Yesterday, Snapchat announced Story Explorer, a new feature that allows users to dig deeper into a particular aspect of a Live Story. Currently, it’s only available for New York and Los Angeles Live Stories. The update follows last month’s announcement that the company had shuttered its own original content division, effectively ending its unsuccessful Snap Channel on Discover.
Roughly half the words in that last sentence have been embued with new meaning by Snapchat management, which makes the situation hard to parse. But what do these moves mean for the increasingly popular platform?
Story Explorer seems to be the platform’s replacement for original content. It lies somewhere between original and branded content. Users are interacting with something native to Snapchat, but the creative team — or whatever is left of it — doesn’t need to put in a great deal of effort. It’s simply an expansion of what’s already there.
Ending Snap Channel (which was that little black bubble with the Snapchat ghost on Discover) was an acknowledgement that Snapchat itself may be the least interesting part of the entire operation. Snap Channel’s only major output was a show called Literally Can’t Even, which was not particularly beloved. The app gets four billion video views per day, so even a small slice of that pie would be meaningful. What LCE was getting wasn’t meaningful enough for Snapchat to release viewing statistics for the show.
What seems to have happened is a bit of corporate soul searching followed by a conculsion: Snapchat is a means, not an end. It should keep adding fun features, like interactive filters and video editing tools, but skip on anything unique in the future. The sponsored Discover stories, however, do work because of how well established the brands are. There are no questions as to what ESPN, for example, represents. Thus, tapping through its story is no mystery.
Snapchat, on the other hand, had to start anew, and it’s difficult to convince users and viewers what a social media app really means. If it’s not easy to understand it’s not likely users will put in the time — even if it’s just seconds — to learn.