Snapchat introduces redesign that will split its social posts from media content
Under the new plan, the app’s users will now see two separate feeds – one for all messages from friends and one for other publishers. Designers hope the changes will make it more easier to use and help broaden its appeal
Snap Inc – in which Chinese tech giant Tencent is reported to have a 12 per cent stake – has redesigned its popular social media app Snapchat in a bid to broaden its appeal.
The company said in a blog post last week that the app will now separate posts with friends from a feed of content from professional publishers and public figures. The app will appear as usual, but all friend content will now be on the left, while publisher content on the company’s “Discover” platform will be on the right.
The redesign followed the company’s reported disappointing revenue figures. Chief executive Evan Spiegel promised to make the app more accessible to new users, and that the latest change 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.
How big a role Tencent will play in Snap’s future is unclear. But the owner of the massive multipurpose online platform WeChat in China had said that the investment “enables Tencent to explore cooperation opportunities with the company on mobile games publishing and newsfeed as well as to share its financial returns from the growth of its businesses and monetisation in the future.”
It also referred to the potential for “newsfeed ads”, though games and a newsfeed have not been part of Snapchat thus far. The app was released in 2011, primarily as a phone app for millennials to share text messages and photos that would expire within a short period of time. Last month, the company reported that 178 million people use its service daily, falling short of an expected 180.5 million.
For now, Snapchat says the redesign is about highlighting its strengths. Giving space to the chat features should consolidate it as a communications app. On the other hand, the company is also taking a big step into premium content curation, by expanding its “Discover” feature to allow more trending content of its choosing to show up on users’ feeds.
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Discover will expand to include content not only from Snapchat’s content partners – such as The Washington Post and The New York Times – but also from verified celebrities.
Snapchat will review most content with a team of human curators.
It will put it more firmly in the role of judging what’s appropriate for its site – Facebook, Google and Twitter have all wrestled with balancing free speech and good taste. Some though, have said the changes don’t seem that big, and were not in the direction they’d expected.
“This was not a wholesale redesign,” says Debra Aho Williamson, an analyst at research firm eMarketer.
Snapchat is currently facing two main problems: slowing growth and falling advertising revenue. Separating the app’s functions may not help either, says Williamson.
“There have been questions about how much time people spend looking at content on Snapchat,” she says. “I would have thought they’d made it more integrated.”
Additional reporting by Kevin Kwong