Snapchat unveils redesign that separates social from media

Thursday, 30 Nov, 2017

It's a relatively simple change, but one that should please some users who were exhausted of Snapchat pushing branded content in their face.

The new Snapchat Discover page will feature a personalized feed of content from the app's more than 70 media partners along with Stories about breaking news events and specific locations, sourced from public videos shared by users and edited by humans at Snap.

On one hand, much of what you see in the new Snapchat represents a simple moving of furniture.

Scattered among those headlines are links to more serious stories: "After the Olympics, a Nightmare in Rio" (The New York Times), and "North Korea Just Launched a Ballistic Missile" (CNN), but the vast majority of the editorial content featured on Snapchat today is lightweight fluff. It will begin appearing later this week for a small number of users and expected to roll out more broadly in the next few weeks.

So what exactly is the redesign? "While many people view Snapchat as a social media service, it is primarily used to talk with friends-like visual texting", Spiegel said. "This means that the Chats and Stories from your friends are on the left side of Snapchat, and the Stories from publishers, creators and the community are on the right".

The new version of Snapchat will separate publisher content from interactions between friends, creating a two-sided layout that is designed to aid discovery. Change might be necessary, however, as Snapchat's interface has been repeatedly copied by Facebook of late, including through Instagram Stories, which is now Snap's main competitor and a frequent pain point for the company. Instead of burying Snap Map behind an awkward and unfamiliar pinch gesture, it opens alongside the Search bar. The stories tab blended content from friends and brands, to sometimes confusing effect.

The news comes at a time when Snap is under pressure from slow user growth and competition from Facebook and Instagram. Every group chat now gets its own Group Story all members can add to.

Snap executives hope the reorganization will lead to more conversations between close groups of friends. It marks a return, sort of, to auto-advancing stories, which Snap killed last October. Facebook and Twitter have introduced transparency initiatives since then, and Facebook hired more human review staff earlier this year to monitor its content. Snapchat explains that if an account follows you back, it is considered a friend, and shows up on the left side of the app. "The challenge is, in digital, it is more blurred by consumers who look to brands as friends".

CEO Evan Spiegel took a jab at rivals, writing that social media "fueled "fake news" because of this content mixing.

Previously, content from friends mingled and competed with professional content in one pane on the right.

It doesn't change the way people actually record or share posts. "But today we're making it easier to find the people you want to express yourself with".