You are currently browsing the archives for the SnapChat category.

A Billion Photos Shared Each Day, Advertisers Nervous

According to Mary Meeker, we’re now uploading and sharing more than 500 million photos a day. By this time next year it will be a billion a day.

Daily Number of Photos Uploaded

Which is awesome — pretty soon I won’t need to feel self-conscious about sharing so many pictures of my kids on Facebook. (I’m pretty darn adorable, just for being related to them — right?!) My narcissism, at least on a relative scale, will experience a refreshing decline as greater narcissists outpace me.

But here’s the rub. The vast majority of those photos are posted to ad-supported sites — Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and Tumblr — or apps that are free to consumers (such as Snapchat) and therefore will likely pursue some kind of ad model eventually. Advertisers almost always follow consumers to a new media property once the sheer number of consumers gets too large to ignore. Take the recent rise of WorldStarHipHop. According to American Public Media’s Marketplace:

In recent days, ads for Fiber One, Walmart and Bloomingdale’s have appeared on WorldStarHipHop. O’Denat [WorldStarHipHop's founder] says the site’s racier content used to be a problem for advertisers.

“Advertisers were afraid of us,” he said. “We were kind of risque. We had girls in thongs, fights. Not until later on they decided, well, the site is too big. We’re just gonna have to work with them.”

When Facebook landed in hot water this week, though, it wasn’t for thongs or fights. It acknowledged that its “systems to identify and remove hate speech have failed to work as effectively as we would like, particularly around issues of gender-based hate.” More specifically, as one advocacy group brought to light, Facebook ran advertising on pages with names like “Violently Raping Your Friend Just for Laughs.” Oy. I’m betting Facebook has already rolled out a solution to prevent this kind of thing from happening again — software has gotten pretty good at reading text on a page and understanding when that text is objectionable.

Managing brand safety is really hard to do, though, when it comes to photo content at enormous scale. It’s still a whole lot easier to flag the word “rape” than it is to recognize a visual depiction of the crime inside one of those hundreds of millions of new photos that its members publish to the site each day. Advertisers are more than eager to pitch their wares to the enormous audiences at Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Flickr, Tumblr and Snapchat — assuming they won’t tarnish their brands in the process. Figuring out that last part, especially as it pertains to user-submitted photos, is fast becoming a ginormous marketing opportunity. A billions-upon-billions of dollars opportunity.

(Disclosure: Until recently I worked at Luminate, one company that’s working on aspects of image recognition, including a visual brand watch system. I hope they succeed, partly because the online ecosystem will benefit from happy, confident advertisers, and partly — let’s be honest here — because those cute kids you see too often on Facebook want to go to college some day.)

Smile, People Like Your Pictures More Than Your Words (All Things D Version)

On March 7, Facebook announced a major overhaul to its newsfeed, the scrolling page of friend-news where we spend the bulk of our Facebook time. The central change: Facebook is making room for bigger pictures.

It’s a logical move when you look at the data. In November 2011, one-fifth of posts uploaded to newsfeeds were photos. Today, every other status update is a photo. My math friends tell me it that it’s hard to meaningfully affect percentage gains when you start with a really big number. Even with my quantitative limitations, I have to believe Facebook qualifies. Last year it told investors (as part of its IPO roadshow) that users were uploading more than 300 million photos every single day, and from that very large starting point photo activity just jumped 150 percent in 15 months. So much for the law of large numbers.

If you’re a brand, though, it’s not the fact that photo-enabled devices will soon outnumber humans on the planet, or that we’re piping all those pictures into social media. The important trend is that consumers are looking at them. In other words, your art-directed fashion spreads have a lot more competition these days.

There was a time when professional photography had a monopoly on our attention. When mass media meant national magazines, TV networks and big-city newspapers, only deep-pocketed corporations could afford access to large audiences. Back then it made economic sense to build your story around professional-grade photography: A single print ad would reach millions of readers, so a few tens of thousands of dollars spent on art and photography chewed up only a negligible percentage of a campaign’s costs. And for a few generations, this approach worked great.

It turns out, though, that cost-to-produce and magnitude-of-consumer-delight don’t plot analogous curves in an Excel graph. In fact, it’s hard to find a direct correlation between the two. A photo that captures something important or interesting or timely wins our attention — regardless of who took it or how much it cost to make. It also turns out the spans of our attention are shrinking. Google economist Hal Varian observed as far back as 2010 — before SnapChat, and back when we uploaded a mere 30 million photos to Facebook every day — that we pay less attention to stuff when we consume it online. “The average amount of time looking at online news is about 70 seconds, while the average amount of time spent reading the physical newspaper is about 25 minutes a day.”

So corporate storytellers need to master a new narrative technique. It’s as if they need to shed those florid sentences that played so well in Victorian novels and dial it down to the Hemingway-esque. The good news: This new approach to storytelling still employs a language in which brands are fluent: Photos. There are three ways that brands should modify their visual storytelling.

One, feeds move faster than print magazines, so you need to tell your story in a series of frequent episodes, anecdotes and updates — not the grand gestures of Ogilvy or Draper. Photos are the currency of social media, but it’s a currency doled out in nickels, not twenty-dollar bills.

Two, let photos do more of the talking for you. Humans process visual information much faster than we process text. And when we’re online (remember those stats from Hal Varian), we navigate more quickly from story to story. If you’re going to capture attention in a digital landscape, you have to do it fast. So steal a page from the playbooks used by Pinterest, Flipboard, USA Today’s new design or the NYT’s TimesCast: Use visual content instead of words to invite consumers into the story.

Three — need I say it? — let them interact with your story, let them re-mix your assets and choose their own adventures. Let them steal your photos so they can more easily share them with friends. Let them explore inside your images to find links to products, deals and related links. And let them contribute their own. If the Web conversation is going visual, encourage them to talk to you in the local dialect — images snapped on their phones looking for a place to be uploaded.

(This post was originally published at All Things D.)

Please Give Me Reason To Pay Attention

It was shocking news to some members of the over-25 crowd to learn that users of SnapChat, the self-destructing photo-sharing app, enjoy the app for purposes other than sexting.

Shocking it may be, but the evidence is mounting. It appears that many SnapChatters often use the service just to send silly pictures to friends without fear that they will be added to the sender’s permanent digital records. Makes perfect sense to me — mullets were practically part of the uniform for my suburban New Jersey high school soccer team in 1987, and I’m sure glad photos from that era aren’t littering my Facebook Timeline.


(From Survata blog.)

But that’s not really what interests me most about SnapChat. Faithful readers: You know I have a one-track mind, and SnapChat has me thinking about online advertising — specifically the sorry state of online ad rates.

In 2008 Jeff Zucker, CEO of NBC at the time, made famous a line about “broadcast dollars” becoming “digital pennies,” a quip that captures the phenomenon by which advertisers pay a fraction of traditional-media CPMs for the website version of the same content. A few years later Google chief economist Hal Varian wrote a post that touched on similar issues and their relationship to the newspaper business. In 2010, when he wrote it, he observed that while the Internet has been a boon to news consumption — more people read news, and more of us do so everyday — there’s one aspect of our news-reading that’s gone very much in the wrong direction: The amount of attention we pay to news when we read it online. We spend only 70 seconds per day reading news online; back when we got our news in a paper format, it was 25 minutes per day.

If we’re only fractionally engaged with online content, then, it’s logical that advertisers value online ads at pennies on the dollar.

Part of the explanation for our digital distractedness is the wealth — overabundance?! — of content choices online. But the more significant explanation, I think, is that digital content is inevitably archived and easily searchable. We graze and skim through content now because we know we can go back later, when we will have more time to actually pay attention. Tag it #longreads, push it to Instapaper, or leave open another tab in your browser. Then you can go back later and give it a really thorough read.

I don’t know about you, but I was always much better at pushing stories to Instapaper than I was at actually reading them later. And then I stopped using it altogether.

SnapChat doesn’t have this problem. According to Yale computer scientist (and former FourSquare software engineer) Sean Haufler:

Snapchat’s time limits make snaps more engaging…. since every message has a time limit, users are present when opening snaps. Snapchat attracts its users’ full attention since they have only a few seconds to capture the details of each message. This engagement makes the experience more satisfying — it feels like a real conversation.

Kind of like live sports or other major TV events, or a magazine story that everyone’s talking about right now. (Or a feature in a live magazine.) What’s the point in watching on your DVR when you know who wins or that Matthew Crawford has already met his untimely death something really big happened last week on Downton Abbey? If you care about that game or that show or the cultural conversation that references them, you need to watch it live and pay attention when you do. That’s programming that demands our engagement, and thus it’s highly valued by advertisers.

Advertisers certainly aren’t going to pay more because your private exchange is more programmatic than your competitor’s. But they almost certainly will if you can find a way — through rich, unique and timely content — to capture reader attention for more than a few seconds every time the engage with your digital product.