When Snapchat launched Discover, a selection of editorial videos from publishers updated daily, it debuted the feature with a spectrum of media brands. Included in the inaugural group of 12 Discover channels were content creators like Comedy Central, Vice, Cosmopolitan—and Yahoo, whose channel was headlined by none other than Yahoo News anchor Katie Couric.
A new feature story in Fast Company's November issue explains that Snapchat CEO Evan Spiegel's bet on Yahoo largely stemmed from Couric's celebrity pull. But Snapchat executives and media partners who spoke with Fast Company divulged that when the messaging app opted to replace Yahoo with BuzzFeed in July, it was partly because Couric didn't appeal to the young Snapchat audience:
In Yahoo’s case, Spiegel kicked off the relationship directly with Katie Couric, but its global news anchor ended up being part of the problem. Most Yahoo content opened like an old-school news broadcast, with Couric sitting at a desk, reading into the camera, followed by a long cut to the Yahoo logo. Kids couldn’t tune out fast enough.
Sources at Yahoo told Fast Company that while Snapchat notified the company that its channel wasn't pulling in high viewership, it didn't provide detailed metrics:
Snapchat informed Yahoo it wasn’t performing but didn’t offer a "ton of analytics," according to one Yahoo source involved. Partners were only told whether their traffic placed them in the top three, middle three, or bottom three of Discover channels. The data were presented in a "vacuum," this source explains.
Though Snapchat met with Yahoo in an effort to help improve its ratings, it wasn't long before BuzzFeed was on the company's radar. Yahoo heard through the grapevine that BuzzFeed was joining Discover and figured out it was getting dumped.
The only reason Snapchat didn't include BuzzFeed in its initial lineup—an obvious pairing, given the overlap in their audiences—is because prior to Discover's launch, the two companies couldn't come to an agreement about how much editorial control Snapchat would wield. BuzzFeed CEO Jonah Peretti cited "creative differences" as the reason why the deal fell through, according to the Wall Street Journal.
Last month, Peretti revealed that Snapchat's trade has already paid off: In August, 21% of BuzzFeed's total traffic came from views of its content through Discover.
Snapchat swapped out Warner Music Group (WMG) for iHeartRadio at the same time as Yahoo, for similar reasons. The channel's content wasn't packaged in a way that could win over Snapchat's user base, and didn't live up to expectations:
According to a source close to Snapchat, Spiegel, explaining his vision for WMG’s channel, once asked, "Is there a way here to re-create Total Request Live from MTV?" WMG was not up to the task: The music giant had no infrastructure to produce daily content, so it offered a predictable collection of its music videos from the likes of Jason Derulo and David Guetta. But few of Snapchat’s users even made it that far; they didn’t know what WMG was.
Taking quick action also stoked competition between Snapchat's growing list of Discover partners. "It was six months to the day they changed out WMG and Yahoo," one top executive Discover partner told Fast Company. "For us, that indicated, ‘Hey, this is going to be Darwinian, so you’re going to have to demonstrate you’re delighting your audience.’ It turned up the heat."
Read the full Snapchat feature here.