Snapchat’s Real Life magazine, and the danger of telling stories

Snapchat is launching an online magazine called Real Life at the end of June.

Real Life aims to focus on our lives with technology, rather than focus on the technology with reviews, comparisons and all the usual hallmarks of tech publishing.

I will definitely be watching this closely, both personal interest, and as someone who’s worked on campaigns of this sort (don’t focus on the PRODUCT, focus on how it benefits the LIFESTYLE). They’re tempting a very interesting beast here, in terms of authentic storytelling.

How can you tell the story of how a product improves/changes a person’s life without sounding like a content marketing puff piece? For example, how can you talk about improving health and fitness with a wearable technology without either producing a product review comparison, or sounding like a content sponsorship for product X, and the associated apps? Each product has its nuances, and differences for how they affect a person’s lifestyle, that don’t naturally lend to an authentic story unless you compromise authenticity by sounding sponsored.

On this site, it will be the main event. We’re not a news or reviews site, but we will describe the tech world—specifically how that industry shapes the world we live in today. To that end, we aim to address the political uses of technology, including some of the worst practices both inside and outside the tech industry itself.

The Editor in Chief, Nathan Jurgenson, waxes lyrical about the artistic purpose, and the innate conflict between editorial independence and publishing funding. He says

The support means we can focus on writers and writing rather than clicks and shares. At the same time, there are inherent complexities attached to being funded by a company in the field of what we’re publishing about, sometimes critically.

I’m certainly looking forward to that, although the austere authenticity of approaching this from an artistic endeavour approach feels uber niche, similar to the approach of Monocle when it first launched.

Will it work? That’s a challenge that Monocle has faced continually. By and large Monocle has maintained its austerity and integrity, varying too closely to hipster parody at times, but (perhaps due to the deep pockets and obsessive integrity of its lord and master Tyler Brule) being able to retain its strength while many copycat brands who have tried to use a similar business model, have fallen by the wayside of going way too far up their own arses.

The deep pockets certainly help. Jurgenson realises this challenge, so it will be interesting to see how it evolves. The danger is really going to be the very fine line between esoteric philosophy with limited appeal but some artistic merit, and audience driving pieces that also serve up intellectual and sociological challenge. An exciting opportunity either way…(hey Jurgenson, need a writer?)

Authenticity is a real challenge in today’s content world. As the consumer becomes more savvy about ‘real authenticity’, every piece/post and puff is examined for a fine tooth comb, and any slip up can become front page fodder in a mass media industry that is basically clickbait syndication at this point.

Heck, the most authentic social post I’ve seen in a while is this awesome 360video promoting Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 2, a Michael Bay ‘spectacular’ that is less about intelligent storytelling, but all about dead-set crazy fun cartoon/comic book action. The fact that they funded a movie where there’s a mutant human-warthog, and a human-rhino (Bebop and Rocksteady represent!) is actually a major leap of authenticity. Those two characters look straight out of the cartoons, and the 360video is a brilliant little set piece focussed on the 4 turtles showing off their ninja skills, camaraderie and love of pizza.

I can’t believe I just typed that paragraph.It’s going to be such an awesome movie. Terrible, but awesome.

Maybe I can save some face by referring you to the equally authentic atmosphere and character of Netflix’s remake of Voltron. Go and watch it. Robot lion spaceships, massive alien monsters, explosions and a beautiful alien princess. It does the heart good.

Sorry, got distracted…


Yes. So will Real Life from Snapchat work? I hope so. I’m really looking forward to it. I don’t know what the content will be. I’m not sure if its going to be too niche.

It’s worth a try though.

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