Snapchat is making it easier for anyone — including brands, publishers and celebrities — to post pre-produced photos and videos to their public Stories.
On Wednesday Snapchat unveiled Moments, a new section in its mobile app that will house saved versions of people’s snaps that could be edited with new text, illustrations and filters then posted publicly or shared privately. Being able to access and republish old snaps is a big deal, considering the app’s reputation for having the memory of a goldfish. But that’s not even Snapchat’s biggest move beyond ephemera.
People will be able to use Moments to access photos and videos saved to their phone’s camera rolls and, for the first time, post that pre-recorded content to Stories, the collections of snaps someone has posted over the last 24 hours for anyone who follows them to see.
Previously only photos and videos that were recorded and edited within Snapchat could be posted to Stories, unless someone was using an unsanctioned third-party app. So the ability to post pre-produced content — content that could be polished in Photoshop or Final Cut Pro — carries huge implications.
Brands will be able to take photos and videos that they had created for use elsewhere — be it print magazines, billboards, YouTube or TV — and syndicate them on Snapchat. And it’s not just brands. Publishers will be able to cut down their Facebook videos into 10-second clips repackaged as a serialized Story. Celebrities will be able to take their airbrushed selfies from Instagram and re-run them on Snapchat.
That sounds potentially terrible for anyone whose favorite part about Snapchat is the raw, unfiltered nature of its content and how it contrasted with seemingly every other major media platform. But it doesn’t have to be.
Snapchat itself has shown how pre-produced content could be adapted for Snapchat without feeling out of place. The company has been increasingly incorporating old photos and videos in its curated Live Stories, such as the Everest Live Story it aired last month. Instead of simply slapping this archived content in the middle of a Story, Snapchat’s curators have added annotations like text and visuals that make this otherwise foreign content feel more native.
There’s a big risk that the ability to post pre-produced content to Stories will enable brands, publishers, celebrities and anyone else to get lazy creatively. But the inverse could also be true. Old photos and videos could, and should, freshen up Snapchat’s creative palette.
For example, Rip Curl could include clips of pro surfer Mick Fanning getting attacked by a shark last year in an interview with its sponsored athlete, who this week returned to the event where the attack took place. An NBC News reporter covering the Republican National Convention could intersperse coverage of Donald Trump’s presumed acceptance speech with clips from “The Apprentice”. And a creator could produce a parody of the final scene from “The Sandlot” by going to a Dodger game, recording some video and then shooting the rest days later at his or her local Little League field.
Maybe I’m being too hopeful. Maybe I didn’t learn from Instagram, which enabled brands to get lazier about their content and saw them get as lazy as feared. Maybe not enough brands, publishers and creators have realized that what works on one platform usually won’t work on another, especially not one as “other” as Snapchat. Or maybe I just hope that laziness will come with a cost.
It will be very obvious to viewers when someone includes an old photo or video in their Story. Snaps posted from Memories will outlined with a white frame when viewed in a Story and will carry a timestamp specifying when they were originally taken. And photos and videos posted from a device’s camera roll will be labeled “from Camera Roll.” Hopefully those distinctions will make people weigh whether and why to use archived content.
Brands may not care and post poor, pre-produced photos and videos anyway because it’s cheaper and easier than buying an ad from Snapchat. It’s hard to imagine that not happening. But Snapchat could catch wind of that and invoke its terms of service, which forbids the organic posting of commercial content without the company’s permission. For anyone who’s checked out DJ Khaled’s Snapchat Stories lately, Snapchat enforcing that restriction may be less likely than brands *not* negatively exploiting the pre-recorded content capability. But maybe there’s hope.
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