Snapchat lays out news content ambitions as founder Evan Spiegel calls Charlestown shooting coverage ‘really scary’

Snapchat could soon be morphing into a news brand as the photo and video sharing app continues to hire journalists to report newsworthy events following its recent coverage of the Charlestown shooting which founder Evan Spiegel called “really scary”.

Image by Julian Hanford

Speaking in conversation with Cosmopolitan editor-in-chief Joanna Coles at the Cannes Lions Festival, Spiegel said that Snapchat has been having internal discussions about how it can “become competent” at covering news as it looks to offer a more engaging experience than linear TV broadcasting is able to offer viewers.

“It was something that was really scary for us because we did feel a huge sense of responsibility,” explained Spiegel, referring to the shooting. “That’s why in the early days we would cover a basketball game because it has a very clear beginning, middle and end and a clear narrative.

“Then at the same time we starting talking internally about what we needed to do to become competent at covering events that didn’t necessarily have a pre-determined outcome or narrative structure that we were familiar with. That’s why more recently we’ve hired journalists to start learning how to cover newsworthy events because that’s something we want to be good at.”

Spiegel is also confident that Snapchat’s ability to pull together thousands of crowdsourced perspectives of an event is more powerful an offering than traditional broadcasting. “It has a depth of experience that you can’t get with other linear forms of broadcast,” he added.

Speaking about Discover, Snapchat’s publisher hub, which features articles and videos from the likes of Daily Mail and Vice, Spiegel said it has proved “tremendously successful” with channels that have a strong editorial perspective outperforming others.

On the advertising side, as brands continue to flock to use Snapchat in their marketing mix, Spiegel was clear while social media is an important tool for brands, they should err on the side of caution when it comes to being overly familiar with their followers.

“This comes back to the beginning of social networks that tried to build products for people, and then jammed brands in there,” he said. “So if all these products have been built for people to express themselves and connect then a brand should act like a person so it can connect to other people.

“But the biggest difference we found with brands is that brands really try to maintain the same identity and message for a long period of time but they tend to change how they express that. But people change every day, so if you’re building a product for a brand it has to be fundamentally different than a person. Then of course from a more human level we think it’s weird when brands try to act like your pal, it’s very important to be friendly but not a buddy.”

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