The Sun now attracts up to 1m readers a day via its daily edition on the social media network Snapchat, according to News UK’s head of video Derek Brown.
The app for sharing photographs and messages on mobile phones has around 10m users in the UK and is particularly popular among the young.
The Sun has been on Snapchat’s “Discover” section, which showcases media content to its users, since April. It produces a daily edition of The Sun for Snapchat which features animated headlines, music and stories tailored for a youth market.
Snapchat readers swipe through 12 Sun stories served sequentially and see an advert every fourth swipe. The advertising revenue is shared between The Sun and Snapchat under a confidential arrangement.
Brown, who launched The Sun’s Snapchat edition, was speaking as part of a briefing for Press Gazette at News UK on the publisher’s digital commercial strategy.
He revealed that he was given a free rein by editor Tony Gallagher to develop the Snapchat edition and tested out content by watching reader behaviour through a one-way mirror.
He said he found that younger readers want a product which is “all positive” and features lots of video content.
He said: “It’s quite a different product. The people we tested were aged 16 to 23 and a lot of them were unaware of The Sun as a brand. A lot of them who had heard of The Sun were really surprised at what they found. They thought it was going to be about politics and opinion.”
The Sun Snapchat edition is aimed at a UK audience and has a focus on pop stars and celebrities who might not feature in the print edition.
Digital revenue growth plans at News UK largely centre around The Sun which is currently the UK’s fastest growing news website (since dropping its paywall last November).
The publisher cited Comscore data from August this year which claims The Sun website reached more than 19m “unique users” in the UK that month. It said 46 per cent of these were aged 15-34 and 88 per cent came via mobile phones or tablet computers.
News UK chief commercial officer Dominic Carter said that previously The Sun’s revenue split had been 95 per cent print versus five per cent digital: “That will be changing significantly this year.”
He said that The Sun’s new gambling website Sun Bets will be a big part of that strategy as will branded content, with a strong emphasis on video.
Brown told Press Gazette: “Video for us next year is going to be a really big thing. My ambition is for us to be the biggest producer of original video content of any publisher in Britain.”
He heads up commercial and editorial video and said that original video production is going to focus on the advertising verticals of food, technology, fashion and beauty and parenting.
Brown said that Facebook is a huge driver of views for The Sun’s commercial video output, with a short film about how to make deep-fried macaroni cheese attracting 7.8m watches.
The Sun has also made short promotional videos for supermarkets Tesco and Morrisons.
Brown said that videos distributed on Facebook by The Sun tend to either promote The Sun, or be produced by a commercial partner, and have a target length of 60 seconds.
The Sun also makes extensive use of Facebook to promote editorial content. The title has 3.5m followers on Twitter and 9.5m Facebook likes.
Content which appears on Facebook has a far higher click-through rate for the publisher than stories which appear on Twitter.
Asked whether The Sun sees Facebook as a threat and a competitor for advertising, Brown said: “We get an awful lot of traffic from Facebook. We don’t see them as a threat we see them as an opportunity.
“But we are making sure we are not putting all our eggs in one basket.”