“These are the kinds of questions I hate, dude.”
That’s what Snapchat co-founder and CEO Evan Spiegel told Bloomberg Business when asked about his long-term vision for the company.
Spiegel, just 24, has been notoriously secretive about his plans for Snapchat, which is valued at around $15 billion. However, despite his elusive answer, Spiegel used the rare interview to reveal some of his strong opinions about digital advertising and hint at what lies ahead for his social platform. We’re only halfway through “the year of the chat app,” and Spiegel has already made some huge moves that are primed to disrupt mobile marketing.
Here are the six most important takeaways you need to know about Snapchat’s future plans.
1. Viewing advertising as a product
Successful advertising starts with the right mindset.
“A lot of people look at Internet advertising as a tax on the system,” Spiegel said. “That’s sort of discouraging if you care about making new products.”
For example, many criticize Facebook for its advertising efforts, which place strict holds on brands and have privacy issues that concern users. Perhaps that’s why Spiegel turned down a $3 billion acquisition from Facebook in 2013. Instead, he’s been getting ready to offer a young generation of mobile users a completely new experience.
“Evan views advertising as a product, while most Internet founders view advertising as a necessary evil,” Imran Khan, former investment banker and Snapchat’s new chief strategy officer, added in the Bloomberg piece. Snapchat doesn’t have an ad chief yet, but Khan is overseeing the marketing strategy while the company searches for the right candidate.
2. Saying “no” to targeted ads
Part of building a new advertising experience includes staying away from personalized programmatic ads, which can sometimes feel overbearing and/or creepy.
“It’s definitely weird when a vacuum follows you around the Internet,” Spiegel said.
According to the Bloomberg article, Spiegel is actually opposed to most kinds of online advertising, and he’s also ruling out ads that involve inserting ads into any one-to-one messaging between users because he finds it too invasive. Instead, Snapchat is set up for people to come to the content because theywant to read it—not because it’s being pushed into their feeds. For that quality control, Spiegel relies on editorial resources.
3. Building an editorial network
Snapchat has already begun playing around with editorial features by inviting users to piece together “Stories” of their media and share them with friends. Earlier this year, the company invited brands and publications to get in on the action with the new Discover channels, which provide curated news from partners like the Discovery Channel, CNN, Comedy Central, and ESPN.
Snapchat is also producing its own content on Discover. To build out its publishing arm, the network hired away Ellis Hamburger from The Verge and Peter Hamby from CNN. Given Hamby’s political background, we speculatedhe was brought on to help Snapchat become the go-to network for coverage of the 2016 presidential election. And we weren’t off the mark.
Snapchat just started posting job ads for “content analysts” to help provide “24/7 coverage” of next year’s election.
4. Focusing on mobile
One of the most unique features of Snapchat—aside from the fact that all content disappears—is that it is solely designed for mobile use.
Because of this, all content created for Snapchat from brands like Coca-Cola and McDonald’s are specifically formatted for vertical viewing on smartphones. With this policy in place, the user doesn’t have to interrupt the viewing experience by turning the phone sideways so the video fills the screen. It also prevents ad partners from taking ads off YouTube and Facebook to plug them right in on Snapchat. The content has to be specifically produced for the platform and the user, which will theoretically lead to a higher-quality experience.
In a sales document that Snapchat is sending to advertisers this month, the company claims its users are nine times more likely to watch an entire ad if they don’t have to rotate their phones.
5. Ditching the data
While every brand publisher is frantically searching for the right metrics to measure content effectiveness, Spiegel turns his back on big data.
“There’s a sort of weird obsession with the idea that data can solve anything,” Spiegel said. “I really haven’t seen data deliver the results that I’ve seen a great editor deliver.”
Perhaps this is why there are no options for commenting on snaps. As the Bloomberg Business article states: “While Facebook and Google focus on technologies that advance material based on what’s popular or useful, Spiegel feels he has a responsibility to show Snapchat’s impressionable young audience things that are meaningful, not just popular.”
Of course, not all of Snapchat’s prospective partners are onboard with this approach to data. If they’re dishing out a heavy chunk of change, they want to be sure they’re getting a return on it. To help assuage these concerns, Snapchat cut its rates down to $20 per 1,000 views, a fraction of its undisclosed original price.
Meanwhile, Joanna Coles, editor-in-chief at Cosmopolitan, is happy with the traffic she sees coming in from the publication’s Snapchat channel, which receives about 2 million views each day. “The traffic is good, and [users] read every story,” she told Bloomberg. “It’s a finite amount of content, which is a perfect snack.”
6. Banking on music
While we weren’t originally supposed to know about this, Spiegel seems to have some big plans for the digital music scene. When Sony’s email was hacked last December, an exchange between Spiegel and Sony Entertainment CEO Michael Lynton revealed that Spiegel was looking to partner with music services Vevo and Spotify. He also discussed buying a record label and promoting artists on Snapchat. Regardless of whether those plans come to fruition, we can be quite sure that Snapchat will continue to surprise us.
“I don’t think anyone saw coming what they are building,” former Facebook executive Chamath Palihapitiya told Bloomberg. “At worst, they are the next-generation MTV. At best, they are the next-generation Viacom.”