In a deal worth an estimated $100m (£78m), it was announced last week that Time Warner (TW), owner of the HBO and Warner Bros entertainment brands, is to produce content for social media platform Snapchat over the next two years.
TW will produce three ‘mini-episodes’ of between three and five minutes every day for Snapchat users, made specifically for the vertical mobile format.

For TW, the partnership will see a mass audience introduced to its shows – from scripted dramas to comedies and documentaries – and, presumably, it will leverage the partnership to market its movies with clips, trailers, and play out of exclusive content on the app.

For Snapchat, meanwhile, this deal represents an extension of third party content deals already in place, as seen in the ‘Discover’ page of the app – all of which aim to increase current users’ time spent in-app, and their engagement with the platform, as well as extending Snapchat’s reach among new audiences.

The most recent partner to get on board with Discover is Mashable, which launched its daily edition this month, and is already reporting that half of its viewers on the platform are checking in at least three times a week.

Snapchat is betting on these publisher deals, in particular, as a way of keeping its 166m users on the platform; it’s been on the offensive ever since Instagram launched its own version of Stories back in August last year. Described as a ‘Snap attack’, Instagram Stories has now hit 250m daily users, already surpassing Snapchat’s total.

For advertisers, the decision to run ads on Instagram Stories or Snapchat Stories depends on the campaign aims.
Instagram has a higher reach in terms of daily active users, but, arguably, Snapchat’s content-push has been a success, as users are more engaged with the platform; Snapchat is second-only to Facebook in terms of time spent in-app (at least in the US). Indeed, the head of digital marketing at Universal Pictures, having used Snapchat to promote the latest Despicable Me film, suggested that engagement metrics with the platform were twice the usual benchmarks.

Both platforms are continuing to innovate; Instagram Stories has introduced geostickers, Live video replays, and is testing a Favourites feature, while Snapchat rolled-out ‘Snap Maps’ after its acquisition of social mapping start-up Zenly.

The Snapchat v Instagram battle is shaping up to be a mighty one. For now, Snapchat’s holding its ground, but the relative success of its publisher deals will determine how it holds on to its current user base, as Instagram Stories only grows.