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A new chapter in Snapchat’s series of misfortunes

Snapchat has not had a great year. While it is dominating the teen and twenty-somethings demographics in comparison with Facebook, it is faltering behind another rival: Instagram. Ironically, Instagram is owned by Facebook, and is perhaps their way to fight back.

Now, Snapchat has announced a new offering with its app to try and tide over the younger generation away from Instagram. They want to make an online series program. It could be too late.

The bigger news is how did Snapchat find itself in this position?

Novelties don’t last

When it first launched in 2011, Snapchat’s biggest selling point was that images and videos (dubbed “snaps,” while a collection of snaps was called “stories”) taken by its users would “expire” after a set period of time, adding an interesting novelty to a social media environment dominated by “permanent” content on Facebook.

Didn’t want that wonky Halloween costume to remain on your social media profile for prospective recruiters to spot? Snapchat was the answer. Share an image or video, and rest easy knowing it’ll be off the internet after a set period of time.

This novelty wouldn’t last, however. With a more homogenized social media landscape than ever before, unique novelties and features don’t stay exclusive for long. In 2016, Instagram launched its own stories feature. Facebook and Facebook-owned Whatsapp followed suite in 2017. Facebook was clearly going all out against the yellow-spangled app.

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With the flood of copycats, Snapchat would soon lose its luster. The numbers began reflecting this decline.

Snapchat revealed that it lost 3 million users in Q2 2018, the first time the company had ever noted a decline in users. Facebook and its subsidiaries fought tooth and nail, and were mostly to blame for what happened to the company.

“At the time, everything looked like it was growing rapidly ahead of Snap’s (Snapchat’s head company) initial public offering (IPO), and Facebook investors were concerned that Snap — which had refused Facebook’s acquisition offers — might steal away the social giant’s users. Facebook responded by building Snapchat’s best feature, Stories, into all of its apps,” tech site Recode reported.

(Chart by Recode)

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A self-inflicted defeat

The competitors are not solely to blame for Snapchat’s sudden massive decline in users.

Snapchat faced major backlash late last year when they introduced a new redesign to their popular social media app. The redesign put a higher priority on celebrity and advertiser media, leaving loyal users with a bad taste in their mouth.

The company learned from their mistake, and opted for a second redesign this year that put users and their social circle first.

Still, the damage has been done. Company data shows that Snapchat users totaled 188 million in August 2018. Instagram, on the other hand, had 400 million.

Snapchat’s push for more advertiser money has not paid off too well, either. Snapchat’s average revenue per daily active user was $1.40 in Q2 2018, while Facebook’s was $8.99. These figures are based on Recode data.

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After a series of catastrophic events, in comes a new episode

Following in the vein of IGTV (Instagram TV), Snapchat has now announced a line-up of scripted five-minute-long episodic shows to be accessible from their app. The videos will play like TV shows, but will run in a vertical video format, and will be called Snap Originals. Their previous video content was more focused on lifestyle material, or news.

Among the new shows is “Endless Summer,” about a teen vlogger in Southern California, and “Class of Lies,” which follows roommates who attempt to solve their friend’s disappearance.

The shows will have 8-12 episodes each, and will feature unskippable six-second ads, Business Insider reported.

Snap Originals will differentiate themselves from IGTV and other similar content by incorporating an AR element.

Business Insider explains: “Snap Originals will feature “Show Portals,” which users can swipe up on in an episode to enter a 360-degree interactive scene with AR elements. For example, ‘Endless Summer’ offers a Show Portal that lets users visit a beach in AR with the show’s characters.”

“Snap’s head of original content Sean Mills considers Show Portals to be integral to experiencing Originals, rather than just one-off promotions, per Fast Company,” they continued. “This indicates Snap will continue to lean on Show Portals, which will help it compete for eyeballs against other vertical-only mobile video platforms like IGTV, which didn’t place focus on AR content upon launch.”

Whether Snapchat’s new move will succeed in recapturing interest is yet to be seen. Their AR feature sounds very enticing, but it is not clear yet if this will be enough to carry Snap Originals to the top.

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