Can Snapchat’s re­design rem­edy its prob­lems?

App now sep­a­rates posts by source, but rev­enue pres­sures are a concern

The Washington Post - - ECONOMY & BUSINESS - BY HAY­LEY TSUKAYAMA

Snapchat lifted the cur­tain on the re­design of its app Wed­nes­day, just weeks af­ter the com­pany re­ported bruis­ing earn­ings and its chief ex­ec­u­tive, Evan Spiegel, promised to make the app more ac­ces­si­ble to new users.

The com­pany said in a blog post that the app will now sep­a­rate the posts made by one’s friends from con­tent cre­ated by pub­lish­ers, rather than show­ing those sto­ries in the same spot. The app will still open onto a user’s cam­era, but all friend con­tent will be to the left, while pub­lisher con­tent on the com­pany’s “Dis­cover” plat­form will be to the right.

Snapchat said the re­design could be summed up as sep­a­rat­ing “so­cial” from “me­dia.” “While blur­ring the lines be­tween pro­fes­sional con­tent cre­ators and your friends has been an in­ter­est­ing In­ter­net ex­per­i­ment, it has also pro­duced some strange side ef­fects (like fake news) and made us feel like we have to per­form for our friends rather than just ex­press our­selves,” Spiegel said in a com­pany blog post.

For Snapchat, the re­design is about high­light­ing its strengths. Giv­ing the chat fea­tures their own space to breathe will, it hopes, un­der­score its strengths as a com­mu­ni­ca­tions app. On the other hand, the com­pany is tak­ing a big­ger step into pre­mium con­tent cu­ra­tion, ex­pand­ing its Dis­cover fea­ture to al­low more trend­ing con­tent of its choos­ing to show up on users’ feeds.

Dis­cover will ex­pand to in­clude not only con­tent from Snapchat’s con­tent part­ners — which in­clude The Wash­ing­ton Post as well as the New York Times — but also from ver­i­fied celebri­ties. Sto­ries gen­er­ated by al­go­rithms, such as sto­ries com­piled from a par­tic­u­lar lo­ca­tion, will also show up on Dis­cover. Snapchat will re­view most con­tent with a team of hu­man cu­ra­tors. One ex­cep­tion would be shows pro­duced for Snapchat, which al­ready must ad­here to com­mu­nity guide­lines.

Such a move puts Snapchat more firmly in the role of judg­ing what’s ap­pro­pri­ate for its site — a ma­jor chal­lenge that Face­book, Google and Twit­ter have wres­tled with in bal­anc­ing free speech and good taste.

Some an­a­lysts have noted that the changes don’t seem quite that big and were not in the di­rec­tion they’d ex­pected. “This was not a whole­sale re­design,” said De­bra Aho Wil­liamson, an an­a­lyst at re­search firm eMar­keter.

Snapchat is fac­ing two main prob­lems: slow­ing growth and floun­der­ing ad­ver­tis­ing rev­enue. Sep­a­rat­ing the app’s func­tions may not help, ei­ther, Wil­liamson said.

“There have been ques­tions over time about how much time peo­ple spend look­ing at con­tent on Snapchat,” she said. “I would have thought they’d made it more in­te­grated.”

Snap’s stock was lit­tle changed Wed­nes­day. The stock closed at $13.70, up 0.66 per­cent.

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