Snapchat has made a name for itself by being ephemeral. Pictures and video clips that vanish after they’ve been viewed. Over the last year it’s stepped back somewhat from that original premise with things like Snapchat stories the build throughout the day as users add content, and a recent feature that let’s you replay one snap every 24 hours, but ultimately Snapchat’s core appeal is its ability to deliver content that is quick, spontaneous, and temporary. Now the app is ready to step beyond the user generated content that’s been driving it and start to deliver original content to users.
This is the Snapchat team’s first large scale attempt at creating content. The app’s audience comes entirely from user generated content being exchanged between users. Aside from annual holiday greetings and a bit of dabbling in curated Snapchat stories for prominent events like the World Cup, this will be the first time the company has made an organized attempt to distribute branded content to its huge young user base.
There comes a time in every platform’s life when it will try to create its own content. It’s a natural part of the circle of life, like Mufasa, and the antelope, and the grass. The success of Netflix and Amazon have convinced every company to become a media company, but for platforms like Snapchat that have been raised on creative user generated content (and let’s be honest, probably a lot of sexting) it can be a rocky transition. Sites like YouTube and Tumblr also made their name trading on user generated content, and their originals have so far failed to complete. Tumblr shuttered its vaunted Storyboard blog which was meant to showcase and create popular content. YouTube has had better luck, but the company’s original videos still come in second those created by users.
Snapchat is hoping that they can hook their huge audience with creative content and then start generating income by selling ads. The open question is whether users will be up for it or if they’ll just learn to tune it out.