ANGELES — Snapchat Inc. Chief Executive Evan Spiegel
grabs his iPhone, opens his Los Angeles company’s app
and taps an icon for "Los Angeles."
he’s watching short, full-screen videos that Snapchat
users across LA have recorded over the last 24 hours and
given the company permission to distribute widely. It’s
a stream that jumps from a concertgoer’s view at a One
Direction performance in Hollywood to someone else’s
shot of a new car at the Los Angeles Auto Show to scenes
at a Clippers game.
sort-of "what’s happening" in Los Angeles
video is typical of the handful of Live Stories that
greet Snapchat users daily. Beside cities, they
chronicle holidays, presidential debates, fashion shows
and more, on average drawing 10 million to 20 million
they’re also a tease: What about all the other cars at
the Auto Show? Or how about a close-up of Blake Griffin,
Explorer, a new Snapchat feature that debuted this week,
aims to address the issue, Spiegel says. It enables
users to see more than just one or two vantage points of
Spiegel put it, users don’t have to settle for one
view of a big NFL touchdown, for instance. They can view
it "thousands" of times — each one unique
— because so many people in the stadium filmed the
play on Snapchat.
basic idea was we don’t provide any depth inside
Stories — you’re on the red carpet. Then you’re at
a concert for a split-second," Spiegel said during
an interview last week. "It was a feeling of ‘show
me more,’ and we’re fortunate that we just get so
much video submitted to us that we had the ability from
a content perspective to provide depth."
employees will continue to pick the interesting
situations highlighted in a Live Story. But during any
individual clip, users can swipe up on their smartphone
screens to see about 10 similar shots. If there are
still more, users are prompted to swipe to
"explore" again. They swipe down to return to
the main stream.
new feature is another indication that Snapchat is
emerging as a creative leader in the fast-growing medium
of mobile video.
a creative standpoint, the canvas Snapchat provides is a
standout," said Cathy Boyle, senior analyst for
mobile at Emarketer.
video consumption for the average adult is estimated to
grow nearly 12 percent next year, Boyle said. It’s a
crowded field, with Facebook, YouTube, Twitter,
Periscope, Vine and more delivering videos to
smartphones — not to mention companies like Netflix
and Hulu that offer TV and movies. But Snapchat has
become a staple, used by more than 60 percent of 13- to
34-year-olds in the U.S., the company says.
computer vision technology used to power Story Explorer
is only the latest in a string of Snapchat video
innovations, which also include having the app
immediately engage a smartphone’s camera; the Live
Stories themselves; and its Discover collection of
branded channels, where established media companies such
as CNN and Vice conduct their own experiments with video
Story Explorer, an expansive and expensive array of
computers analyzing video submissions chooses the
content shown in Story Explorer. They’ll consider
objects in videos, submission times and locations, and
other data that Snapchat’s keeping quiet about.
Explorer is important to Snapchat’s business because
it could increase usage. Video on Snapchat is viewed 6
billion times a day, but user submissions are 10 seconds
the amount of video seen means more viewing time to show
ads, which are Snapchat’s primary revenue generator.
Spiegel declined to say whether Story Explorer would
lead to new types of ads.
let it go and see what happens," he said.
STORY CAN END HERE)
could be wary about placing ads in Story Explorer
because the content isn’t curated by people, Boyle
want to have some reassurance that they are not going to
expose themselves to content that’s not fitting to
their brand," she said. "The longer someone is
spending with the Stories is a good thing, but I don’t
know if it will offer more ad inventory."
Explorer also could give people a new reason to open
Snapchat. Although user-generated media apps such as
YouTube and Twitter have become key places to get
on-the-ground perspectives on news, Snapchat has lagged
behind: The lack of a search feature on Snapchat makes
it tough to find lots of video about a particular
showed how Story Explorer increases Snapchat’s utility
as a go-to news source, using a shooting scare near UCLA’s
campus, located in LA’s Westwood neighborhood, as an
want to see it. You want to hear it," he said.
"Now you can as a thousand different people on the
streets of Westwood. That’s really powerful."
course, Snapchat’s core users — young women and
girls — might find seeing hundreds of angles of One
Direction even more thrilling.
sick," Spiegel effused.
into the bodies of so many other people creates a
feeling of "experiencing" something, which
separates Snapchat from traditional video
"watching" services, he said.
Sonderman, deputy director at the research group
American Press Institute, said Snapchat’s push to
evolve from a visual messaging app to a forum for news
and current events follows similar moves by Facebook and
other social apps. In part, it helps bring in a bigger,
do you use something like Snapchat if you don’t feel
comfortable sharing selfies or you don’t have an
interesting life?" he said. "Is there a
browsable experience of things that are public and
newsworthy? That’s what they are getting at with this
extra videos still could lack details necessary for
viewers to understand what they’re seeing, but
Snapchat has sought to close the context gap through
content deals. At many sporting events now, users can
automatically overlay the current score on a video
submission. More partnerships are likely to follow.
Explorer is launching on locally viewable Stories for
Los Angeles and New York before quickly expanding to all
stories, Spiegel said.
workers don’t pre-screen Story Explorer, users are
asked to report inappropriate content, including violent
or sexually explicit images, by holding down on a video
for a few seconds while it is playing, which will
trigger a pop-up to report an issue.