Notes on Snapchat Discover

Along with a subtle redesign and the controversial but fair removal of the ability to view other people’s best friends, Snapchat have taken a daring step in a direction that we would never have expected from the company a year ago when it wasn’t much more than a sexting app. And when I got the update, I was ecstatic; I had faith and the belief that Snapchat had ‘revolutionised’ bitesize journalism; I thought that they had cemented themselves within the ranks of the major internet social players. I might have been wrong.

The feature itself, the ability for publications to create channels with their own content, visual and textual, makes so much sense. Already, publications, celebrities, companies and YouTube personalities had all created accounts in which they published ‘behind the scenes’ content or supplemented their written work: The Verge did this well. Discover isn’t quite the same, though. It misses key functionality, and doesn’t offer what most users seem to be looking for.

Here’s what is wrong:

It’s too time consuming – The whole point of a ‘snap’, is that it is, well, just that. A snap of someone’s day. A moment. A tease. For example, as incredible as Vice’s video content is, I don’t open Snapchat to watch a 15 minute documentary or read a heartfelt, powerful article on a controversial topic. I want a brief burst of information, something to encourage me to think about a topic, not tell me everything about it. Yahoo News is a channel which also suffers here: I don’t want someone to read a headline to me, or over explain something I could read about later.

No saving or sharing – What you send to your friends is not there to be saved. But a recipe from the Food Network, shouldn’t be viewed just once. My fridge is not a Tesco, and I don’t want to cook a meal at 4pm when I open the app. I honestly don’t understand the point of this channel. By the time I’ve been out, bought the ingredients and waited until dinner time, there’s new content—the old is gone forever. And then how about National Geographic or Vice who I’m sure would benefit greatly from people sharing the content they create, not swiping past it or forgetting about it later; I might want to watch that video of sloths again another time.

It’s scheduled – Snapchat is about spontaneity. Content on a schedule does not fit in with Snapchat as a brand at all. It’s not even useful. I don’t want to have to organise when I’m going to view content, I want to see relevant stuff when it happens. I want to see how long I’ve got left to see that stuff. I want to know when it’s going to disappear. Food Network should give me a cool coffee shop around lunchtime, when news breaks of an event in Israel, show me some relevant Vice articles I can read in my own time, when there’s violence in the UK, show me something from the Daily Mail that blames it on the Muslims! Snapchat Discover, right now, is irrelevant.

Snapchat had so much potential. It still does. But Discover right now is a mismatch of ideas that just don’t work. It’s not social enough, what is being shown is not interesting enough, and it’s not timely. A real missed opportunity. A massive disappointment.