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Week In Review: The Snapchat IPO, Commissioner Pai Takes Charge In A Hurry

1. Is Snapchat A Twitter Or A Facebook?

So to absolutely no one’s surprise, the Snapchat IPO is going down next week and the punditocracy has been busy cranking out the usual slurs: the interface is too confusing for anyone over the age of 24, it used to be a sexting app (hehehehehehehehehe) and Instagram and Facebook are stealing all its features.

Of all these, Instagram’s “borrow” of the Stories feature is proving to be a problem, as a story this week in TechCrunch offered up lots of evidence from social media talent agents, Creators and Nick Cicero of Delmondo, that Instagram was seriously biting into the amount of traction Creators are getting—according to Cicero, the average unique viewers per Snapchat Story has decreased about 40%.  (NB: Delmondo is measuring Creator and brand stories. Not the stories Zach Smith from Central High posted for his friends during gym class.)

While the hit Stories is taking is troubling, Snapchat has a variety of revenue sources, and Stories is not the cash cow that Discover, which according to eMarketer, accounts for 50% of Snap’s revenue, is. The big question now seems to be whether Snapchat will be a unicorn or merely a magical pony. In other words, will investors validate the huge $25B valuation (62 times last year’s sales) they are asking for, or will they come in lower, given that those impressive sales figures still result in a $514.6 million net loss for 2016?

Why It Matters

Snapchat is the major social media success story of the 10s, lapping Twitter in terms of monthly average users, and more importantly, becoming the go-to app for Generation Z, the cohort born after 1995, who are to Millennials what Gen X is to Boomers.

The television industry has been focused on using Snapchat’s chat and stories functionality to promote specific shows, and the Discover feature, for which several networks have produced original content, as way to promote the networks themselves to a next-generation audience.

What You Need To Do About It

The best move right now is to continue as you were, while paying attention to whether Snapchat is more like Facebook (growing and expanding and rewarding investors) or more like Twitter (stagnant growth and multiple observers reading it Last Rites). Many see Twitter in Snapchat, citing the confusing interface and slow Q4 2016 growth. Not to mention the potential ability of Facebook to mimic any successful features in “good enough” fashion and slow down Snapchat’s growth.

But Twitter was never the voice of a generation, the way Snapchat is for Gen Z. Given the app’s multiple lines of attack—Chat, Stories, Discover and now Cameras—we wouldn’t be so quick to write it off.

 

2. Commissioner Pai Takes Charge In A Hurry

President Trump’s new FCC Commission, Ajit Pai, has only been in office for two weeks, but he’s already leaving his mark. His biggest target will be net neutrality, something Pai strongly opposes. He is also believed to look favorably upon mergers between large media companies.

Why It Matters

Pai has already started putting his mark on the agency. This week alone he cancelled the inquiry into how wireless providers use “zero-rating” to allow users to avoid broadband caps on the provider’s own programming.  He rolled back guidelines for same-market broadcast stations that jointly sell advertising time, and put the kibosh on nine companies who participate in a program to provide low-cost Internet service to low-income families. (The latter decision was allegedly due to the numerous scams and scandals that had beset the program.)

And there’s lots more to come, as the existing net neutrality ruling goes under review.

What You Need To Do About It 

Chairman Pai has not made his goals and ideas a secret—he’s quite upfront about what he wants to accomplish. Given the Republican majority on the FCC, there’s nothing to stop him either. So make your decisions with his decisions in mind and remember that Pai, who has been described as a “lawyer’s lawyer” is very supportive of the television industry.