Earlier this year, Snapchat launched Discover, "a new way to explore Stories from different editorial teams."

Today, Discover, which counts major publishers like CNN, Hearst, Comedy Central and Vice as content partners, looks like it may be one of Snapchat's most consequential product offerings.

In an effort to help its publisher partners drive more eyeballs to the content they're creating for and distributing via Discover, Snapchat has developed deep linking functionality that will allow users to be sent directly to content within the Snapchat app.

The new deep linking functionality relies on Snapcodes, which are QR codes used by the Snapchat app.

"It’s ideal to produce exclusive content for Snapchat and then talk about it on Twitter and Facebook. But it’s been tough to actually drive people there," one source told Digiday.

Deep linking could change that, setting Snapchat up to be a bonafide content destination and an even bigger player in the social media market.

But are publishers being duped in the process?

For many publishers, social represents one of the most important distribution channels.

But that doesn't mean that social hasn't presented challenges.

On Facebook, for instance, the News Feed algorithm limits organic reach, which is now in the single digits. To boost their overall reach, larger publishers frequently turn to paid Facebook ads.

Increasingly, publishers are throwing in the towel on getting consumers from social platforms to their own sites.

Facebook's Instant Articles initiative asks publishers to give the world's largest social network their content, and enticed by revenue shares that seem reasonable, some publishers have answered, "Sure. Take our content."

Snapchat Discover functions similarly to Instant Articles in that publisher content is consumed in the Snapchat experience and not on a publisher website or publisher app.

Despite the obvious risks associated with allowing a third party to deliver their content directly to consumers, publishers eager to reach the Snapchat audience don't seem to have a concern in the world. 

In fact, as Fortune's Erin Griffith has detailed, publishers are clamoring to be a part of Discover even though some of them are finding that Snapchat is becoming more important to their businesses than the distribution channels they own.

According to Griffith...

Within the industry, there’s a running joke that CNN’s Snapchat channel gets more views than its cable TV channel. (It may well be true—some partners report millions of views per day, which beats most cable news networks.)

Deep linking adds a wrinkle. It's one thing for publishers to allow Snapchat to distribute their content to its audience; it's another for publishers to drive consumers from other channels to Snapchat, which is is a member of the latest generation of walled gardens.

Some would argue that publishers are wise to embrace the ability to deep link to their Snapchat content.

After all, there are compelling reasons for publishers to be on Snapchat and if consumers demonstrate a preference to consume their content on Snapchat, why fight it?

But publishers must also consider whether they're building long-term value.

Social platforms like Facebook, Twitter and Snapchat are rented channels, and many publishers invest significant amounts of their paid and earned media to grow their audiences in these channels despite the fact that they don't own them.

While it might be nice that publishers can now deep link to their Snapchat content, at the end of the day, it's hard to see how driving audiences from one rented channel to another is likely to benefit publishers in the long run.

Patricio Robles

Published 2 December, 2015 by Patricio Robles

Patricio Robles is a tech reporter at Econsultancy. Follow him on Twitter.

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