Where will you be when we elect the next President of the United States? Some are hoping the answer could be “on Snapchat.”
With a massive built-in mobile audience and quick-fire messaging capabilities, Snapchat has the potential to be a major player in breaking news and getting stories to circle the globe in seconds. The app is starting to expand and lay the groundwork to become a formidable news source by the time the 2016 presidential campaign trail rolls around.
This week, the popular photo-sharing and messaging app introduced a sharing tool, giving users the option to send stories from its Discover page. Users can share stories with their friends and personalize them with comments and emoji. First launched in January, Discover is Snapchat’s in-app content platform that hosts exclusive videos, photos, and stories from media partners including National Geographic, Yahoo, People magazine, CNN, Comedy Central and ESPN. With the new sharing feature, Snapchat is hoping for Discover stories to go viral, bring in more and more eyeballs and expand its reach.
Media companies, be they The New York Times or BuzzFeed, place a similar emphasis on getting stories shared on social media and hopefully going viral. So this latest feature is another sign that Snapchat plans to go from a mobile social network to a more traditional news outlet.
A few weeks ago, Politico revealed that Snapchat was launching a news division and had hired one of CNN’s most-respected political reporters, Peter Hamby, to lead the effort. Hamby spent the last two presidential elections in 2008 and 2012 as an embedded reporter on the campaign trail, so it wouldn’t be a surprise if now Snapchat nabs behind-the-scenes live coverage of the 2016 presidential election.
“[Snapchat’s] live stories around big events, around places both here and abroad, the potential to take users to new places—we can see some application of that with news,” Hamby told Politico in an interview about his new role.
More recent live video-streaming apps, Meerkat and Periscope, could also play a role in the next presidential election, although no concrete plans by either service have been made public yet.
Why this matters: As the mobile audience continues to grow, it’s becoming more likely that major news events—from protests to presidential elections—will not be first published or televised, but rather “Snapped.” Snapchat is already prepping to become a power player in breaking news and live video feeds by the time the 2016 election gets underway.
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Oscar writes about iOS, mobile culture and digital music. He also hosts 'The iPhone Show' from Macworld's San Francisco HQ.