Hearst is betting on Snapchat Discover pop-up channels

Snapchat users perusing the app’s Discover section the last three weeks might have periodically noticed a prom-themed channel pop up from Hearst-owned Seventeen magazine. The channel, which was available for 36 hours at a time across three weeks, allowed users to access articles, videos and GIFs centered on important prom-related topics like “10 annoying things every parent does when it’s prom time.”

The timely and relevant nature of the channel, as well as the fact that it was only available for a limited time, drove 6.5 million unique visitors during its second week. Users were engaged, spending three minutes on average while also sharing the content more than 500,000 times in total, according to Hearst.

The success of Seventeen Prom means Hearst plans to do more pop-up channels in the coming year across its various magazine brands including Seventeen, Elle and Harper’s Bazaar, according to Troy Young, president of Hearst Magazines Digital Media.

“It speaks to the user base on Snapchat and the type of content they consume, so you’ll see us do more across multiple brands,” said Young. These pop-ups will be tied to key events, as Seventeen’s prom-themed channel was, he said.

Hearst is not the first publisher or advertiser to launch a limited-time channel on Snapchat Discover. In April, The Huffington Post went live for 24 hours with a channel called Recharge to promote sleep and wellness. Publisher and commerce platform Brit + Co has an ongoing partnership with Snapchat for pop-up channels around the holidays. Among advertisers, Burberry and Sony Pictures have launched sponsored pop-up Discover channels to promote new products.

Snapchat Discover page
Snapchat Discover home page.

The appeal in doing a pop-up channel comes at a time when publishers are trying to stand out among the Discover pack. Today, there are 20 regular channels on Discover. Hearst owns two, Cosmopolitan and Sweet, the latter of which was created for Discover in partnership with Snapchat itself. The trouble is, unless a user knows and has an affinity for any of the media brands on Discover, the channels look interchangeable — they’re all accessible via the same circular logo, which get rotated by the platform throughout the day.

“There is no way to surface topics to the Discover tree — Sweet looks the same today as it did yesterday,” said Young. “The nice thing about Snapchat specials is that it’s something new and tied to the event — it cues the user in an environment that doesn’t change that there’s something new to look at.”

Pop-up channels may also get more advertisers to Snapchat — and potentially pay a higher premium. The ephemeral nature of Snapchat has enticed plenty of advertisers to run ads on Discover channels and Live Stories. Advertisers are paying a minimum $20 CPM for ads on both features, and are being charged double that for new interactive videos Snapchat is pushing, according to a previous Digiday report. Pop-up channels maintain Snapchat’s ephemeral nature but could invite even more ad dollars since the channels only live for a day or two.

“The challenge for buyers is predictability,” said Mike McLaughlin, managing director of digital for Mindshare North America. “There has to be some sense of what we’re going to get out of it for the day or two that it’s live — the exposure, impressions, however they want to package it. To scale, you have to have some sense of a baseline.”

Hearst might be in a good position to prove the value of its Snapchat content, whether it’s doing a pop-up channel or its full-time Cosmo and Sweet channels. Cosmo and Sweet average 20 million and 15 million unique visitors per month, and both are profitable, according to Young.

It’s hoping to increase audience and engagement — 75 percent of people who visit Cosmo’s channel get through the entire stream, according to YouTube — by producing more regularly scheduled programming for the platform. It has two projects launching later this year for the channels: “SnapHacks,” which will provide daily beauty, fashion and health tips on Cosmo; and “The Sweet Guide to Living a Better Life,” which will suggest better ways to live.

“Snapchat is part of your daily routine. Therefore, the frequency of usage is very high,” said Young. “It’s a great place to tell stories every day.”


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