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Snapchat Wants to Let Users Subscribe to Their Favorite 'Discover' Publishers

Snapchat wants to let you follow your favorite channels.

Asa Mathat

Snapchat is working on new plans to boost traffic to the publishers that use its “Discover” platform.

The company has been telling publishers using Discover that it plans to let its 100 million daily active users subscribe to their favorite channels, which are run by big media brands including Vice, ESPN and CNN. Right now, Snapchat users have to seek out Discover channels, which are generally segregated in a separate screen on the messaging app.

Snapchat is also looking to replace each media brand’s circular logo with a magazine-like image that rotates each day depending on that publisher’s content, industry sources say. The hope is to create a more visual, and therefore clickable, appeal.

The startup, led by CEO Evan Spiegel, has told some publishers it is aiming for a May rollout, though that could be a moving target.

A company spokesperson declined to comment.

Subscribing to a publisher’s channel will ensure that channel’s content appears on the app’s Stories page, a section of the app that’s easier to get to from the launch screen. Right now, Snapchat pushes a few Discover channels a day into the Stories page, but most of the 20+ publishers it works with remain listed on a separate page.

The majority of publisher traffic already comes from Snapchat’s Stories page, according to sources, so getting dedicated real estate there could be a big deal. The move could also be interpreted as an admission from Snapchat that after an initial burst of traffic from Discover pages, the channels have generally declined in popularity. (Vox Media, which owns this site, launched a Discover channel for its site last fall.)

It is unclear how the mechanics of the subscriptions (or “follows,” as some publishers have described them to Re/code), will work. One intriguing proposition for publishers is the ability to drive traffic to their Discover channels from outside platforms, via “deep links,” and then trying to persuade users to subscribe from there.

Another possibility, which isn’t mutually exclusive: Snapchat might send push notifications to users alerting them that their favorite publishers have new stuff to look at.

What is clear, though, is that Snapchat is setting up shop for a future when the app might host dozens of publishers versus the 20 it does now. The section is already crowded, giving publishers a sense that they’re in a digital version of “The Hunger Games.” Adding a subscription feature could appease publishers worried about standing out as the section expands.

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