Snapchat launches Discover feature, with news stories and ads

The popular messaging app, known for missives that vaporize after a set time, will begin serving its users multimedia content from CNN, ESPN, Food Network and more.

Don't think of it as social media. Snapchat says that Discover will put an emphasis on storytelling. Snapchat video/Screenshot by CNET

Snapchat is apparently ready to get serious about making money through advertising.

Starting Tuesday, the company behind the popular messaging app of the same name, which lets people send missives that disappear after a set time, will begin serving users of the app editorial and multimedia content from major brands such as CNN, Yahoo News, National Geographic, the Food Network, ESPN, Cosmopolitan and more.

Advertising will run alongside the content. Snapchat announced the feature, called Discover, on Tuesday.

Snapchat described Discover as an effort to "build a storytelling format that puts the narrative first" and emphasized that "this is not social media."

"Social media companies tell us what to read based on what's most recent or most popular. We see it differently. We count on editors and artists, not clicks and shares, to determine what's important," Snapchat said in its blog post Tuesday.

Editions of Discover will be refreshed every 24 hours, the company said, and each edition will include full-screen photos and videos, long-form layouts and "gorgeous advertising."

The launch marks an uptick in Snapchat's efforts to generate revenues through ads. In October, the company started showing some ads to users in their list of recent messages. The first such ad, a link to a 20-second trailer for the Universal Pictures' film "Ouija," prompted millions of Snapchat users to click through and watch the trailer, leaving Universal satisfied with the effort, the Los Angeles Times said at the time.

Three-year-old Snapchat has yet to make a significant amount of money, but industry insiders clearly see it as a force to be reckoned with. Facebook offered $3 billion for the company in 2013 but was rebuffed. And last year Snapchat gained a place on the list of the top 10 US venture capital deals, The Wall Street Journal reported -- a $486 million investment in the company brought it in at No. 9. Snapchat has been valued at $10 billion.

In August, industry researcher ComScore said that Snapchat was the third most popular social-media app among people between the ages of 18 and 34 -- behind only Facebook and Instagram.

Tuesday's announcement of Discover had been foretold Monday by Recode. Reports last summer had said the service was planned for a November 2014 launch.

Editors' note: This story was originally posted January 26 at 9:18 p.m. PT. It has been updated to reflect the official Snapchat announcement.

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