A Breakup Letter to Snapchat

It’s IPO day! Why ‘TV’ content won’t save Snapchat, and other reasons it’s time to move on.

by Kylie Wu

Dear Snapchat,

We need to talk. My feelings for you are more complicated than ever, and I think it’s time that we part ways. Let me explain.

I’ve been loyal to you since 2012, since before Stories and Filters and Discover and Lenses. All of those additions have increased my feelings for you, and kept me interested as one of the 158M people who currently use you on a daily basis.

But, things have changed. It’s undeniable that ever since Instagram Stories launched last August, the number of Stories posted by my friends on Snapchat, and the views I get on my own Stories, have very noticeably decreased.

And for you, I know this was a big blow, what with the launch of Instagram Stories causing your user base to slow by 82%. Can you blame us, when most of us were also already big Instagram fans, and now we could have your Story functionality in the same place?

Plus those seemingly minor additions that Instagam added, from swiping between Stories, allowing clickable links and account tagging, to integrating Boomerang and Live Streaming, have all but made Instagram’s version a better Stories tool.

On the upside, based on your IPO filing, I know your average users are ultra-engaged and open your app 18+ times a day, spending 25–30 minutes on Snapchat every day. Truthfully, I’m not that far off from those numbers either.

Yet, you must also know how fleeting these relationships can be in our modern media culture, where there are more options than ever for consumers like me to watch/read/listen/like/comment/tap/swipe.

See Fluent’s recent study, which found 48% of Americans 18 and older believe Snapchat is “just a fad,” 62% of users believe “an alternative to Snapchat will come out that they will switch to,” and a majority of users 18–24 “don’t believe they will still be using the app after they turn 35.”

Okay, I see you pulling out the “Snapchat is the new TV” card. I agree, partnerships with NBCUniversal, Turner, BBC, ABC, and Discovery (among others) to create original content and shows for your platform is exciting. As a secret fan of ‘Watch Party: The Bachelor,’ I’m personally looking forward to seeing what these shows will look like.

But, will people really come to Snapchat just to watch these shows if their friends aren’t snapping to each other or posting Stories anymore? Some people think so, but I know I won’t. Facebook’s move into the TV space doesn’t help either.

Maybe things are looking up from an advertising perspective, because these shows mean more opportunity for brands to place their content on your platform to reach your audience as TV viewership continues to fade, especially with younger generations.

But, here’s the kicker — a whopping 69% of Snapchat users skip ads “always” or “often” on the platform (myself included), increasing to 80% among 18- to 24-year olds. Meaning that as a brand, if you invest in video ads within these exclusive shows, the majority of users won’t even see them, and those dollars are essentially wasted.

When 96% of your company’s revenue is from advertising, but your users aren’t watching what brands are paying for, this is a big deal. How long will it take for advertisers to realize your platform isn’t worth investing in anymore?

Maybe things like 3rd party data targeting will help, or maybe your environment and the way people use your platform is simply not built for ‘standard’ video ads. You’re not the only one seeing this — YouTube is making their own changes to “create better ad experiences for users online.”

Because now, it’s more important than ever for platforms to keep consumer behavior in mind when creating ad products, and it’s on advertisers too, who need to create compelling content built for those platforms in order to avoid those dreaded skips.

This is a major issue that you haven’t figured out yet, and along with your stalling growth and increasing competitors, it’s going to be tough for you to keep advertisers interested down the line unless something changes soon.

What I’m really trying to say is, it’s not you, it’s not me, it’s this modern media culture that we’re living in. And because of it, as a consumer, I’ve all but moved on to Instagram Stories, and from an advertising perspective, I struggle more and more with the value of investing in your platform over the others.

I’m a pessimist though, and I hope you prove me wrong. For now, this isn’t a clean break. I just can’t see you as often anymore and….sorry, I got distracted by a WhatsApp notification. Did you hear about their new feature?

Good luck with your IPO.

All the best,

A soon-to-be former Snapchatter

Kylie Wu is a Brand Manager at Mistress.