Even Snapchat is getting into the original content game

With social networking services seeking to improve the quality of content they host by making their own, even ephemeral messaging service Snapchat has felt compelled to act.

Snapchat has been teasing the idea of creating its own video content for at least a year, but this somewhat counter-intuitive move has taken a while to become reality. There is presumably only a very specific type of video content that is best consumed via a mobile messaging apps and now we finally get to see what that is.

“Today, we’re excited to debut Snap Originals – exclusive shows created by some of the world’s greatest storytellers, with new episodes released every day,” said the announcement. “Our first slate of Snap Originals includes Co-Ed, a new comedy from the Duplass Brothers; Class of Lies, a mystery thriller from one of the minds behind Riverdale; and Endless Summer, a docuseries following rising stars in Laguna Beach — from Bunim/Murray, the creators of Keeping Up with the Kardashians.

“Snap Originals will also feature new Show Portals, letting you swipe up and step inside a scene from a Show to experience it for yourself. Snap Originals will also have Lenses, Filters, and other fun ways for you to share the show experience with your friends.

You can see the promotional video below. It indicates that Snapchat is trying to do some novel things that play to the strengths of video consumed via a smartphone. This trend also reinforces the consensus that video-driven mobile data consumption is growing exponentially and will continue to do so for the foreseeable future.

 

EE and ITV data shows football watching is coming home

EE reported sharp drop in broadband traffic when World Cup matches are on, while ITV registered the highest viewership on England’s match against Colombia.

The ongoing FIFA World Cup is pulling users away from the internet and pushing them back in front of the television, it seems. If they have to go outdoors while the match is on, then people switch to live streaming on mobile. The chart below shows how viewers followed the matches on Tuesday 03 July:

How fans watched England's win on the EE network

A few factors may have contributed to the lower traffic registered during the Sweden vs. Switzerland match: it was still office hours therefore fewer people were out in the street; when streaming indoor the traffic would more likely go through Wi-Fi; and the relatively weaker following by the general public.

When the England vs. Colombia match was played, a World Cup record of 23.6 million watched it on ITV at home (the number of those watching in pubs are not available). The mobile traffic pattern also followed closely the progress of the match: peaks at the beginning of the match and the penalty shootout, canyons at half time, 90 minutes, then off the cliff after the last penalty was kicked (and scored).

An interesting data point is that around 1/5 of viewers watched the ITV live streaming through the Sky Go aggregator, despite that ITV Hub is free to all, as is the BBC iPlayer.

Equally interesting is the next chart, which shows mobile users’ behaviours when they moved away from live streaming. They went on social networks:

Fans turn off live streams and take to social during half time

An eye-catching anomaly on the chart is that, right after the match was finished, the traffic generated by Snapchat overtook that by Facebook. As Snap users tend to be younger, this may serve as a reminder to Facebook that it may not be the default platform by the next generation internet users when they share their feelings.

Now the nation is increasingly excited with England in the quarterfinals for the first time since 2006, the match against Sweden, played next Saturday, will almost guarantee to generate higher mobile traffic and viewership, this time on the BBC.

YouTube strikes back in increasingly important mobile video battle

No sooner does Instagram make its mobile video move than YouTube and Snapchat counter-attack in an area of growing commercial significance to telcos too.

Facebook subsidiary Instagram launched IGTV yesterday in a bid to wrest back some of the initiative in a mobile video space largely dominated by YouTube. In hindsight the announcement may have been timed to steal some of YouTube’s thunder, because just a few hours later the Google-owned giant announced a bunch of initiatives designed to keep its ‘creators’ loyal.

It’s no coincidence that we’re getting so many online video-related announcements right now because we’re in the middle of VidCon – a big event devoted entirely to just that. Traditionally it has been a convention of YouTubers, i.e. people who devote much of their time to creating video content and sticking it up on YouTube. Since its acquisition by Viacom earlier this year it seems to have embraced the corporate world more closely and this is reflected in all these announcements.

Monetization is a critical issue when it comes to user-generated video as kids increasingly aspire to make a living that way. The most successful YouTubers make millions, but traffic doesn’t always map directly onto revenue, with YouTube reserving the right not to serve ads on content it thinks advertisers might not want to be associated with.

The result of this approach is that creators are increasingly finding their videos ‘demonetized’, with no prospect of traffic being converted into money. YouTube seems to be aware how alienating this process is to its creators and has belatedly moved to appease them with some new tools to help them pay the bills beyond taking a cut of ad revenue.

In a blog Neal Mohan, Chief Product Officer at YouTube, announced its creators are earning more money than ever from advertising, but conceded the need to create other revenue channels, building on the Super Chat service it introduced last year that enabled viewers of a live stream to pay money in order to make their comments more prominent.

So now we have Channel Memberships, a premium subscription service that offers special access to the creator for five dollars per month. YouTube has also partnered with a merchandise specialist to assist creators with flogging branded tat to their viewers. Lastly there is Premiers, which aims to turn a pre-recorded video into a live event, thus unlocking the potential of things like Super Chat.

 

All this stuff is as much a response to alternative revenue-generation mechanisms such as Patreon, which is an easy way for anyone to pledge small regular donations to someone they want to support, thus bypassing the advertising channel, as to Facebook. There’s also Amazon-owned Twitch, which live-streams games and allows viewers to pay for premium virtual tat such as emojis if that’s what floats their boat.

The other big player in mobile video is Snapchat, which has been offering portrait-aligned video suspiciously similar to the IGTV announcement for some time. With much less fanfare it has just announced its Shows video format, which was previously only available to corporate producers, has now been extended to regular creators.

The only other major social media platform we haven’t mentioned yet is Twitter, but BuzzFeed reckons mobile video has been a key reason for the recent turnaround in its fortunes. If you had bought Twitter stock in August of last year you would have tripled your money by now and, alongside a focus on news, a general rethink and a healthy dollop of luck, BuzzFeed puts that down to an aggressive push into premium live video.

A visit to your Twitter stream typically finds sponsored video clips interspersed within the usual bile, virtue-signalling and twitch hunts. These could be ads, news clips, sports coverage. “Video is really really important to us,” Matt Derella, Twitter’s head of revenue and content partnerships, told BuzzFeed. “It’s our largest format in terms of revenue.”

All this is directly relevant to the telecoms industry as video continues to put enormous strain on networks and operators increasingly look to content to boost their ARPUs and become less dependent on traditional contracts for their revenues. Internet companies are becoming increasingly reliant on mobile video for their business models, which could create a host of new opportunities for telcos able to move quickly enough to exploit them.

Snap set to have another crack at the specs market

A FCC filing from Snap indicates the social media firm is set to have another stab at making its connected glasses work, after a tepid response to the first go.

The filing is protected by various confidentiality requests, though it indicates Snap is working on a ‘wearable video camera’ with ‘spectacles’ branding and ‘model 002’ on the packaging. The product will also be compatible with the 2.402-2.48 GHz Bluetooth and 2.412-2.462 GHz Wifi frequency ranges. While there is still a bit of ambiguity, most would come to the fair assumption Snap is launching a new and improved range of Spectacles.

Perhaps it was a product ahead of its time or the team hadn’t worked out all the bugs, but the first attempt was less than successful (putting it mildly). The product was launched with a notable advertising campaign and promised great things to the industry. Unfortunately hundreds of thousands of products are reportedly sitting unsold in a Chinese warehouse as the product fell faster than a lead balloon.

This was an unfortunate development for Snap and the industry on the whole, as the product has the opportunity to bridge a couple of divides between the digital dream and reality. When the product was initially launched in 2016, connected products were limited. A lot has happened over the last two years to normalise the concept.

Snap has a unique opportunity in the tech space to make some positive waves here. It has a young audience, many of whom are digitally native and therefore more accepting of new ideas, and a direct usecase. You snap the content on your glasses and directly upload to the app. Few other brands have the content platform to build such a logical link, as few other platforms have built their message around user-generated content.

Should the idea of connected glasses take off, new doors are opened for wearables, as well as augmented reality and immersive content. This is where this sub-sector has struggled; normalising the hardware. Perhaps one of the reasons VR and AR have stalled over the last couple of months is because they are asking the consumer to take too large a step forward. Users like to be drip fed incremental advances, as progress can be a scary thought. Asking consumers to go from yesteryears normality to the fully immersive experience, where the user is essentially removed from the physical world, might have been too much.

The industry should be looking at Snap and hoping for a win here. Get the hardware out onto the market and then applications can be built into and on top of it. This is how the smartphone became successful, applications were limited in the early days, but as soon as mass market penetration was achieved all sorts of wonderful ideas, such as online dating and digital banking, became normalised. This might just be the first and logical step for the VR and AR world.

The one question which remains is whether this is an excellent example of the fail-fast business model, or if it is simply Snap throwing good money after bad. Only time will tell.

Facebook is for Edith and Snapchat is for Timmy

Facebook might be top-dog when it comes to the social media giants but recent estimates indicate its now more appealing to older generations while Snapchat is seemingly stealing its younger customers.

For the first time, Facebook cannot say the majority of 12 to 17 year olds in the US are using the platform at least once a month. These are of course forecasts for the next couple of months, all is not lost yet, but eMarketer believes the social media status quo is changing. Facebook is appealing less to younger generations and Instagram is not picking up the slack as it previously did.

This was at least some sort of consolation. User information was retained in the wider group as those who didn’t sign up, or left Facebook, would usually end up on Instagram. But, the growth in popularity in Snapchat is siphoning away more users. Facebook is still growing, but it is older generations who are adding these numbers; commercially this is not as attractive. Facebook wants youngsters who can be sold to in future years, when they are going through middle age and making bigger purchasing decisions. If it doesn’t capture these users, Facebook decreases in commercial attractiveness to advertisers.

“Snapchat could eventually experience more growth in older age groups, since it’s redesigning its platform to be easier to use,” eMarketer’s Principal Analyst Debra Aho Williamson said. “The question will be whether younger users will still find Snapchat cool if more of their parents and grandparents are on it. That’s the predicament Facebook is in.”

Aside from this conflict, another area to consider would be whether Facebook is able to recapture the lost users. Snapchat has had to content with losing users when they grow a bit older, perhaps this is something investors have learned to accept, but this will be a new challenge for Facebook. When the lost users get older, will they be bothered about Facebook?

While the loss of younger users is a new twist on the Facebook story, the social media platform has been fighting to recapture the enthusiasm of yesteryear. In short, we feel the platform has become less engaging, less interesting and less useful.

Maybe this is the reason youngsters are not engaging with the platform in the same way? When your correspondent joined Facebook it was about connections. Older users might be able to remember what Facebook was, but someone joining today would simply see a wall of videos, news stories, adverts and the occasional update from friends. Maybe platforms like Instagram and Snapchat are just better at providing engaging links to the users personal community.

Something needs to change at Facebook. User numbers are increasing, but this can only go on for so long; there are only so many internet users on the planet. If it starts haemorrhaging younger users who (1) find a more engaging platform, or (2) don’t want to rub shoulders with their parents in the digital world, new ideas will be needed.

Facebook is the dominant social media platform on the planet and it will still be in that position tomorrow. But Facebook should learn from its own rise to prominence; offering something which the user genuinely wants can make a super-brand over-night, while concentrating too much on the commercial side of the business could lead to the end. We’ve been writing more negative stories about Facebook than positive ones in recent weeks; that is never a good sign.

May new ideas are needed, maybe Facebook needs to remember want it did well at the beginning. Whatever changes at Facebook HQ, it needs to keep a wary eye on Snapchat though, it has been coming up with some very good ideas