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Tag: Snapchat

Snap turns on Minis, bite-sized third-party apps in Snapchat

July 20, 2020 No Comments

A set of mini apps has gone live on Snapchat platform, marking the beginning of a new chapter for Los Angeles-headquartered firm as it aims to emulate aspects of the popular Chinese “super-app” model.

Unveiled last month, Snap Minis are lightweight, simplified versions of apps that live within Snap’s Chat section. These apps — built with HTML — are designed to improve engagement among users by enabling them to perform a range of additional tasks without leaving Snap app.

Four of the seven “Minis” that Snap unveiled last month are now available across the platform. These mini apps that are going live today are: Meditation service Headspace, studying collaboration tool Flashcards, an “interactive messaging experience” service called Prediction Master, and Let’s Do It, a mini app developed by Snap itself that allows users to make decision with their friends.

Mini apps unveiled by Coachella that would allow users to plan festival trip, Atom’s movie ticketing, and Saturn, which is aimed at helping students share and compare their class schedules are yet to go live.

The rollout on Monday is nonetheless an important shift in Snap’s strategy to boost engagement on its ephemeral messaging app, which has amassed over 229 million daily users.

Though a relatively new concept in the U.S. and UK, mini apps model is quite popular in Asian markets. Tencent’s WeChat has attracted over a million miniature apps that allow users to perform a range of tasks.

In India, mobile payments services PhonePe and Paytm have rolled out several such in-apps, too, that allow users to book flight and movie tickets and order food and cabs.

Snapchat has previously said that its relationship with Tencent, an investor in the Los Angeles firm, has been influential in its decision to replicate the super-app offering.

The strategy looks promising — at least on paper. It’s a win-win scenario for both Snap and the developers who make these mini-apps. By gaining access to these mini-apps, Snap can potentially see a boost in user engagement, and developers are able to cater to a whole set of new audience.

But whether this model finds home with users in the U.S. and the UK and other markets where Snap has made inroads — and regions that unlike China are open — remains a mystery. As my colleague Lucas pointed out last month, Facebook has attempted to replicate the WeChat model through chatbots on Messenger over the years to little success.


Social – TechCrunch


Snapchat preempts clones, syndicates Stories to other apps

March 31, 2020 No Comments

If you can’t stop them, power them. That’s the strategy behind Snapchat App Stories, which launches today to let users show off their ephemeral content in other apps too. The first partners will let you post Stories to your dating profile in Hily, share them alongside [music] videos in Triller, watch them while screensharing in Squad, or give people a peek at your life in augmented reality network Octi. Developers can now sign up to add Stories to their apps.

Snapchat’s Stories format has been widely cloned, most famously by Instagram and Facebook, but with versions in various states of development for YouTube, Twitter, LinkedIn, SoundCloud, and more. Snapchat hopes to retain some grip on Stories and dissuade more copycats by letting developers bake the original version into their apps rather than building a bootleg attempt from scratch.

If you need Snapchat to share Stories to popular apps, that could boost content production plus subsequent viewership and ad impressions inside of Snapchat, remind people to shoot Stories, and make sure having a Snapchat account stays relevant. “We definitely think there’s a potential for monetization in App Stories but not yet” Snap’s VP of partnerships Ben Schwerin tells me. For now, Snapchat isn’t injecting ads into alongside Stories into other apps, though that’s clearly the plan.

“There are certain platforms out there that have decided they want to invest in building their own Stories product and their own camera, but it’s not a trivial thing to do. It takes resources and time. We think we can help developers do that” Schwerin explains. “Getting more people out there, regardless of age or where they live, comfortable using Stories probably makes them more likely to be able to pick up and enjoy Snapchat.”

Snapchat initially announced the plan for App Stories at its Partner Summit exactly a year ago. Unfortunately, its second annual developer conference that was set for this week was cancelled due to coronavirus.

Though advertising spend may be reduced, at least the app has experienced an increase in usage while everyone shelters in place. That includes third-party apps built on its Snap Kit platform that lets developers piggyback on Snapchat’s login, Bitmoji, and camera effects.

“We continue to see incredible growth from established apps like Reddit and Spotify and TikTok, and from startups that are really building from the ground up on Snap Kit like Yolo” Schwerin reveals. “People are spending more time at home and less time with friends. We’re seeing increased usage of Snapchat.”

Snap Kit has allowed Snapchat to rally would-be copycats into a legion of allies as it fights to stave off the Facebook empire. That strategy combined with a high-performance rebuild of its Android app for the developing world led Snapchat’s share price to grow from $ 11.36 a year ago to a recent high of $ 18.98 before coronavirus dragged it almost all the way back down.

Now, when people shoot a photo or video in the Snapchat camera, they’ll get options to share it not just to their Story or Snap Map and the crowdsourced community Stories, but also to their Story within other apps integrated with Snap Kit. Users will see options to syndicate their Story to products equipped with App Stories where they’re already logged in.

Unlike on Snapchat where Stories disappear after 24 hours, they default to a 7-day expiration in other App Stories. That relieves users of having to constantly post ephemeral Snaps to keep their dating or social app profiles stocked with biographical content.

In Hily, Snapchat Stories partially replaces the homegrown version it’d spun up in the meantime to show potential dates off-the-cuff looks at people’s lives. In Triller, users can tap on a content creator’s profile pic to see biographical Stories instead of just their polished music videos. In Squad, users can co-watch Stories along with other things to screenshare. And in Octi, users can see someone’s Snapchat Story amongst other hidden content revealed by its augmented reality camera.

One app missing is Tinder, which Snapchat originally previewed as its launch partner at the App Stories reveal last year. Tinder is using Snapchat’s Bitmoji stickers, but may have gotten cold feet about Stories. The fact that Snap is only now launching App Stories, and still hasn’t officially launched Ad Kit that lets it inject its ads into other apps and split revenue with developers, shows it’s taking time to adjust to its platform strategy after years of shunning outside integrations. It still won’t reveal the revenue percentage split it’s applying to Ad Kit.

For Snapchat to gain momentum it needs two things: a constant influx of new users, eager to use its augmented reality camera and Bitmoji wherever they’re available, and more impressions to monetize with ads after Instagram stole the Stories use case for untold millions of older users. App Stories could help with both.

“The proliferation of stories as the primary way to share video content on mobile we think is a good thing” Schwerin concludes. But Snap has sat by idly as it’s served as the R&D lab for Facebook’s product. Now Snapchat needs to own the viewership and the ad dollars that Stories generate everywhere other than Facebook. Just coining the concept doesn’t bring in cash.


Social – TechCrunch


Snapchat quietly acquired AI Factory, the company behind its new Cameos feature, for $166M

January 4, 2020 No Comments

After acquiring Ukraine startup Looksery in 2015 to supercharge animated selfie lenses in Snapchat — arguably changing the filters game for all social video and photo apps — Snap has made another acquisition with roots in the country, co-founded by one of Looksery’s founders, to give a big boost to its video capabilities.

The company has acquired AI Factory, a computer vision startup that Snap had worked with to create Snapchat’s new Cameos animated selfie-based video feature, for a price believed to be in the region of $ 166 million.

The news was first reported by a Ukrainian publication, AIN, and while I’m still waiting for a direct reply from Snap about the acquisition, I’ve had the news confirmed by another source close to the deal, and Snap has now also confirmed the news to TechCrunch with no further comment on the financial terms or any other details.

Victor Shaburov, the founder of Looksery who then went on to become Snap’s director of engineering — leaving in May 2018 to found and lead AI Factory — declined to provide a comment for this story. (The other founders of AI Factory are Greg Tkachenko and Eugene Krokhalev.)

Cameos, launched last month, lets you take a selfie, which is then automatically “animated” and inserted into a short video. The selection of videos, currently around 150, is created by Snap, with the whole concept not unlike the one underpinning “deepfakes” — AI-based videos that look “real” but are actually things that never really happened.

Deepfake videos have been around for a while. But if your experience of that word has strong dystopian undertones, we now appear to be in a moment where consumer apps are tapping into the technology in a race for new — fun, lighthearted — features to attract and keep users. Just today, Josh reported that TikTok has secretly built a deepfake tool, too. I expect we’ll be hearing about Facebook’s newest deepfake tool in 3, 2, 1…

From what I understand, while AI Factory has offices in San Francisco, the majority of the team of around 70 is based out of Ukraine. Part of the team will relocate with the deal, and part will stay there.

Snap had also been an investor in AI Factory. Part of its early interest would have been because of the track record of the talent associated with the startup: lenses have been a huge success for Snap — 70% of its daily active users play with them, and they not only bring in new users, but increase retention and bring in revenues by way of sponsorships or users buying them — so creating new features to give users more ways to play around with their selfies is a good bet.

It’s not clear whether AI Factory will be developing a way to insert selfies into any video, or if the feature will be tied just to specific videos offered by Snap itself, or whether the videos will extend beyond the timing of a GIF. It’s also not clear what else AI Factory was working on: the company’s site is offline and there is very little information about the company beyond its mission to bring more AI-based imaging tools into mainstream apps and usage.

The company’s LinkedIn profile says that AI Factory “provide[s] multiple AI business solutions based on image and video recognition, analysis and processing,” so while the company will come under Snap’s wing, there may be scope for the team to build some of its technology into more innovative ways for businesses to use the Snap platform in the future, too.

We’ll update this post as we learn more.

Updated with Snap’s confirmation of the acquisition.


Social – TechCrunch


Snapchat will launch Bitmoji TV, a personalized cartoon show

December 30, 2019 No Comments

Snapchat’s most popular yet under-exploited feature is finally getting the spotlight in 2020. Starting in February with a global release, your customizable Bitmoji avatar will become the star of a full-motion cartoon series called Bitmoji TV. It’s a massive evolution for Bitmoji beyond the chat stickers and comic strip-style Stories where they were being squandered to date.

Creating original in-house shows for its Discover section that can’t be copied could help Snapchat differentiate from the plethora of short-form video platforms out there ranging from YouTube to Facebook Watch to TikTok. Bitmoji TV could also up the quality of Discover, which still feels like a tabloid magazine rack full of scantly clad women, gross-out imagery, and other shocking content merely meant to catch the eye and draw a click.

With Bitmoji TV, your avatar and those of your friends will appear in regularly-scheduled adventures ranging from playing the crew of Star Treky spaceship to being secret agents to falling in love with robots or becoming zombies. The trailer Snapchat released previews an animation style reminiscent of Netflix’s Big Mouth.

TechCrunch asked Snap for more details, including how long episodes will be, how often they’ll be released, whether they’ll include ads, and if the company acquired anyone or brought on famous talent to produce the series. A Snap spokesperson declined to provide more details, but sent over this statement: “Bitmoji TV isn’t available in your network yet, but stay tuned for the global premiere soon!”

The Snapchat Show page for Bitmoji TV notes it is coming in February 2020. Users can visit here on mobile to subscribe to Bitmoji TV so it shows up prominently on their Discover page, or turn on notifications about its new content.

Snap realizes Bitmoji’s value

Snap has had a tough few years as many of its core features have been ruthlessly copied by the Facebook family of apps. Instagram Stories killed Snap’s growth for years and effectively stole the broadcast medium from its inventor. Facebook also ramped up it augmented reality selfie filters, added more ephemeral messaging features, and launched Watch as a competitor to Snapchat Discover.

Two years ago I wrote that Facebook was crazy not to be competing with Bitmoji too. Six months later we were first to report Facebook Avatars was in the works, and this year they launched as Messenger chat stickers in Australia with plans for a global release in 2019 or early 2020. But Facebook’s slow movement here, Google’s half-assed entry, and Twitter’s lack of an attempt have given Snapchat’s Bitmoji a massive headstart. And now Snap is finally leveraging it.

“TV” is actually a return to Bitmoji’s roots. The startup Bitstrips originally offered an app for customizing the face, hair, clothes, and more of your avatar and then creating comic strips for them to appear in. Snap acquired Bitstrips back in 2016 for just $ 64.2 million — a steal not far off from Facebook snatching Instagram for under a billion. The standalone Bitmoji app blew up as soon as Snapchat began offering the avatars as chat stickers. It had over 330 million downloads as of April according to Sensor Tower despite Snapchat now letting you create your avatar in its main app.

Eventually, Snap began expanding Bitmoji’s uses. In 2017 Bitmoji went 3D and you could start overlaying them as augmented reality characters on your Snaps. The next year Snap improved their graphics, then launched the Snap Kit developer platform and Bitmoji Kit. This allows apps to build atop Snapchat login and use your Bitmoji as a profile pic. Soon they were appearing as Fitbit smart watch faces, alongside your Venmo transaction, and on Snapchat-sold merchandise from t-shirts to mugs. It’s part of a wise strategy to beat copycats by allowing allies to use real thing rather than building their own knock-off. That’s fueled the “Snapback” comeback which has seen Snap’s share price climb out of the gutter at $ 5.79 at the start of 2019 to $ 16.09 now.

One of Snap smartest innovations was Bitmoji Stories — the ancestor to Bitmoji TV. These daily Stories let you tap frame-by-frame through short comic strip-style interactions starring your avatar. Occasionally Bitmoji Stories would include rudimentary animation, but most frames were still images with text bubbles. Bitmoji could once again drive a narrative, rather than just being a communication tool. Still, they seem underutilized.

In 2019, Snapchat wised up. Bitmoji have become nearly ubiquitous amongst teens and Snapchat’s 210 million daily users. They’re the Google or Kleenex of cartoonish personalized avatars. Their goofy nature is also a perfect fit for Snapchat, and a reason they’re tough for stiffer and older tech giants to convincingly copy.

In April, Snap announced its new games platform inside its messaging feature that let you play as your Bitmoji against friends’ avatars in games ranging from Mario Party ripoff Bitmoji Party to tennis, shoot-em ups, and cooking competitions. Snap injects ads into the games, making Bitmoji key to its efforts to monetize its central messaging use case. Last month it launched custom and branded clothing for Bitmoji, which could open opportunities to earn money selling premium outfits or showing off brand sponsorships.

To truly take advantage of Bitmoji’s unique popularity, though, Snap needed to build longer-form experiences with the avatars at the center that . Stickers and Stories and games were fun, but none felt like must-see content. With Bitmoji TV, Snap may have found a way to get users to drag their friends into the app. Since everyone sees their own Bitmoji as the star, the cartoons could be more compelling then ones with impersonal characters you might find elsewhere around the web.

But Bitmoji TV’s success will depend largely on the quality of the writing. If your avatar is constantly getting into funny, meme-worthy situations, you’ll keep coming back to watch. But Snap’s teen audience has a keen nose for inauthentic bullsh*t. If the Shows feel forced, too childish, or boring, Bitmoji TV will flop. Snap would be savvy to invest in great Hollywood talent to produce the episodes.

High quality Bitmoji TV shorts could rescue Snapchat Discover from its own mediocrity. There are a few strong brands like ESPN SportsCenter on the platform, and Snap has several original Shows with over 25 million unique viewers. It’s also greenlit additional seasons of Shows like Dead Girls Detective Agency and new biopic clips from Serena Williams and Arnold Schwarzenegger. Still, a scroll through the Discover and Shows sections reveals plenty of trashy clickbait that surely scares away premium advertisers.

Bitmoji TV could offer video that’s not only fun and snackable, but out of reach for competitors who don’t have a scaled avatar platform of their own. As with the recent launch of Snapchat Cameos, the company has realized that the most addictive experiences center on its users’ own faces. Snapchat turned the selfie into the future of communication. Bitmoji TV could make an animated recreation of your selfie into the future of content.


Social – TechCrunch


Snapchat Spectacles 3 review: Pretty, pricey

November 12, 2019 No Comments

No one’s going to pay $ 380 for decent point-of-view video glasses and some trippy filters. But that’s kind of the point of Snapchat Spectacles 3. They’re merely a stepping stone towards true augmented reality eyewear — a public hardware beta for the Snap Lab R&D team that Apple and Facebook aren’t getting as they tinker in their bunkers.

Still, I hoped for something that could at least unlock the talents of forward-thinking video creators. Yet the unpredictable and uncontrollable AR effects sadly fail to make use of Spectacles‘ fashionable form factor in premium steel. The clunky software requires clips be uploaded for processing and then re-downloaded before you can apply the 10 starter effects like a rainbow landscape filter or a shimmering fantasy falcon. This all makes producing AR content a chore instead of a joy for something only briefly novel.

Spectacles 3 go on sale today for $ 380 in black ‘Carbon’ or rose gold-ish ‘Mineral’ color schemes on Spectacles.com, Neiman Marcus, and Ron Robinson in the UK, shipping in a week. Announced in August, they’re sunglasses with two stereoscopic lenses capable of capturing depth to produce “3D” photos, and videos you can add AR effects to on your phone. You also get a very nice folds-flat leather USB-C charging case that powers up the glasses four times, and a Google Cardboard-style VR viewer.

“Spectacles 3 is a limited production run. We’re not looking for massive sales here. We’re targeting people who are excited about these effects  — creative storytellers” says Matt Hanover of the Snap Lab team.

Gen 1 featured a “toy-like design to get people used to wearing tech on their face”, while Gen 2 and 2.1 had a more subdued look abandoning the coral color schemes to push mainstream adoption. What Gen 3 can’t do is force a $ 40 million write-off due to poor sales, as V1 did after only shipping 220,000 with hundreds of thousands more gathering dust somewhere. Snap is already losing $ 227 million per quarter as it scrambles to break even.

So it seems with Spectacles 3 that Snap is gathering data and biding its time, trying to avoid burning too much cash until it can build a version that overlays effects atop a user’s view through the glasses. “We’re still able to get feedback from the customer and inform the future of Spectacles. That’s really the goal for us” Hanover confirms.

His CEO Evan Spiegel agrees, telling me on stage at TechCrunch Disrupt that it would be 10 years until we see augmented reality glasses worthy of mainstream consumer adoption. That’s a long time for an unprofitable company to spend competing to invest in R&D versus cash-rich companies like Facebook and Apple.

tl;dr

Spectacles could be worth the steep $ 380 if you’re a videographer for a living, perhaps making futuristic social media clips like Karen X Cheng, a creator Snap hired to demonstrate the device’s potential. They’re cool enough looking that you could wear them around Cannes or Coachella without people getting weirded out like they did with Google Glass. And as Snap’s Lens Studio lets anyone build 3D effects for Spectacles 3, perhaps we’ll see some filters and imaginary characters that are more than just a momentary gimmick.

But for those simply seeking first-person camera glasses, I’d still recommend the Spectacles 2 at $ 150 to $ 200 depending on style which remain available. The 3D features don’t carry the weight of paying double the price for Spec 3s. And at least the 2nd-gen Specs are waterproof, which make them great for ocean play with fun underwater shooting when you don’t want to risk losing or fizzling your phone.

“We’re testing the price point and the premium aesthetic to see if it lands with this demographic” Hanover says. But Snap’s Director Of Communications Liz Markman notes that “there isn’t this perfect one-to-one overlap with the core Snap users.”

The result is that Spectacles 3 are really more for Snap’s benefit than yours.

Slick Eyewear, Now Where’s The AR?

The Spectacles 3 software is disappointing, but you’ll be delighted when you open the box. Slick black packaging reveal sturdily built metal sunglasses with a luxury matte finish. As they magnetically dislodge from their charging case, you definitely get they sense you’re trying on something futuristic.

The style concurs, with a flat black bar at the top connecting the round lenses with a camera on both corners. Unlike the old Specs that sat right on your nose, feeling heavy at times, Spectacles 3 offers adjustable acetate non-slip nose tips to keep the weight off. All the tech is built discreetly into the hinges and temples without appearing too chunky.

Tap the button either arm, and LED light swooshes in a circle to let people know you’re recording a video for 10 seconds, with multiple presses growing that to up to 60. Tap and hold to shoot a photo, and the light blinks. There’s no obnoxious yellow rubber ring to shout “these are cameras”, and the defused LEDs are more subtle than Gen 2’s dots while remaining an obvious enough signal to passersby so they’re not creepy.

One charge powers up to 70 captures and transfers to your phone over a combined Bluetooth built-in Wifi connection. The 4 gigabyte storage holds up to 100 videos or 1200 photos, and Spectacles 3 even have GPS and GLOSNASS on-board. A 4-mic array picks up audio from others and your own voice, though they’re susceptible to windshear if you’re biking or running. They shoot at 60-frames per second in 1216 x 1216 pixels resolution while photos come in at 1642 x 1642

The magnetically-sealing folding leather USB-C charging case is my favorite part. I wish I could get an even flatter one without a battery in it for my other sunglasses. It’s a huge improvement on the unpocketable bulky triangular case of the previous versions.

A Toy Not Fun Enough For The Price

So far so good, right? But then it comes time to actually see and augment what you shot.

Pairing and syncing is much easier than Gen 1. The glasses forge a Bluetooth connection, then spawn a WiFi network for getting media to your phone faster.

If you just want to share to Snapchat, you’re in luck. Spectacles content posts to Stories or messages in its cool circular format that lets viewers tilt their phones around while always staying full-screen to reveal the edges of your shots. Otherwise, you still have to go through the chore of exporting from Snapchat to your camera roll. Spectacles can at least now export in a variety of croppings for better sharing on Instagram and elsewhere.

What’s new are the 3D photos and videos. They utilize the space between the stereoscopic cameras in the corners of Spectacles employ parallax to sense the depth of a scene. After tapping the 3D button on a photo, you can wiggle the perspective of the image around to almost see around the edges of what you’re looking at. Spectacles will automatically pan back and forth for you, and export 3D photos as short Boomerang-esque six-second videos.

Unfortunately, I found that I didn’t get much sense of depth from most of the 3D photos I shot or saw. It takes a very particular kind of three-dimensional object from the right angle in the right light to much sense of movement from the wiggle. Snapchat’s algorithms also had a bad habit of mistakenly assigning bits of the foreground and background to each other, breaking the illusion. Occasionally you’ll have someone’s ear or their hair left behind and disembodied by the 3D effect.

Don’t expect these to flood social media or convince prospective Spectacles buyers. The 3D selfies you can shoot on Snapchat for free look better anyways.

The biggest problem comes with the delay when playing with 3D videos. Snapchat has to do the depth processing on its servers, so you have to wait for your video to upload, get scanned, and be re-downloaded before you can apply the 3D AR filters. On WiFi that takes about 35 seconds per 10 second video, which is quite a bore. It takes forever over a mobile connection. That means you often won’t be able to apply the filters and see how they look until you’re home and unable to reshoot anything.

The filter set is also limited and haphazard. You can add a 3D bird or balloons around you, wander through golden snow or neon arcs, overlay flower projections or rainbow waves, or sprinkle on sparkles and light-bending blobs. While the bird is cute, and the rainbows and flowers are remarkably psychedelic, none of them are more than briefly entertaining.

The 3D objects often glitch through real pieces of scenery, and you can’t control them at all. No summoning the bird mid-video. My favorite trick, learned from Karen X Cheng, was to export unedited and filtered versions of a video and splice them together on my computer as scene in my demo video above. You can’t actually do that from within Snapchat.

One extra feature the team is working on is to let you see a special colored light flash on the glasses’ internal recording-on signal to alert you to incoming Snaps from certain friends. If that’s popular, would Snap try giving us more notifications through that light? Hanover says “potentially in the future.”

Snap will have to build a lot cooler filters with interactivity if they’re going to compel creators to fork over $ 380 for Spectacles 3. It could hope to rely on its Lens Studio community platform, but so few developers or users will have the glasses that most will stick to making and using filters for phones.

Spectacles 3 are too expensive to be a toy, but don’t excel at being much more. Videography influencers might enjoy having a pair in their tool bag. But it’s hard to imagine anyone not sharing content professionally paying for the gadget.

Iteration vs Ideation

“We’re now pushing to elevate the technology and the design to master depth technically” Hanover tells me. “Holing ourselves up within an R&D center for years and years? That’s not our approach. It’s important to meet the customer where they are today and continue to iterate and get that feedback.”

But this iteration doesn’t feel like Snap meeting the customer where they are. That raises the question of whether Snapchat is really getting enough data out of the whole endeavor to justify publicly releasing Spectacles at all. The company will have to hope that testing short-term is worth thinking short-term, when it’s trying to win the long-term war in augmented reality eyewear.


Social – TechCrunch


Snapchat beats in Q3, adding 7M users & revenue up 50%

October 22, 2019 No Comments

The Snap-back continues. Snapchat blew past earnings expectations for a big beat in Q3, as it added 7 million daily active users this quarter to hit 210 million, up 13% year-over-year. Snap also beat on revenue, notching $ 446 million, which is up a whopping 50% year-over-year, at a loss of $ 0.04 EPS. That flew past Bloomberg’s consensus of Wall Street estimates that expected $ 437.9 million in revenue and a $ 0.05 EPS loss.

Snap has managed to continue cutting losses as it edges towards profitability. Net loss improved to $ 227 million from $ 255 million last quarter, with the loss decreasing $ 98 million versus Q3 2018.

CEO Evan Spiegel made his case in his prepared remarks for why Snapchat’s share price should be higher: “We are a high growth business, with strong operating leverage, a clear path to profitability, a distinct vision for the future, and the ability to invest over the long term.”

Snapchat’s share price had closed down 4% at $ 14, and had fallen roughly 4.6% in after-hours trading as of 1:50pm pacific to $ 13.35 despite the earnings beat. It remains below its $ 17 IPO price but has performed exceedingly well this year, rising from a low of $ 4.99 in December.

Snapchat DAU Q3 2019

That’s partially because of the high cost of Snapchat’s growth relative average revenue per user. While it notes that it saw user growth in all regions, 5 million of the 7 million new users came from the Rest Of The World, with just 1 million coming from the North America and Europe regions. That’s in part thanks to better than expected growth and retention on its reengineered Android app that’s been a hit in India. But since Snapchat serves so much high-definition video content but it earns just $ 1.01 average revenue in the Rest Of World, it has to hope it can keep growing ARPU so it becomes profitable globally.

Some other top-line stats from Snapchat’s earnings:

  • Operating cash flow improved by $ 56 million to a loss of $ 76 million in Q3 2019, compared to the prior year.
  • Free Cash Flow improved by $ 75 million to $ (84) million in Q3 2019, compared to the prior year.
  • Cash and marketable securities on hand reached $ 2.3 billion.

Snapchat ARPU Q3 2019

Interestingly, Spiegel noted that “We benefited from year-over-year growth in user activity in Q3 including growth in Snapchatters posting and viewing Stories.” Snapchat hadn’t indicated Stories was growing in at last the past two years, as it was attacked by clones including Instagram Stories that led Snapchat to start shrinking in user count a year ago before it recovered.

Since Stories viewership is critical to total ad view on Snapchat, we may see analysts insisting to hear more about that metric in the future. Snap also said users opened the app 30 times per day, up from 25 times per day as of July 2018, showing its still highly sticky and being used for rapid-fire visual communication.

The other major piece of Snapchat’s ad properties is Discover where total time spent watching grew 40% year-over-year. And rather than being driving by just a few hits, over 100 Discover channels saw over 10 million viewers per month in Q3. With Instagram’s IGTV a flop, Discover remains Snapchat’s best differentiated revenue driver, and one it needs to keep investing in and promoting. With Instagram trying to compete more heavily on chat with its new close friends-only Threads app, Snapchat can’t rely on ephemeral messaging to keep it special.

3 TikTok Ad

TikTok buys ads on Snapchat that could steal its users

Surprisingly, Spiegel said that “We definitely see TikTok as a friend” when asked about why it allowed the competitor to continue buying ads on Snapchat. The two apps are different, with Snapchat focused on messaging and biographical social media while TikTok is about storyboarded, premeditated social entertainment. But this could be dangerous friendship for Snapchat, since TikTok may be taking time away that users might spend watching Snapchat Discover, and its growth could box Snapchat out of the social entertainment space.

Looking forward, in Q4 Snap is estimating 214 to 215 million daily active users and $ 540 million to $ 560 million in revenue. It’s expecting between break even and positive $ 20 million for Adjusted EBITDA. That revenue guidance was below estimates for the holiday Q4, contributing to the share price fall.

 

Snap has a ways to go before reaching profitability. That milestone would let it more freely invest in long-term projects, specifically its Spectacles camera-glasses. Spiegel has said he doesn’t expect augmented reality glasses to be a mainstream consumer product for 10 years. That means Snap will have to survive and spend for a long time if it wants a chance to battle Apple, Facebook, Magic Leap, and more for that market.


Social – TechCrunch


Snapchat announces new shows from Serena Williams, Arnold Schwarzenegger and others

July 10, 2019 No Comments

Snapchat just announced that it’s making shows with big names like Serena Williams, Arnold Schwarzenegger and Kevin Hart, as well as online stars like Emma Chamberlain, Loren Gray, Rickey Thompson, Baby Ariel and FaZe Banks.

Snapchat launched its original content efforts two years ago, and today it’s unveiling a new program called Creator Shows. As initially announced in the Hollywood Reporter, these will be first-person shows designed around individual creators.

For example, Schwarzenegger will be providing motivational advice in a show called “Rules of Success,” while Thompson will weigh in on fashion and lifestyle trends on “Trend or End” and Gray offers beauty advice on “Glow Up.”

The shows will begin airing this month. They’re all exclusive to Snapchat, and many of them come from creators who have a substantial following on other platforms — Chamberlain, for example, was just described in The New York Times as “the funniest person on YouTube.

Rickey Thompson Premieres July 10

“Snapchat has always been my favorite platform to post random and funny things on because it’s so relaxed,” Chamberlain said in a statement. “My favorite part about it is that I get to watch my own Snapchat Stories a few hours after I post them for entertainment… kind of embarrassing, I know…”

Snap isn’t sharing viewership numbers around its original shows, but it does say that daily time spent watching those shows tripled over the past year.

And as media giants funnel more and more money into original video content, this might be the strategy that Snapchat needs to compete — rather than trying to find the next big-budget hit, it can focus on personality-driven shows from creators with large followings.


Social – TechCrunch


Snapchat announces new shows from Serena Williams, Arnold Schwarzenegger and others

July 10, 2019 No Comments

Snapchat just announced that it’s making shows with big names like Serena Williams, Arnold Schwarzenegger and Kevin Hart, as well as online stars like Emma Chamberlain, Loren Gray, Rickey Thompson, Baby Ariel and FaZe Banks.

Snapchat launched its original content efforts two years ago, and today it’s unveiling a new program called Creator Shows. As initially announced in the Hollywood Reporter, these will be first-person shows designed around individual creators.

For example, Schwarzenegger will be providing motivational advice in a show called “Rules of Success,” while Thompson will weigh in on fashion and lifestyle trends on “Trend or End” and Gray offers beauty advice on “Glow Up.”

The shows will begin airing this month. They’re all exclusive to Snapchat, and many of them come from creators who have a substantial following on other platforms — Chamberlain, for example, was just described in The New York Times as “the funniest person on YouTube.

Rickey Thompson Premieres July 10

“Snapchat has always been my favorite platform to post random and funny things on because it’s so relaxed,” Chamberlain said in a statement. “My favorite part about it is that I get to watch my own Snapchat Stories a few hours after I post them for entertainment… kind of embarrassing, I know…”

Snap isn’t sharing viewership numbers around its original shows, but it does say that daily time spent watching those shows tripled over the past year.

And as media giants funnel more and more money into original video content, this might be the strategy that Snapchat needs to compete — rather than trying to find the next big-budget hit, it can focus on personality-driven shows from creators with large followings.

Mobile – TechCrunch


To stop copycats, Snapchat shares itself

April 9, 2019 No Comments

Evan Spiegel has finally found a way to fight back against Mark Zuckerberg’s army of clones. For 2.5 years, Snapchat foolishly tried to take the high road versus Facebook, with Spiegel claiming “Our values are hard to copy.” That inaction allowed Zuckerberg to accrue more than 1 billion daily Stories users across Instagram, WhatsApp and Facebook compared to Snapchat’s 186 million total daily users. Meanwhile, the whole tech industry scrambled to build knock-offs of Snap’s vision of an ephemeral, visual future.

But Snapchat’s new strategy is a rallying call for the rest of the social web that’s scared of being squashed beneath Facebook’s boot. It rearranges the adage of “if you can’t beat them, join them” into “to beat them, join us.” As a unified front, Snap’s partners get the infrastructure they need to focus on what differentiates them, while Snapchat gains the reach and entrenchment necessary to weather the war.

Tinder lets you use Snapchat Stories as profile photos

Snapchat’s plan is to let other apps embed the best parts of it rather than building their own half-rate copies.

Why reinvent the wheel of Stories, Bitmoji and ads when you can reuse the original? A high-ranking Snap executive told me on background that this is indeed the strategy. If it’s going to invent these products, and others want something similar, it’s smarter to enable and partly control the Snapchatification than to try to ignore it. Otherwise, Facebook might be the one to platform-tize what Snap inspired everyone to want.

The “Camera company” corrected course and took back control of its destiny this week at its first-ever Snap Partner Summit in its hometown of Los Angeles. Now it’s a camera platform thanks to Snap Kit. Its new Story Kit will implant Snapchat Stories into other apps later this year. They can display a more traditional carousel of your friends’ Stories, or lace them into their app in a custom format. Houseparty’s Stories carousel shares what your buddies are up to outside of the group video chat app. Tinder will let you show off your Snapchat Story alongside your photos to seduce potential matches. But the camera stays inside Snapchat, with new options to share out to these App Stories.

Snap CEO Evan Spiegel presents at the Snap Partner Summit

This is how Snapchat colonizes the native app ecosystem similarly to how Facebook invaded the web with the Like button. Snap’s strong privacy record makes these partners willing to host it where now they might fear that Facebook and its history with Cambridge Analytica could tarnish their brand.

Instead of watching these other apps spin up mini competitors that further fragment the Stories world, Snap saves developers the slow and costly hassle while instantly giving them best-in-class tools to boost their own engagement. Each outpost makes your Snapchat account a little more indispensable, grants its camera new utility and reminds you to visit again. It’s another reason to stick with Snap rather than straying to other versions of Stories.

If Spiegel knows what’s up, he’ll douse the Story Kit partnerships team with resources so they can sign up as many apps as possible before Facebook can copy this idea too. For now, Snap isn’t injecting ads into App Stories, but it could easily do so and split the cash with its host. This would attract partners, generate revenue and give Snap’s advertisers more reach.

Houseparty embeds Snapchat Stories

Either way, Snap will score those benefits with its new Ad Kit. Later this year the Snapchat Audience Network will launch, allowing partners to host Snap’s full-screen vertical video ads and earn an as-yet-undisclosed revenue share. They won’t have to build up an ad sales force or build an auction and delivery system, but just drop in an SDK to start displaying ads to both Snapchat users and non-users. The company’s message again is that it’s becoming easier to cooperate with Snapchat than copy it.

Snap’s new ad network

Giving its advertisers more reach and reusability for Snap’s somewhat proprietary ad unit format helps Snap address its core challenge: scale. Snap’s 186 million total users can look small in comparison to Instagram, Facebook or YouTube, especially because that count sank in Q2 and Q3 before stabilizing in Q4 of last year. That makes it tougher for advertisers to justify the chore of spending on Snapchat. Ad Kit and potentially Story Kit give Snap more reach even without user growth.

Added size could tip the cards in Snap’s favor given that it’s already popular with an extremely important demographic. Snapchat now reaches 75 percent of 13 to 34-year-olds in the U.S., and 90 percent of 13 to 24-year-olds there. It claims to now reach more of that younger age group than Facebook in the most lucrative countries: the U.S., Canada, U.K., France and Australia.

Facebook has massively neglected this segment. Case in point: Facebook Messenger’s Stickers feature that’s popular with kids has hardly improved since its launch in 2013, which I hear was a fight to get approved internally. Meanwhile, Snapchat keeps growing its lead on virtual identity with Bitmoji. Now Snap will let you put your personalized Bitmoji avatar on your Fitbit smartwatch face, use them to joke about Venmo purchases and even represent yourself with one in Snap’s new multiplayer games platform.

Again, Snap wants partners to integrate the real thing rather than try to build some half-assed facsimile of Bitmoji. Surprisingly, Facebook’s Avatars have been mired in development for more than a year and Apple’s Memoji can’t escape iMessage and FaceTime yet. That’s why Snapchat would be wise to double-down on trying to make Bitmoji the ubiquitous way to represent yourself without a photograph. Facebook’s lack of design cool and Bitmoji’s massive head start with this differentiated product is a powerful way for Snap to wedge itself into partnerships.

Snap needs all the help it can get if the underdog is going to carve out a substantial and sustainable piece of social networking. Teaming up was the theme of the rest of the Snap Partner Summit. It’s built ways for Netflix, GoFundMe, VSCO and Anchor to share stickers, and for publishers like The Washington Post to share articles back to Snapchat. It’s got Zynga and ZeptoLab building real-time multiplayer Snap Games that live inside chat and are a clever way of slipping ads into messaging.

Snapchat’s new Scan augmented reality utility platform has signed up Giphy and Photomath as well as former partners Shazam and Amazon to let you squeeze extra interactivity out of your surroundings. And since the physical world is too vast for any one developer to fill with AR experiences, Snap beefed up its Lens Studio platform with new templates and creator profiles so developers add to its war chest of 400,000 special effects. Facebook may be able to clone Snap’s features, but not its developer army.

“If we can show the right Lens in the right moment, we can inspire a whole new world of creativity,” says Snap co-founder Bobby Murphy . From partnerships to utilities to toys, all the new announcements drive attention back to Snapchat’s camera. That makes it ripe to become the augmented reality browser of the world.

It all feels like a coming of age moment for Snapchat, punctuated by the glitzy press event where media bigwigs noshed on Chinese steak buns and played with AR art installations in West Hollywood.

Spiegel has discovered a method of capitalizing on his penchant for inspiring mobile product design. With this strategy in place and Snap’s re-engineered Android app and new languages rolling out now, I believe Snapchat will grow again, at least in terms of deeper engagement if not also total user count. Perhaps it will need a little bit more funding to get it over the hurdle, but I expect it will reach profitability before the end of 2020. 

During a pre-event press briefing with a dozen Snap executives, including Spiegel and Murphy (that was on “background” so we can’t quote or specify who said what), one Snap higher-up joked that Facebook has been copying it for seven years so it’s started to feel normal. Zuckerberg recently declared he wanted to reorient Facebook around privacy, ephemerality and messaging — the core tenets of Snapchat. But a Snap leader used some colorful language to describe how they don’t care what Facebook says its philosophy is until it fixes the 2 billion-user product that keeps doing harm.

Subtly throwing shade from the stage, Spiegel concluded that “Our camera lets the natural light from our world penetrate the darkness of the internet . . . as we use the internet more and more in our daily lives, we need a way to make it a bit more human.” That apparently means making other apps a bit more Snapchat.

Mobile – TechCrunch


Snapchat loses 2M more users in Q3 as shares sink to new low

October 29, 2018 No Comments

Snapchat continued to shrink in Q3 2018 but its business is steadily improving. Snapchat’s daily active user count dropped again, this time by 1 percent to 186 million, down from 188M and a negative 1.5 percent growth rate in Q2. User count is still up 5 percent year-over-year, though. Snapchat earned $ 298 million in revenue with an EPS loss of $ 0.12, beating Wall Street’s expectations of $ 283 million in revenue and EPS loss of $ 0.14, plus a loss of a half a million users.

Snap entered earnings with a $ 6.99 share price, close to its $ 6.46 all-time low and way down from its $ 24 IPO opening price. Snap lost $ 325 million this quarter compared to $ 353 million in Q2, so it’s making some progress with its cost cutting. That briefly emboldened Wall Street, which pushed the share price up 8.3 percent to around $ 7.57 right after earnings were announced.

But then Snap’s share price came crashing down to -9.3 percent to $ 6.31 in after-hours trading. The stock had been so heavily shorted by investors that it only needed modest growth in its business for shares to perk up, but the fear that Snap might shrink into nothing has investors weary. Projections that Snap will lose users again next quarter further scared off investors.

Worringly, Snapchat’s average revenue per user dropped 12.5 percent in the developing world this quarter. But strong gains in the US and Europe markets grew global ARPU by 14 percent. Snap projects $ 355 million to $ 380 million in holiday Q4 revenue, in line with analyst estimates.

In his prepared remarks, CEO Evan Spiegel admitted that “While we have incredible reach among our core demographic of 13- to 34-year-olds in the US and Europe, there are billions of people worldwide who do not yet use Snapchat.” He explained that the 2 million user loss was mostly on Android where Snapchat doesn’t run as well as on iOS. Noticibly absent was an update on monthly active users in the US and Canada. Snap said that was over 100 million monthly users last quarter, probably in an effort to distract from the daily user shrinkage. The company didn’t update that stat, but did say the “over 100 million” stat was still accurate.

Snap CEO Evan Spiegel

Spiegel had said in a memo that his stretch goal was break-even this year and full-year profitability in 2019. But CFO Tim Stone said that “Looking forward to 2019, our internal stretch output goal will be an acceleration of revenue growth and full year free cash flow and profitability. Bear in mind that an internal stretch goal is not a forecast, and it’s not guidance.”

During the call, Spiegel responded to questions about the Android overhaul’s schedule saying, “Quality takes time. We’re going wait until we get it right”. But analysts piled on with inquiries about how Snap would turn things around in 2019. He admitted Snaps created per day had dropped from 3.5 billion to 3 billion per day, but tried to reassure investors by saying over 60% of our users are still creating snaps every day.

Spiegel said that expanding beyond the 13 to 34-year-old age group in the US and Europe, plus scoring more users in the developing world via the improved Android app would be how it restores momentum. But the problem is that courting older users could sour the perception of its younger users who don’t want their parents, teachers, or bosses on the app.

Now down to $ 1.4 billion in cash and securities, Snap will need to start reaching more of those international users or improving monetization of those it still has to keep afloat without outside capital.

An Uphill Battle

Q3 saw Snapchat’s launch its first in-house augmented reality Snappable games, while plans for an third-party gaming platform leak.  The Snappable Tic-Tac-Toe game saw 80 million unique users, suggesting gaming could be the right direction for Snap to move towards.

It launched Lens Explorer to draw more attention to developer and creator-built augmented reality experiences, plus its Storyteller program to connect social media stars to brands to earn sponsorship money. It also shut down its Venmo-like Snapcash feature. But the biggest news came from its Q2 earnings report where it announced it’d lost 3 million users. That scored it a short-lived stock price pop, but competition and user shrinkage has pushed Snap’s shares to new lows.

Snapchat is depending on the Project Mushroom engineering overhaul of its Android app to speed up performance, and thereby accelerate user growth and retention. Snap neglected the developing world’s Android market for years as it focused on iPhone-toting US teens. Given Snapchat is all about quick videos, slow load times made it nearly unusable, especially in markets with slower network connections and older phones.

Looking at the competitive landscape, WhatsApp’s Snapchat Stories clone Status has grown to 450 million daily users while Instagram Stories has reached 400 million dailies — much of that coming in the developing world, thereby blocking Snap’s growth abroad as I predicted when Insta Stories launched.. Snap Map hasn’t become ubiquitous, Snap’s Original Shows still aren’t premium enough to drag in tons of new users, Discover is a clickbait-overloaded mess, and Instagram has already copied the best parts of its ephemeral messaging. Snap could be vulnerable in the developing world if WhatsApp similarly copies its disappearing chats.

At this rate, Snap will run out of money before it’s projected to become profitable in 2020 or 2021. That means the company will likely need to sell new shares in exchange for outside investment or get acquired to survive.

Mobile – TechCrunch