it was developed as a separate app for aggregating content from multiple media outlets I think it could be successful. However, within Snapchat as a feature, Discover feels completely out of place and unnecessary.
Money Money Money
So why did Snapchat make the move? Clearly for monetization, with both Snapcash and Discover. Was it the right move? Only if my 18-year-old friend’s worst nightmare comes true and his parents join Snapchat.