Snapchat, the photo messaging start-up, is joining with a select group of media companies to offer users original editorial content, according to three people briefed on the matter.
The initiative, which is to start as a separate section inside Snapchat’s smartphone app, will feature traditional outlets like ESPN, CNN and National Geographic, as well as nontraditional media companies like Vice and Yahoo, according to the three people.
In the new section, called Discover, Snapchat users will be able to browse original articles, video or photos that media publishers produce specifically for the app.
Snapchat has also courted big consumer brands to advertise on Discover, according to the three people, who spoke on condition of anonymity. These brands would pay for advertisements to be inserted between the original content produced by the media outlets. Snapchat plans to split the revenue with the publishers.
Snapchat founder Evan Spiegel, is known to be fascinated by the media and is also a fan of Brooklyn-based literary magazines. The company has even explored creating its own content, although those plans are at an early stage.
The initiative represents a new direction for the three-year-old startup, which rose to popularity as a medium for users to send photos and text messages that disappear soon after they are sent. Although the company does not disclose how many people use its service, Snapchat has said in the past that more than 700 million Snapchat messages are sent daily.
Snapchat has hired several people from journalism companies recently and has been gathering information on its users’ interests based on the viewership of sets of themed content, according to a person with knowledge of internal discussions.
However, the move might be an even greater change for the handful of publishing companies involved, a group eager to tap into novel forms of media distribution to reach new audiences. Other companies, like BuzzFeed and the Wall Street Journal, have experimented with distributing their articles in messaging apps like Viber, Line and WhatsApp.
Snapchat is an attractive avenue for publishers and brands, because it is popular with younger audiences.
In October last year, Snapchat unveiled its first paid advertisement on the platform, a promotion for a movie by Universal Pictures.
However, the new deal with brands and publishers is Snapchat’s first large step toward generating meaningful revenue.
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