How Snapchat Uses A.I. to Make a Custom "Discover" Tab

Getty Images / Drew Angerer

In Snap’s first earnings call on Wednesday, Snap CEO Evan Spiegel mentioned that Snap uses machine learning to determine which stories to show you in your newsfeed.

“The simple answer to the discoverability problem for our publishers to date has been really the application of machine learning,” Spiegel told a Wall Street analyst when asked about how publishers on Snapchat can keep their visibility in an increasingly crowded space, the Discover section. Spiegel finished his thought by saying that machine learning has “really helped us show the right content to the right person in terms of the Publisher Stories content.”

Basically, if you always click no on a publisher that shares Kylie Jenner bathing suit stories, Snap is going to make sure to get more of them. And it gets even more specific to you personally. The machine learning A.I. allows Snap to personalize your newsfeed to be full of stories that you like to read and shows you ads that you are most likely to interact with. The whole experience is designed to make you spend as much time on the app as possible, and enjoy the ads that you see.

Exactly what stories end up at the top of your newsfeed depends a lot on how you use Snapchat. And with every swipe and tap, the A.I. learns a little more. Snap then turns that data into something it can sell to people who make Snap stories, who want to make sure the effort they put into making stories turns into clicks.

“Search surfaces interesting Stories created by machine learning and allows our community to find Stories for anything they might be interested in,” Spiegel said.

Along with that, Snap’s algorithm pays attention to whether you have a preference for certain published stories, and then starts to prefer to show you those publishers. “That relationship is really important to us, and we have a loyalty metric that we share with those partners,” says Spiegel.

And once Snap knows what stories you like to look at, the A.I. is also analyzing how you interact with ads. In a process called Goal-Based Bidding, advertisers can tell Snap what kind of interaction is ideal for a specific ad.

Snap then goes into its A.I. data with how people interact with ads to target specific things to you. So if you tend to click to watch movie trailers, but don’t follow links to websites, Snap is going to make sure you see mostly movie trailer ads.

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