When Snapchat turned down a $3 billion buyout offer from Facebook, critics thought it was foolhardy hubris. How could a messaging platform that makes photos and videos disintegrate after a few seconds possibly be worth anything to advertisers?
Now we have our first indication of how Snapchat plans to make its billions, and—surprise!—it might not be so silly after all. The Wall Street Journal reports that Snapchat is experimenting with TV and movie clips, news articles, and advertisements in a new feature called Snapchat Discovery, which would hoist commercials and other types of money-making content in front of Snapchat users. According to the report:
The product would let users read daily editions of publications as well as watch video clips of TV shows or movies by holding down a finger on the screen, like they do with photos and other messages on the app before disappearing.
Social media-savvy brands like Taco Bell, McDonald's, and Heineken are already experimenting with Snapchat to hold contests and offer promotions. Snapchat allows them to zero in on the teen and twentysomething demographic.
And the way Snapchat's user interface encourages content consumption is interesting, too. Since users have to keep a finger pressed to the screen in order to look at a picture or watch a video, it means they're voluntarily opting in, and, in all likelihood, actively paying attention to whatever's in front of them. Obviously that's vastly different from the other ad units we encounter online; we can't close out of pop-up videos or skip past pre-roll YouTube ads quickly enough.
Although Snapchat won't reveal its user count, a January profile in Forbes reported that Snapchat users were sending 400 million photos and videos every day, putting it on par with Facebook and Instagram combined. Maybe Mark Zuckerberg's not-so-secret obsession with disappearing media isn't quite so crazy after all.