A year ago today, Instagram debuted its Stories feature, which took Snapchat’s feature of the same name and adapted it slightly, something I criticized at the time in a blog post, arguing that the sheer brazenness of the copying should be beneath Instagram. Whatever the ethical shortcomings of such a move, it’s clear that it’s been very successful, with over 250 million daily users of the feature a year later, and Instagram hasn’t been shy in gloating about its milestones, especially where they make for favorable comparisons versus Snapchat. We’re getting more of that today, with Instagram offering up new data on time spent in its app among different age groups, which again compare nicely with Snapchat’s equivalent metrics. Snap Inc said on its Q1 earnings call that its users spend on average over 30 minutes per day in the app, up from a range of 25-30 minutes described in its S-1 filing a few months earlier. Instagram, meanwhile, says that under-25s now spend an average of 32 minutes in the app per day, while older users spend an average of 24 minutes per day. That’s very close to Snapchat’s numbers, but of course at rather larger scale: Snapchat’s most recent daily active user number was 166 million, whereas Instagram now has 700 million monthly active users, meaning that total time spent on Instagram is vastly higher than on Snapchat. All of this is making life tough for Snapchat, which has grown much more slowly since Instagram’s Stories launched, and which will continue to struggle to convince advertisers that it’s worth spending money on reaching its narrower audiences with inferior ad tools versus reaching Instagram’s much broader and larger audience with better targeting, tracking, and ultimately results.
Yet more signs that Snapchat is suffering both as a result of Instagram’s recent feature additions and perhaps because of broader cloning of its feature set by local alternatives in Asia. We’ll hear from the horse’s mouth shortly how Snap sees these changes, and it’ll have to work hard to refute these negative signals about engagement and growth in its app when it releases its public IPO filing shortly. The narrative around Snap is quickly turning negative, and it’ll have to intervene quickly to reset it (if it’s able to do so).
Instagram Stories is stealing Snapchat’s users – TechCrunch (Jan 30, 2017)
This would be very bad news if it turns out to be true – celebrities and those who manage celebrity and other accounts on Snapchat claim they’re seeing a significant reduction in views of their Stories on Snapchat as a result of both Instagram’s launch of its own Stories feature and Snapchat’s move to kill the Auto-Advance feature for Stories in its own app. This kind of thing is always worth taking with a pinch of salt – the ranges discussed here are very broad, and some of the data might be outliers – but the trend seems to be consistently downward, and is backed up by some app download data as well. The positive spin from Snap here would be that it’s actually focusing engagement more by only showing users the Stories they actually choose to see, but I’m not sure investors will buy that. Again, any day now we should have some real data from Snap to go on to evaluate engagement and usage, but this is another specific concern they’ll need to address in the S-1 filing. In the meantime, more evidence that Facebook and Instagram’s strategy here is paying off, and that when Facebook broadly launches its own Stories feature the impact could be even more severe.
Snapchat Is Justifying Its $20 Billion Valuation by Emphasizing User Engagement – Bloomberg (Jan 20, 2017)
This is in some ways part of the same story we heard a while back about Snap positioning itself as another Facebook rather than another Twitter. Facebook is all about engagement, providing numbers on not just monthly but daily active users, and talking up time spent as well. Though Twitter briefly dabbled with metrics like timeline views as an indicator of engagement, it quickly abandoned that metric and has steadfastly refused to provide daily active user numbers, focusing instead on MAUs and directional rather than absolute measures of engagement. Snap clearly wants to avoid those associations with Twitter and so has provided to investors data on engagement across several dimensions, which will hopefully be made available in its S-1 filing when that’s made public too. A key part of the Snapchat value proposition is that its users spend a lot of time on the service, so proving that to investors will be critical.