Media companies who see Snapchat as a toy or plaything without any real competitive advantage should probably reassess their position. And that’s not just because of things like Discover, where Snapchat hosts short-form video content from outlets like CNN and VICE News. It’s because of the way that Snapchat functions, and the way it has tapped into the needs and usage patterns of young mobile users.
Across the media landscape, companies large and small are trying to wrap their heads around mobile, and how smartphones and ubiquitous networking and emerging social behavior are changing news and content consumption. The New York Times has launched multiple apps like NYT Now, and keeps trying to figure out how they should work: Will people pay for them? Are they just aggregators? What makes them unique? Newspapers are also betting on tablet apps, mostly because they feel similar to the way the media business used to operate, but with glass instead of paper.
Snapchat, meanwhile, has one hugely powerful tool at its disposal: It is brand new, and therefore it has no traditional business model, no legacy operations, no pension or infrastructure costs, and no concept of what the media industry used to be like, or should be like. All it knows is what users do, and what they want.