Snapchat Is Once Again Pivoting Back to News

Photo: Richard Drew (AP)

Snap, parent company of Snapchat, is trying to do the whole social media platform tries to lure journalistic outfits into producing content for them thing again, per a report in the Information on Tuesday.

Details are limited. But the Information’s sources said that Snap is talking with media companies about a “dedicated news section inside the Snapchat app” that would be a “do-over of sorts for its efforts to present real-time, breaking news from a handful of trusted news partners.” That news tab would own its own real estate in “a distinct area within the Discover section of the social media app” akin to its existing section featuring made-for-mobile entertainment content, rather than the current mess, in which news content is mixed in with a bunch of other crap.

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Snap’s renewed efforts to lure publisher partners is currently slated for next year if all somehow goes well, the Information wrote:

Snap’s conversations with publishers are still in the early stages, and deal terms, which could include sharing of ad revenue or the payment of licensing fees to publishers, haven’t been finalized. But Snap hopes to make the news tab available next year.

A Snap spokesperson declined to comment.

As far as Gizmodo could determine, this news is not somehow from 2014.

In the past few years, news publishers have become very wary about partnerships with big tech companies specifically because this has been tried before and rarely ended well. Journalistic outfits have become suspicious that platforms will change the terms of deals and hang them out to dry on a whim.

In the most infamous example, Facebook opened the floodgate to an era of social media-optimized news before abruptly killing it and decimating traffic to publishers; critics have also argued that the Google-Facebook online ad duopoly is choking the news business to death. Wired editor-in-chief Nicholas Thompson recently described to the Information his dilemma in partnering with Apple for its news subscription service, which runs the risk of either not providing sustainable ad revenue or being successful enough that it decimates its own paid subscriptions.

Similar things have happened at Snapchat in the past, particularly after a 2018 redesign that separated publisher content into the Discover tab (which really screwed them over). On the other hand, some of it has apparently worked—such as NBC News’ Stay Tuned Discover show, which has tens of millions of viewers in the hard to reach under-25 market. Snap itself has been slowly regrouping after a brutal few years saw its stock plummet and says the Discover tab has achieved double-digit annual growth, though many analysts maintain a healthy skepticism of its long-term prospects.

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Snap’s main competitor, Instagram owner Facebook, has itself been pivoting back to news despite the trash fires in its wake by bringing back a curated news section. (Gizmodo played a role in the demise of the original curated news tab in 2016 by publishing a story alleging anti-conservative bias at Facebook, with a headline former Gawker Media executive editor John Cook later conceded was “engineered for direct injection into the veins of the right-wing grievance-mongers.”) Facebook also launched a Watch tab with funded news shows that debuted poorly and, as Bloomberg described it earlier this year, remains “a jumble of ads with no hit shows and a tiny slice of overall video revenue.”

[The Information]

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Tom McKay

"... An upperclassman who had been researching terrorist groups online." - Washington Post