Policy wonks who opened Snapchat today were greeted by the silky drawl of Frank Underwood, the chief villain (and hero) of the Netflix political tragedy “House of Cards.”
“I’ve always said power is more important than money,” intones Underwood, played by Kevin Spacey. “But when it comes to elections, money gives power — well, a run for its money.”
The clip, which appeared on Vox.com’s newly launched Discover channel, serves as an entry point for the site’s rapid-fire tutorial on cash-infused political campaigns. Paired with sinister-sounding music and a spate of red, white and blue motion graphics, Underwood’s cameo marks Vox.com’s first foray into Snapchat Discover.
Vox.com, which is the 17th publisher admitted to Snapchat’s interactive news feature, has a tradition of creating content specifically for apps like Instagram, Facebook and Twitter. So it’s no surprise that the explainer-driven site is reaching for Snapchat’s youthful users, which are largely between the ages of 18 and 34. Especially when 18 to 24-year-olds comprise only 16 percent of visitors to Vox.com’s website.
“We’re very realistic at Vox, and we understand that there are a lot of places for people to spend their time, whether that’s YouTube or Facebook or Twitter,” said Allison Rockey, director of programming for Vox.com. “Or a bazillion other places, Snapchat, of course, being one of them.”
Vox is betting curious millennials are willing to grapple with Vox.com’s blend of policy, politics and pop-culture explainers when they’re served up in snackable snaps, and the site is putting up money to prove it. During the runup to today’s launch, Vox.com added three staffers, one of whom is still working on a freelance basis. So far, the team consists of an editor, a motion graphics specialist and a visual overseer who execute the site’s daily offerings.
Vox.com’s Snapchat Discover strategy is to grab users within the first three snaps of its daily edition. This, Rockey says, is a critical window for users with fleeting attention spans and a smorgasbord of alternatives just a few swipes away.
“If someone gets that far in and you haven’t made them curious to learn more, I think you’re going to see a pretty big dropoff rate,” Rockey said.
Although today is Vox.com’s first on Snapchat Discover, Rockey says some of the thinking required to create succinct visual stories is already affecting storytelling elsewhere in the newsroom. In particular, Rockey says Snapchat’s mobile, visual, and concise dimensions have inspired creative thinking among her peers.
Vox.com is months behind some of its competitors in launching a Snapchat Discover account. But Rockey isn’t concerned the crowded field might drown out the site’s daily offerings. She says the app’s audience is big enough to support a multitude of publishers who cater to a wide variety of interests.
“We’re expecting the same type of person who would be a fan of Vox.com (to be) our same base on Snapchat,” Rockey said. “There’s a very large base of people out there, so I don’t think we’re worried about that.”