Snapchat’s Redesign Is Aimed at Attracting More Eyeballs for Publishers and Brands

Will a 'subscribe' button be a boon for traffic?

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Snapchat's got a brand-new look today. The red-hot messaging app is revamping its feed with a new design that mashes up Discover with Live Stories—the strings of photos and videos that users collect at events—with subscribe buttons, creative headlines and new placements geared at helping publishers amass big audiences.

Roughly 20 publishers—including CNN, Hearst, IGN and Vox Media—produce daily custom content for Discover with Snapchat-exclusive resources and teams. IGN, for example, has a dedicated team of four staffers that put together the video game publishers' content, while MTV has an 11-person Snapchat crew.

In exchange for reaching millions of daily views, Snapchat requires media brands to sell ads against their content as part of a revenue-sharing program. But some publishers have complained that they only receive a fraction of Snapchat's traffic from 100 million users since people primarily use the app to communicate.

The goal of the redesign, of course, is to get people to view more content from publishers alongside user-generated content from their friends. Discover and Live Story content now sits at the top of the page in a scrollable section (see how it works below). While publishers are unclear if the changes will boost their viewers, some say switching up the user experience is a step in the right direction.

"With the product change, it takes things to the next level in really allowing us to showcase a little bit of a teaser of the look and feel of what's to come in that edition," Oren Katzeff, head of programming at Tastemade, told Adweek.

"Everything [up until now] has been behind a wall—you have to press the logo to then get taken to the experience," he said. "What's exciting about the redesign is that it allows you to take some of the content that's performed well and showcase it more."

Since Discover launched in January 2015, publishers have relied on small, circle icons to drive readership. Now, media brands can create miniheadlines and custom images to get people interested in clicking through on content. In theory, the move should help publishers experiment more with content and figure out what works and what doesn't.

"Let's face it, if you don't know the IGN brand, you don't know what it means," said Peer Schneider, gm and co-founder of IGN. "You may be able to infer that it's related to gaming from the logo—it looks a little bit like a controller—but you don't really know what the edition is about."

For example, Schneider said, IGN can now more easily promote its Games of Thrones coverage in its Sunday editions when the HBO show airs.

Another example from Tastemade shows a picture of food next to the headline "This is the most perfect breakfast."

"That's a video where one of our tastemakers is making this amazing dish, and you wouldn't know that [yesterday] on Discover," Katzeff said. "On that headline and new design, you have to be very quick hitting with your messaging because there's not a lot of room to work with."

Publishers' content will also continue to live in a separate section of the app as well as the homepage, but the page features a new tilelike design.

And to drive more traffic to publishers' channels, Snapchat is also adding a "subscribe" button for media partners to grow audiences, similar to how it already uses Facebook, Twitter and YouTube with followers and subscribers.

To subscribe, users will be prompted to press down a finger at the end of a story or daily edition. That will trigger future content to automatically be added under the Recent Updates section. 

"You get the traditional media homepage where discovery is driven by popular topics or clever headlines, and then you also have this new feature that makes it more subscription driven—so more akin to a social feed," Schneider said.

The combination new features is aimed at helping improve completion rates on Discover stories, but both Tastemade and IGN declined to discuss their completion rates.

The redesign should also help advertisers who pay to run interstitial ads between publishers' photos and videos. Discover makes up the bulk of Snapchat's ad inventory with a format Snapchat calls 3V. In recent months, Snapchat has expanded the vertical ads to include new calls to action like longer video lengths, e-commerce and app installs.

"If more of an audience is driven to just Discover in general, it becomes more desirable for advertisers," Katzeff said.

Here's a look at the new app experience:

@laurenjohnson Lauren Johnson is a senior technology editor for Adweek, where she specializes in covering mobile, social platforms and emerging tech.