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September 8, 2022updated 07 Oct 2022 7:14am

How Daily Mail’s 35-strong Snapchat team connects with 15m subscribers

By Aisha Majid

Snapchat has been called the forgotten social media platform, and this year, among news publishers seeking young audiences, it has been overshadowed by Tiktok.

But for the Daily Mail, Snapchat is worth the investment.

While Snapchat’s parent company, Snap does not share statistics on the publishers with the largest followings on the platform, Donna Ogier, Mail Online’s global director of platform partnerships, told Press Gazette the publisher believes it has one of the largest followings on the app.

At 15 million subscribers, the Mail’s following is more than five times that of Sky News. Other UK newsbrands such as The Telegraph, The Sun and The Guardian have much smaller audiences.

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At 35 people, the Daily Mail's Snapchat team is one of the publisher's largest and produces 60 Top Snaps (short teasers that give an overview of the main piece) every day of the week.

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It is part of major investment in social media across the board at the DMGT-owned publisher. Earlier this year, the company’s chief product officer for editorial, Chris Lawrence told Press Gazette the publisher manages upwards of 20 different Facebook pages. It is also one of the biggest newsbrands on Tiktok with 3.9 million followers.

According to Ogier, however, getting things right on Snapchat has been key to tapping into the younger audiences that remain elusive to many long-established publishers. Ogier herself was global publisher manager at Snap before joining the Mail in 2018.

“[Snapchat] is an opportunity to expand the reach of our brand, but more than that, to connect with a generation of users and introduce them to news, current affairs and celebrity news on their own terms," said Ogier.

While Snapchat is still not a major platform for news, according to social media management platform Hootsuite, 39% of its audience is aged 18 to 24, while the second biggest age group is 25 to 34 - a demographic that is very valuable to advertisers.

"Finding ways of delivering impactful information to that audience in the right way has been a really interesting thing to learn," she said.

"There's a lot of irreverence, there's a little bit of cheekiness, a little bit of swagger. That's very much core to the DNA of how we see our brand, but it's very central to the production values of the team that run this channel. They get that there's a bit of a nod and a wink and it's not about the extreme doom machine that you see so often as part of the cycle that some publishers use to drive attention. It's about delight and engagement."

Along with Vice, CNN and Cosmopolitan, was one of a small group of US publishers that partnered with Snap in 2015 when the company launched Discover, the section of the app that features curated content from Snapchat’s publisher and creator partners.

While the number of Discover news partners has grown since 2015 with the likes of The Guardian, Pink News, Sky News and Ladbible on board, Ogier believes that getting on there early helped the Daily Mail reach its impressive subscriber count.

"We got to 15 million pretty quickly," she said. "We were lucky because we were a very early partner on the platform and one of the first publishers. We definitely grew fast early and have done everything in our power as every publisher does to maintain our audience and our fan base."

Having a content mix that resonates well with this audience has helped – the publisher’s showbiz and celebrity stories are a good fit for the platform’s young audience.

But while celebrity content features strongly it's not the whole package, according to Ogier.

"What differentiates how we approach the Snapchat edition is that we will often lead with a celebrity story for the sake of having that face that looks like theirs to connect [with], and from there we will take them into more serious news stories."

While the Mail "fell in love with this audience and they fell in love with us", Ogier feels some publishers have found it harder to strike the right tone.

"A lot of other publishers we sometimes see try to speak to a younger demographic in a way that's condescending or in a way that follows a very traditional news hierarchy. But that's not what moves this audience. They look for people in their age group dealing with what they're dealing with and so the entry point is very much people like them."

She added: "The hardest thing I've seen in this particular environment is a brand finding their core voice. We are a leopard that doesn't change its spots. There's a predictable tone, graphic execution, animation style, humour, swagger, twinkle in the eye, all of that. People can recognise a Daily Mail Snapchat edition at a distance if they know us.

"One of the biggest challenges for the serious news brands is reaching its audience in an authentic way and not diminishing or changing what that brand is but finding a way of presenting it to this audience that is both authentic and engaging. That is one of the struggles that a lot of brands have in this format.

"It's this same struggle we see with brands and short video now also on Tiktok. This 'getting jiggy with the youngs' is so cringey to watch."

The publisher's Snaps, as the short videos are called, are adapted from its website content, but filtering, framing and organising the stories for the platform requires significant investment.

The Mail says users spend an average of four and half minutes each day with its Snapchat content, while more than half return for five to seven days each week.

While 60 Top Snaps may seem a lot, Ogier says it’s a number that works for the publisher. "We've played with more; we've played with less. It's a good parcel of content that enables us to tell an interesting array of stories. And it's fascinating how many people go all the way through the 60th one."

Around one in five Snapchatters that consume the Daily Mail's content read the entire edition - 60 stories -  each day, she says.

Ogier did not disclose specifics about the publisher’s remuneration from Snapchat but said the significant investment they put in is "very much" justified.

The majority of publishers' profits from Snapchat Discover come through a share of ad revenue, reportedly most commonly on a 50-50 basis. Although the ad share model has turned off some publishers who prefer upfront licensing deals, others are pleased with their returns from the platform.

Pink News chief executive Benjamin Cohen recently told Press Gazette the LGBTQ+ brand has seen revenue growth of 300% year-on-year every year since joining Discover and that Snapchat's advertising monetisation potential has continued to grow.

For the Daily Mail, Snapchat has also given it a toehold into a large US market that they "wouldn't have had in any other way", said Ogier.

Snapchat recently launched a new dynamic stories feature designed to make it easier and less costly for publishers to produce content for the platform by using a partner’s RSS feeds to automatically create stories from the content it is already creating on the web.

The Mail is currently exploring dynamic stories with a dedicated Australian news edition that is expected to launch soon. The publisher also continues to deepen its involvement with the platform in other ways. Earlier this month, it launched a Snap edition of its long-running Femail Fashion Finder section, and in the US it produces content for Snapchat’s fast news bulletin service, Happening Now.

"We're doing more with Snapchat, but on Tiktok we are also increasing the number of videos we will be delivering to them," said Ogier.

"News organisations are very good at complaining that their subscriber demographic is too old, but if you're not talking to a younger group, how on earth are you going to fix that?"

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