While Mark Zuckerberg has refused to call Facebook (FB) a media company, Snap Inc. may be working in the opposite direction with its ephemeral photo-messaging app, Snapchat.
Though Snap, Inc. describes itself as a “camera company,” Snapchat has been doubling down on its efforts as a media platform by cracking down on clickbait and banning explicit images.
Through a series called Discover, 32 publishing platforms have been generating digestible, illustration and video-heavy content. The pieces give users the ability to quickly flip through a deck while having the option to read more and even share a story with friends.
Snapchat has taken a unique position on news content, adopting the role of curator early on by carefully selecting its publication partners — ranging from The Economist and The Wall Street Journal to Comedy Central and MTV.
In a move to combat a crisis like Facebook’s fake news epidemic, Snapchat is going a step further and has delineated guidelines regarding the content viewed (and subsequently shared) on Discover. On Monday morning, Snapchat created a set of new rules that “explicitly restrict publishers from posting questionable pictures on Discover that do not have news or editorial value,” according to The New York Times.
Additionally, starting in February, Snapchat will give publishers a tool that enforces an age limit for users to access certain content.
It’s clear why Snapchat might want to curate some of the content on Discover. Take, for instance, the stories featured in my Discover section on Snapchat on Monday. Daily Mail often puts out salacious photos of the Kardashians and this particular article — “Iggy gets jiggy with new man” — shows revealing shots of singer Iggy Azalea in a bikini with music producer LJay Currie. Then there’s Vice’s story about “Why People Aren’t into Strippers Anymore” with an image of a woman’s high-heeled shoes and an adjacent pole.
Even though there’s no shortage of avenues for users to access risque images and sexy headlines like this, Snap is trying to ensure it has some supervisory role over its content. Perhaps that’s because its audience skews the youngest among its competitors, with 41% of all 18- to 34-year-olds in the US using the app every single day.
Snapchat’s big media push
The move to curtail salacious content like this shouldn’t come as a complete surprise, given that Snapchat has been pushing heavily into the media sphere. In fact, it made several recent high-profile hires from the world of media, including the former CEO of Sony Entertainment Michael Lynton, former Time Magazine managing editor Rick Stengel and former CNN political reporter Peter Hamby.
These high-profile media hires come as consumers turn to social media sites to get their news fixes. Facebook remains the top destination, with 44% of US adults getting their news from the platform, according to the Pew Research Center. Though only 2% of US adults get news on Snapchat, 17% of users do rely on the app to get their news, and the company is betting that the number will only increase.
Facebook has said it’s the user’s responsibility to flag fake news while Twitter (TWTR) only suspended Breitbart writer Milo Yiannopoulos’ account after he repeatedly engaged in racial attacks on actress Leslie Jones. Snapchat, on the other hand, is taking on a proactive, rather than a reactive, approach to monitoring content.
Echoing the late Steve Jobs, who, in 2010, said “we do believe we have a moral responsibility to keep porn off the iPhone. Folks who want porn can buy and [sic] Android phone,” Snapchat has made the active decision — and feels compelled to — closely curate content.
“We have been collaborating closely with all of our publishers, whose content has continued to evolve. We want to be a great partner to all of our editorial partners, and updating our content guidelines to better reflect where our platform is today is an important part of that,” Nick Bell, Snapchat’s vice president for content, told The New York Times.
In a move counter to the overall strategy of social media companies dealing with news, Snap’s preemptive strike may be a crucial move as it goes public this year.