What’s Hearst’s Chief Content Officer Doing on Snapchat?

She’s unabashedly pro print; so why is Joanna Coles on Snap’s board of directors?

Hearst does magazines. And they are unabashedly pro print when it comes to what’s important to their brands. That leaves some people wondering why the publisher’s COO has committed her time to be on the board of directors of Snapchat.

“Joanna Coles, chief content officer at Hearst Magazines, argues that print is having a moment, with former advertisers coming back, and makes the case that Snapchat is a healthier social network than others,” writes Lucia Moses in Digiday.

According to Coles, Snapchat fills a role in the era of fake news, and that’s in large part why CEO Evan Spiegel’s launched the Discover platform on the social channel.

“One of the reasons I was so engaged with the Discover platform was Evan Spiegel’s really prescient understanding that the web was full of crap, and human editors were increasingly important in a world that relied on algorithms,” Coles explains. “He completely foresaw fake news and wanted to build a platform with reputable media brands.”

For Coles, the platform offers publishers a better way to promote high-quality journalism, something near and dear to the magazine industry.

“We now have seven Hearst brands on Snap, so we’re the publisher that’s the most represented,” she explains. Still, she’s clear that a digital presence can’t offer the tangible benefits of print.

“If you’ve spent 90 minutes scrolling on your phone, you don’t necessarily feel more informed. You may feel listless and restless,” she explains, adding that readers absorb information differently when they read it in print.

“If you carry Airbnb, if you have a copy of Harvard Business Review or The Economist, it says something about the nature of who you are.”

She sees advertisers returning to print … especially when they want to build a more valuable relationship with their readers. Hearst offers that value and has been leveraging digital partnerships with huge consumer audiences to launch some of their recent print successes, noting that these partners “understand the value of having a physical manifestation of their brand. No digital company now wants to be purely digital.”

For that matter, the interview was offered as a sneak preview of Digiday magazine, the quarterly print publication of the digital news outlet; proof of concept of her assertion above, I believe.

“For certain advertisers, the metrics that some of the digital companies give allow them to be really specifically targeting when they want to move product urgently,” she notes. “But if you want to establish trust with your customer, a magazine is unbeatable.”

As for Snapchat, she sees a true difference in that platform, mainly that there is no “like” button. “The goal is to keep you connected to your actual friends,” she explains. In that light, then it could indeed be a good platform for publishers to explore, especially if it’s wrapped around a solid revenue model of print sales and subscriptions.