Sahil Patel @sizpatel | December 9, 2016

With viewership for Snapchat’s Live Stories stagnating, the feature is not a priority for media buyers.

In addition to Discover, Live Stories is one of two media-driven features inside the Snapchat app. Available alongside Discover on the Stories and Discover pages, Live Stories provides content curated around different events and topics — everything from a big NBA game to the ongoing conflict in Mosul. Content includes photos and videos shot by users as well as the event organizers, when applicable.

Viewership for Live Stories has been flat, at best, for more than a year. In June 2015, a Snapchat executive told Recode that Live Stories averaged 20 million viewers within a 24-hour window. This year, the company has told advertisers that Live Stories average 10 to 20 million viewers per day, with multiple buyers confirming that in most cases daily viewership for Live Stories has gone down — especially since Snapchat pushed Live Stories and Discover content lower down the Stories page. Similarly, some Snapchat Discover publishers have seen viewership drop since Snapchat made these tweaks in October.

Today, Live Stories is not really a priority, multiple Snapchat ad buyers said. One agency buyer, speaking anonymously, said clients might run one to four Live Story ads per year on a brand-by-brand basis. Another agency source said the company is not placing a lot of buys on Snapchat Live Stories these days.

“It’s more for an opportunistic moment and less of a strategic pillar — the icing on the cake, but the cake is still user stories and video reach across the platform holistically,” said Mike McLaughlin, managing director of digital for WPP-owned Mindshare.

Indeed, advertising in-between user stories and sponsored lenses and geofilters is more popular among advertisers. They’re pricier, too, as some lenses can cost more than $750,000, with price quotes sometimes going as high as $4 million for day-long lenses around big events, as Digiday previously reported. While prices for Live Stories vary by event and topic, one buyer said a recent takeover for one Live Story — three ads — cost $250,000.

“The primary function of Snapchat is to have ephemeral conversations with people — users are not necessarily going there to be entertained,” said Charlie Fiordalis, chief digital officer of Media Storm. “I don’t think it’s ever going to be the primary reason people go to Snapchat.”

The lack of interest in Live Stories does not extend to the overall Snapchat platform, which is expected to grow ad revenue from $366.7 million this year to $935.5 million in 2017, according to eMarketer’s projections. Many agencies are still investing on the platform. Media Storm, for instance, doubled the number of ad campaigns it ran on Snapchat in the last six months when compared to the previous six. Instead of Live Stories, Horizon Media is placing more of an emphasis on making Snapchat content with social media stars.

“We’ve had a ton of demand from digital planners and clients on how we can leverage Snapchat apart from the ad products,” said Sae Cho, supervisor of social strategy and influence at Horizon Media, admitting that there was some dissatisfaction about the limited amount of targeting and data that Snapchat reports back to advertisers.

Multiple ad buyers also disagreed with the notion that Snapchat remains firmly in the “experimental” portion of advertisers’ budgets.

“There is always a portion of your Snapchat buy that should be for something that’s new that you’re looking to test,” said McLaughlin. “But the reality is that they are no longer a simple, shiny object and sitting only within the testing budget.”

Not all agree, however. One agency executive said for all of his company’s accounts, Snapchat is a place where clients look to invest $300,000 to $500,000 for one or two big campaigns each year. “Without a clear, repeatable path to consistent ROI, without scale, it’s truly an experiment and will stay that way until both or either changes,” said the exec.

For more on this story, listen to Digiday Deep Dive with Sahil Patel and Brian Morrissey.