Snapchat’s redesign is baffling publishers

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Users haven’t been very happy with Snapchat’s redesign. Publishers who create content for Snapchat’s Discover section, though? They’re still undecided.

That’s because the redesign, which Snap started to roll out broadly in the United States last month, is significantly altering the traffic that publishing partners are seeing for their shows and Stories, according to conversations with several publishing partners.

Some publishers have seen huge spikes in viewers, as much as 50 percent, while others have seen a decline. Still others have seen an increase in total viewers but a notable decrease in the amount of time those viewers spend watching or scrolling through the content.

The common thread seems to be that none of these publishers fully understand why their traffic is changing. Snapchat’s redesign moved publisher content into its own feed —separate from the stuff users’ friends create — and put it alongside content from events like the Super Bowl and celebrities like Kylie Jenner.

Snapchat is using a software algorithm, similar to the one Facebook uses to prioritize News Feed, to determine what content shows up near the top.

But unlike Facebook, where publishers have been learning for years how the algorithm works (i.e. it boosts live video and downgrades click-bait headlines), Discover publishers are trying to learn what Snapchat’s algorithm is looking for. The company hasn’t told them how it works, according to sources, which means they’re trying to navigate the new section on their own.

Most publishers appear to be prioritizing the metrics that Snapchat cared about before the redesign: Time spent and completion rates, which measure how long users watch or read a publisher’s content; and “loyalty,” or whether the same users are coming back on a consistent basis.

“We’re excited that the redesign will help us to a better job of serving the right content to the right people and help Snapchatters discover new content that they may not have known they are interested in,” a company spokesperson said.

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