When Snapchat launched in 2011, its main appeal to users was that pictures and videos disappeared within 10 seconds, but news organisations found a way to use the platform to their advantage when the app introduced its Discover feature in January.
Discover originally launched with 12 publishers, including Sky News, Vice and CNN, and expanded at the end of August to feature additional media outlets, such as BuzzFeed and Mashable.
Alan Strange, senior producer at Sky News, said the broadcaster's experience over the last six months has been a "really good exercise" in storytelling.
"It has allowed us to think carefully about the kind of stories that we want to tell, how we source them and the way in which we want to tell them to a new audience."
He explained in a recent Journalism.co.uk podcast that Sky News has taken different approaches to their Discover content, making the most of the platform's room for flexibility and creativity.There is no set style and we don't have a big, single identity that we need to stick to – it's a case of what story gets in on its meritAlan Strange, Sky News
Each story is headlined by a top 'snap', which is ten seconds long and can sometimes include just "a great piece of video that doesn't need much explanation, context or depth".
Users have also been able to dive more into stories by swiping up on the top snap to access the longer story behind the headline.
"With [these] drop-downs, we've taken some of the lessons that we've learned from our website, with galleries, lists, long form articles and authored pieces.
"There is no set style and we don't have a big, single identity that we need to stick to – it's a case of what story gets in on its merit," he said.
Snapchat Discover is not designed to be used as a standalone news service for breaking news, bulletins or bite-sized updates, like Twitter, he said.
Instead, journalists and producers should "marry their experience with data and intuition" in order to create a good 'daily issue' on the platform.
One type of story that Sky News has found success with is its "tab writing share feature", Strange explained, where users can caption a "newsy or interesting photograph" each day and share it with their friends, allowing them to "join in with a particular conversation".
And quality video will "always win" on Snapchat Discover, he added. "Vertical video is one of the strengths of [Snapchat Discover], because it's compelling and it allows us to play with and manipulate video footage in a way that you wouldn't get on traditional platforms."
A trickier aspect for publishers on the platform is measuring the much sought after engagement with the audience, but Strange said analytics should only serve to give a general overview of what stories perform well.It's really opened up a new door to so many creative collaborations that there really wasn't a place for at this level of exposureJeff Petriello, Mashable
"You can't get wedded to data – data is there to help and inform, but it shouldn't preclude stories that don't do well."
Snapchat's decision to move the Discover tab into the platform's Stories page back in July means publishers now have more visibility, which at Sky News resulted in a 319 per cent overnight increase in traffic.
"We're not trying to push people back to our other platforms.
"The strategy is to create original content for an audience who we feel we're beginning to understand a little bit better."
Mashable joined Snapchat Discover last month and Jeff Petriello, director of creative development and head of Mashable Collective, said the team sees it as an "incredibly engaging mobile-first way to tell stories to an audience that extends beyond the reach of the website".
Mashable publishes a minimum of 14 stories a day on the platform, produced as a collaboration between the editorial and marketing departments. Some of them are 'evergreen content', but some come out of what news topics the team decides to cover on the day.
"As much as we love our website, Facebook and Snapchat Discover channel, taking a single focus on any of those would be, in my opinion, to miss a huge opportunity at this time in the state of media," Petriello told Journalism.co.uk.
He said the interactive pieces and animations that Mashable has recently produced for the website, such as The Taking of Raqqa, could also find a home on Discover, together with vertical video and other storytelling elements.
Video produced by Mashable as part of The Taking Of Raqqa interactive
"At Mashable, we like to think of [stories] as a multimedia product and video definitely plays a very large role in that.
"But we also think 'ok, we have raw video here, what animator or motion graphic designer could we pair with a video editor to really bring this piece to the next level' or 'how can we make this video communicable to people who might not be listening on headphones'?"
Petriello explained how a large part of the content Mashable will produce on Discover will be related to experiments across other platforms like Vine or Instagram, and to Mashable's original Snapchat account.
He said success on the platform can be looked at from two different perspectives. One of them is the story aspect, where publishers don't have to "play an algorithm game" to ensure people can see their content.
But there is also the business side – news organisations can tap into a new stream of advertising revenue, while "pursuing the stories that they want to tell".
"It's really opened up a new door to so many creative collaborations that there really wasn't a place for at this level of exposure.
"This is a space filled with an audience that we believe cares about the stories we like to tell and the angles we like to take on those stories, and reaching out to them in this new way is an incredibly exciting opportunity," Petriello said.
Listen to the full podcast with Strange and Petriello below:
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