A different kind of story


A friend and I were finishing up a late dinner Tuesday night when we realized the New Hampshire primary was just about finished up.

Curious for the results, I pulled out my phone to check. But I surprised myself with the first place I looked. Not Google. Not CNN. Or Twitter. Or The Times. But Snapchat. I suppose that’s no surprise if you recognize the distinct ghost above (who actually has a name! It’s Ghostface Chillah).

A screen shot from tonight's Democratic debate story.
A screen shot from tonight’s Democratic debate story.

Here’s why:

Snapchat’s live coverage of significant events is unlike anything that has ever existed. It is revolutionary in the world of storytelling.

Imagine a story told from the eyes of 100 different people. That’s 100 different perspectives. 100 different angles. 100 different emotions. All in real time.

Here’s how Snapchat’s live story feature works:

The Snapchat story event is the sum of 10-second bits all put together in real-time by people — normal people — who are actually there experiencing the events. They’re in chronological order, from beginning to end. Sometimes there are little graphics with information about the event. And it’s all put together into a complete story.

A parade. A fashion show. A sporting event. A day in a city on the other side of the world.

A screen shot from last night's Lakers/Cavs story with Kobe and Lebron.
A screen shot from last night’s Lakers/Cavs story with Kobe and Lebron.

For the New Hampshire primary, the story took you from John Kasich pouring morning coffee in a little diner, to following each candidate and their supporters all day long. People recorded themselves actually voting, or leaving the polling place excited, or canvassing for their candidates. The story ended with the final results and candidates’ optimistic speeches regardless of outcome.

It’s all grassroots, no-frills storytelling. And it’s brilliant.

Snapchat makes its money through its Discover section featuring big media names like ESPN, BuzzFeed, iHeart Radio and their most recent deal with media giant Viacom. It also includes ads, which candidates are taking advantage of. They’re a little less organic, but I suppose if you want a $19 billion estimated value, you’ve got to make money somehow.