Pros and Cons: How Snapchat, Twitter, Facebook and Apple Are Battling for Breaking News

The battle over breaking news escalated this fall with a trio of mobile products from major tech companies. In November, Facebook announced its stand-alone app called Notify on the heels of Twitter launching Moments the month prior. When Apple released the iPhone 6s and iOS 9 in September, it came preloaded with Apple News, which takes a shot across the bow of Snapchat Live Stories, a product that has garnered impressive results since being offered earlier this year. "It's a great competition for attention and the monetization of that attention," said Altimeter Group analyst Brian Solis. "This is something that has been long brewing for publishers." Below, a breakdown of the four companies' news products and how they are faring. 

1

Twitter Moments

Twitter, a pioneer in breaking news, has seen slower user growth, and some marketers say, has become an echo chamber. To broaden its appeal, Twitter launched Moments, which curates tweets on the top stories. Promoted Moments should be a great place to target Twitter’s core audience—techies, sports fans and political junkies—but it’s unclear whether it will branch out. “There’s a serendipity to Twitter that you don’t necessarily get with other platforms,” said Solis. “Twitter Moments is trying a little too hard to introduce formality as a result of having to monetize those moments and having to compete against other social networks.”

Pros
Moments button prominently placed atop homepage.
Real-time news for nonusers
Livestreaming app Periscope could be incorporated.

Cons
Moments lacks brand awareness.
It may be banking on multimedia elements too much.
To beat the tough competition, being first with news will be imperative.

2

Facebook Notify

Where Facebook Paper failed, newer offerings like Notify could be more promising. Users of this stand-alone app can opt in to receive push notifications to their iPhone’s lock screen from at least 70 media entities (“stations”) including CNN and BuzzFeed. It’s too soon to tell how many of Facebook’s 1 billion daily active users might regularly use Notify. But it promises to include Facebook’s ability to target a breadth of consumers—from creatives to grandmas—which marketers will likely love. Facebook Notify could end up being a better vehicle for breaking news compared to the others, said eMarketer principal analyst Debbie Williamson, who used the app for news on the terrorist attacks in Paris.

Pros
Notify drives traffic for publishers.
It has the potential to also offer items like deals and train updates.
Facebook's general scale should help attract users. 

Cons
Publishers don’t have a guarantee that all content will be seen.
Excessive notifications annoy viewers.
Notify is separate from Facebook’s main app.

3

Snapchat Live Stories

With 100 million daily users, Snapchat’s approach to news is focused first and foremost on the minds of millennials. But that shouldn’t deter media companies, said Solis. The app also is engaging users who act like millennials. Through Snapchat Live Stories, it feeds current events to a rapidly growing audience that might not otherwise be getting news via other platforms. This summer, the feature was drawing an average audience of 20 million people over a 24- hour period. Whether it’s celebrating a championship victory or mourning after a terrorist attack, Snapchat Live offers a visual perspective different than other platforms, with user-generated content that paints a picture as opposed to heavy doses of text-based information.

Pros
Rapidly growing young audience of digital natives
Curates user-generated content
Complementary to Snapchat’s Discover feature

Cons
No two-way user engagement
Offers few stories at once
Featured videos lack context.

4

Apple News

Apple News this fall became available with the launch of iOS 9, producing a magazine-style news app that now has content from at least 70 publishers. In its Q3 earnings call, Apple CEO Tim Cook said 40 million people are now reading stories in Apple News. That said, the difficulty of building a business based on third- party publishers leaves room for doubt whether Apple News will remain viable for very long. Some publishers like Time Inc. said early traffic results have been underwhelming, though The Washington Post has been happy with its numbers so far. Solis questioned whether Apple News could compete with more community-based platforms like Facebook and Twitter. “I am real big on my social graphs,” he said. “It’s not just about the news that’s happening, but what I’m interested in.”

Pros
Traffic looks promising to newspaper brands.
Preloaded on iOS 9 and iPhones
The more you read, the better the selections get.

Cons
Publishers skeptical about traffic
No major social component
No original content

This story first appeared in the Nov. 30 issue of Adweek magazine. Click here to subscribe.