PinkNews has tripled revenue over the last year, driven by Snapchat

PinkNews is finding success on Snapchat, as monthly revenue has tripled over the last year, spurred by launching its Snaphat Discover channel.

The LGBT publisher has been publishing a Snapchat Discover edition since July 2018, moving from a schedule of three times a week to daily in January. Over the last year, since being on the platform, it has generated revenues in the seven figures, but PinkNews couldn’t be more specific due to its contractual agreements with Snapchat. As well as revenue generated directly from the platform, this includes money from projects like creating sponsored lenses for brands that might not appear on the app, but are skills it has honed on Snapchat.

Currently, on the platform, the publisher makes money from programmatic ads, ads sold direct, creative solutions and commerce. For now, programmatic ads account for the biggest chunk in PinkNews’ Snapchat revenue, thanks to its healthy Discover subscriber number of 2.5 million. The most successful editions fetch over 12 million unique users; on average, it gets around 2.5 million unique users across its Snapchat channels, according to the publisher. Despite these numbers, by this time next year, it expects programmatic revenue to be a smaller contributor while commerce, along with other direct-to-consumer revenue lines, will be the majority.

“We’re using the content as a funnel to get users in, show them ads and sell them products, but we’re moving the business away from being more ad-driven,” said Benjamin Cohen, CEO and editor-in-chief of PinkNews He added it plans to build out other direct-to-consumer lines through travel bookings, while more commerce items are in the works. It also plans to use paid social on Facebook and Instagram to sell products in the near future.

Commerce is its newest venture. PinkNews has been selling seven products through its Snapchat Discover edition for the last three weeks. These include four different pin badges and three pairs of sunglasses, with basket size ranging from $10 to $100. In this time, it’s made revenue in the tens of thousands. This week it’s adding five T-shirts designs to its collection.

Snapchat rolled out commerce in January 2018 with roughly 10 partners, PinkNews claims to be the only U.K.-headquartered publisher using it due to its U.S. subsidiary and large U.S. audience. Viewers in the U.K. can still make purchases but are sent outside the Snapchat platform. Roughly 90% of the purchases are made in the U.S., the majority on the West Coast between 10 p.m. and 2 a.m. local time, according to Cohen.

Having ready-made media brands gives publishers an advantage when targeting buyers on social platforms, which have swelled with DTC brands. But making the switch from media to retail has its hurdles.

“Commerce is a radically different expertise to anything we’ve done before,” said Cohen. “When you’re making an ad sale, you go to one individual; commerce is touching thousands of different people for different reasons.”

As it’s still early days, the publisher is working out the best way to drive products. Each edition offers two units to buy, and it typically only promotes one item per edition. More traffic does not equal more purchases: On days when it has higher unique users to its edition, ad revenue is higher than commerce revenue because the core users are typically the ones buying, Cohen suggests.

The difficulty is in forecasting conversions, as there’s no targeting with the commerce units they can get served to people who may be too young for credit cards. The newness of Snapchat’s commerce tools was one reason publishers pointed to for lackluster commerce revenue. One publisher previously told Digiday it has received tens of thousands of revenue from commerce over a year. Although case studies from Snapchat detailed how Nike and Adidas sold out of limited quantities of sneakers in a matter of hours.

Snap’s recent record user and revenue growth will likely pull more advertisers to invest in the platform. PinkNews revenue has also grown as the publisher has made more headway with agencies in New York in recent months and run more branded content campaigns. In the last month, half a million views of its PinkNews lenses, submitting them to user-generated content Discover channel, PinkNews Stories. This has attracted the attention of advertisers. The publisher has created roughly 10 branded lenses for advertisers, another launching with Amazon, who run wider ad campaigns or events. For now, it’s not offering this as a standalone service despite agencies asking for it.

PinkNews initially invested $250,000 in getting on to Snapchat Discover, including setting up the team of nine. According to Cohen, it’s quite profitable.

“It’s paying dividends. It won’t have the scale of Facebook, but that won’t always work for this cohort,” said Cohen. “We’ve had about 75 million uniques to our channel since launch; that’s 75 million who wouldn’t have known about PinkNews before.”

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