Can Snapchat’s redesign remedy its problems?
App now separates posts by source, but revenue pressures are a concern
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.