Snapchat’s new Memories feature is being pitched as a way to share old snaps and stories — but the real change is what it means for those creating and reporting stories in the tool. Now for the first time Snapchat users can create non-chronological sequences and stories using images or video that they have not taken themselves.
One of the biggest challenge of Snapchat Stories was that there was no opportunity for editing sequence: each snap (an image or video which forms part of a story) had to be added in order, and you could not change that order.
In my ebook Snapchat for Journalists I talked a lot about the importance of planning in order to address this limitation: if you missed a shot, you couldn’t insert it into the sequence later (I’ve updated it today to reflect the new feature).
Indeed, often users would try to get around this limitation by taking a photo of a photo, or a video of a video: this could look pretty crummy to say the least.
How to use Snapchat Memories
You access Memories by swiping up from the camera screen (there’s also a small circle below the main ‘take photo/video’ circle which you can tap. If you can’t see this it may be that your app hasn’t updated with the new feature yet).
The first time you do this you will be asked to opt in to the feature. Then it will ask if you want to import existing snaps. That really doesn’t matter: the real use is not existing snaps but the ability to access your camera roll.
Once in Memories the camera roll can be accessed by tapping in the upper right corner (see image at the top of this post). Now you can add images or video to your story which were taken before the snaps that preceded it.
Non chronological sequences in Snapchat
Before Memories, when you took a snap for a story in Snapchat you could choose to save it to your camera roll (to share on social media for example).
Now, however, if you’ve opted in to Memories the “save to” option saves instead to the app itself. You can no longer save to camera roll. Saving to the camera roll is still possible (see comments) but no longer quite as straightforward.
Now that Memories allows you to access your camera roll it’s a good idea to take each snap with your normal camera before you add it to the story. Here’s an example why:
Traditionally in Snapchat you would take snap 1, add it to your story, then take snap 2, add it to your story, then take snap 3 and add that to your story. The resulting story sequence is 1-2-3.
But if you take all three snaps with your normal camera, then you have the option to change the story order by accessing those from Memories.
Images and video by other contributors
Because Memories means you no longer have to create video or images from within the app itself, it also means you can use video or images made by other people. If someone sends you an image or video and you save it to your mobile phone, it joins your camera roll too.
Potentially, then, you could create a story which includes footage from people in other locations at an event, for example.
You could create a multi-stranded story from the point of view of two (or more) reporters, cutting between them.
You can ask witnesses and experts to send you their own snaps to be included in your story. This was a functionality previously only available to Snapchat itself and shown in Snapchat Live (see this previous post about how Snapchat Live reported the Old Trafford bomb scare).
You could create a story with ‘archive footage‘ (Snapchat is based on vertical video, so horizontal footage might look odd, but users are happy to rotate their phones if they can understand the justification). Quartz’s Jennifer Chang, for example, talks about the possibility of reporters revisiting a scene and using footage from a previous report in their story.
You could even create a multi-shot interview, if two of you are filming the same interview from different angles.
Taylor Lorenz, director of emerging platforms at The Hill, says they may use the new functionality to publish highlights from an event which they have covered live, after it has happened:
“In this sense, it should extend the shelf life of our coverage.”
He also mentions the possibility for aggregation of content on the platform, and suggests that content may begin to look “more branded and produced”, similar to Snapchat Discover.
You may be able to think of others.
In short, for journalists the Memories feature is nothing to do with the past, but more about a future Snapchat which is much more flexible in allowing us to report stories in an engaging way.
UPDATE: Longer video and other thoughts
Since publishing this post I’ve noticed some other changes as a result of Memories. The most significant is that you can now add video longer than 10 seconds to Snapchat.
When you use Memories to choose a video from your camera roll to add to a story, and that video is longer than 10 seconds, it will split that video into multiple video snaps and run those together in your story, with the same effect as one long video clip.
The key difference with those and any other snaps added to a story through Memories, however, is quality: video added through the feature (whether filmed on your mobile camera app, or within Snapchat) has a grainier feel than video filmed directly within the app and added directly to a story at that time. Snaps added through Memories also have a white border and timestamp, although that may be less of an issue.
Another bug is that snaps added to a story less than 24 hours after they were filmed are still added in chronological order. That means they are not added to the end of a story but rather inserted before any snaps taken after it.
Saving stories now also appears to be much harder: Ruby Casablanca in the comments points out that “Any sound that you have removed on your snap chat story, is included when you save it to your camera roll. Annoying if you want to preserve the snapstory the way you created it.”