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Snapchat readies 2020 news push

Snapchat

Snapchat is creating a dedicated news channel specifically for the 2020 debates. It is also working with candidates to increase their visibility on Snapchat through efforts with augmented reality and even merchandise sales.

Why it matters: The company is doing more to increase civic and political engagement on its platform as it readies a more aggressive push into news, sources tell Axios.

Details: The curated "Democratic Primary Debate Channel" will be live on September 12 during the debate, as well as the following morning, targeted to select users that are interested in news and political content.

  • The channel will live within Snapchat's content arm, Discover, and will feature updates from all of the top candidates that are on Snapchat, as well as primary coverage from vetted news providers and some vetted user content.
  • The channel will exist as a pop-up around each debate leading up to the election. The company began testing the idea during July's Democratic debates.

All of the top-tier candidates as of last week have now launched Snapchat accounts this cycle, and some are leveraging the platform to do things they would've normally relied on Facebook for, like sell stuff or raise money.

  • Andrew Yang, for example, uses Snapchat's augmented reality (AR) and commerce tools to sell merchandise. He turned his famous "MATH" hat into an AR Lens that users could swipe up to purchase on his Snap Store account.

Be smart: Sources tell Axios that part of Snap's pitch for politicians to get more involved in the platform around debates is that the debate channel will increase their exposure to a key voting demographic, elevating their stories and content for youngsters who don't necessarily opt-in to receive political content.

  • About 80% of Snapchat users in the U.S. are 18 or older, the voting age, per Snapchat's Ads Manager application programming interface (API).

Snapchat is also investing more in political news programming. It recently moved its political news show "Good Luck America," hosted by Peter Hamby, from weekly to daily, upon seeing that political news consumption is becoming more of a daily habit of Snapchat users.

  • Snapchat built a studio for the show at the company's Santa Monica headquarters, where Hamby interviews candidates and political experts, on top of hosting shows on the road. Snapchat says that last year, 10 million viewers watched “Good Luck America” midterm election coverage in November.

More efforts to increasing voter participation will also be part of Snapchat's 2020 strategy. The company hired Laura Nichols earlier this summer to spearhead communications around this and other policy efforts.

  • Last cycle, the company coded a voter registration button to a key section of the app, which sources say is also something it plans to do for 2020.
  • It also helped over 400,000 Snapchat users register to vote voter in 2018 and helped over 1.4 million people find their polling location on Election Day through its Snap Map and other product integrations. The majority of these registrants are age 24 or under. 

Bottom line: Snapchat wants to be the place where young people get all of their political news, and candidates are here for it.