Snapchat’s Content Play Comes Into Focus: ‘Discover’ Debuts Tuesday

Peter Kafka
People take pictures in front of SnapChat headquarters in Venice Beach, Calif.
Patrick Fallon | Bloomberg | Getty Images

Snapchat's boosters have long argued the company could be more than just a messaging service: It could also be a platform for media companies to reach the startup's youthful audience.

Now Snapchat will try to deliver on its promises. Sources say it plans to debut its long-awaited "Discover" feature Tuesday morning.

Discover has been in the works — and reported on extensively — for much of last year. Over that time, Snapchat executives have changed its name, prospective launch date and business terms, but the main thrust has remained the same: Snapchat users will be able to skim a selection of multimedia content from publishers including ESPN, CNN, Vice and Warner Music; Snapchat will sell ads against the videos, photos and articles, and share the revenue with the publishers.

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A Snapchat rep didn't immediately respond to a request for comment. The New York Post reported on Snapchat's launch timing this evening.

While some publishers have balked at Snapchat's deal terms, it's easy to see why lots of them are eager to experiment with Evan Spiegel's company: He has an audience they covet — last year summer the Wall Street Journal said the company was telling investors it had 100 million monthly users — and the halo effect of being associated with a hot startup may be as valuable to some publishers as any ad revenue they generate.

And since publishers are only offering a curated selection of stuff to Snapchat's users, the risk of cannibalization is pretty minimal.

Swisher: Bullish Snapchat
Swisher: Bullish Snapchat

Plus, users have already been coming to the app for general content, not just personal pictures or videos. Snapchat Stories allow users to watch curated clips from events like concerts or college football games. That content is simply created and shared by users instead of media companies, but the idea is the same: people are already coming to Snapchat to do more than just message.

The bigger question is whether Snapchat's users will want to see stuff from the likes of CNN in an app they're used to using for personal communication. Then again, Facebook used to be a place to throw sheep and poke people, and now it's a video powerhouse.

CNBC's parent NBC Universal is an investor in Re/code's parent Revere Digital, and the companies have a content-sharing arrangement.