Something you’ll never see on Snapchat’s daily news show with NBC: anchors sitting behind desks wearing suits and ties.
Starting Wednesday, NBC News will produce the show, which is called “Stay Tuned,” twice a day for Snapchat’s 166 million users. Each edition will cover the biggest news stories of the day and be a crisp two to three minutes in length.
As the first daily video series to air on Snapchat, “Stay Tuned” is the latest development in parent Snap Inc.’s nascent efforts to become a destination for exclusive shows. The company hopes to air up to three shows per day by the end of the year.
“Stay Tuned” also represents an increased focus for Snap on the specific genre of news, according to the company’s head of original content, Sean Mills.
“Our ambition is very much that when something happens in the world or there’s a news event, that our audience would turn to Snapchat increasingly to get that news,” Mills told Business Insider during a recent interview.
Reinventing the news for Snapchat
Since the beginning of 2015, Snapchat’s Discover section has been home to a hand-picked and ever-expanding list of publishers, from The Washington Post to The Daily Mail. These outlets show often-repurposed stories and videos in their channels that are tailored for Snapchat’s vertical video format and swipe-heavy interface.
A team of in-house editors at Snapchat also pulls together videos and photos willingly submitted by users for stories around breaking news events like elections and terrorist attacks. These so-called “Our Stories” live next to stories from outside publishers in Snapchat’s Discover section.
With “Stay Tuned,” NBC News will get prime real estate in the newer “Shows” section of Snapchat, which has already been home to other NBC-owned shows like “The Voice” and E! News’ “The Rundown.” NBCUniversal invested a whopping $500 million in Snap’s initial public offering.
Interest in doing a news show on Snapchat came after NBC reporters used the app to cover the 2016 US presidential election, according to NBC head of digital Nick Ascheim. The network’s staffers started sharing videos from their personal accounts that would occasionally be picked up in one of Snapchat’s Our Stories and get “unbelievable amounts of traffic,” he said.
“We wanted to do a news program that really felt like news as opposed to dumbing down for a different audience,” Ascheim told BI. “And that was very much in line with what Snap wanted.”
A big part of Snapchat’s draw for content partners and advertisers is its highly engaged, young audience. The average Snapchat user opens the app 18 times per day and 75% of daily show viewers are between the ages of 13 and 24, according to the company.
For NBC, that represents an opportunity to reach a highly sought-after demographic. A dedicated team of 30 NBC reporters and editors will produce the show and air breaking news updates throughout the day if a big enough story breaks.
“It’s an audience that we want to reach and we want to understand better,” Ascheim said.
A source of inspiration for both partners was “Good Luck America,” a politics show produced by Snap and hosted by the company’s head of news and former CNN reporter, Peter Hamby. Since the 2016 presidential election, the show’s viewership has grown by 53% in its second season and now averages over 5 million unique viewers per episode.
And while Snapchat’s Discover section has been criticized for often looking like the digital equivalent of the tabloid rack at a grocery store, “Good Luck America” episodes cover issues like immigration, gun violence, and the decline of American manufacturing.
“The truth is that when we talk about Snapchat being a camera company, we talk about it being a lense into the world,” said Snap original content chief Sean Mills. “We feel a sense of responsibility that lense applies into all facets of peoples’ lives. When we first did news coverage, I think it was a surprise to a lot of us. Now it’s become very expected.”
Snap’s partnership with NBC on “Stay Tuned” is an indefinite commitment, according to Mills. NBC will sell ads for the show and Snap will take a share of the revenue. Snap’s internal production team will continue to help NBC develop the show and work on best practices for shooting and editing.
“We’re not thinking about it in terms of seasons,” he said.
Developing a sense of trust
Snap’s decision to go head-first into news comes as Facebook is preparing to unveil its own slate of original shows. Serious news coverage is one area that Facebook is shying away from with its first slate of shows, according to people familiar with the matter.
And while Facebook has been heavily criticized for its role in spreading fake news and misinformation in recent months, Snap has managed to largely avoid the issue. When asked why, Mills credited the company’s approach of only working with select publishers.
“We’ve always been a bit more of a closed platform when it comes to content and content partnerships,” he said. “That has allowed us to really, I think, control and maintain the credibility and the trust of our audience. That’s kept us out of some of the difficulties that other platforms have when they’re open and there’s less of a sense of trust in the information that comes over.”