Saturday, November 23, 2013

Snapchat and Why Everyone Is an Idiot, Including Me

So a lot of people are speculating that Snapchat is either going to be massively successful or how they will flutter out and die in the vast emptiness of the web. The internet is a weird, fickle mistress who have made it normal to think that a company whose most popular product is a self-destructing photograph delivery service reminiscent of Inspector Gadget is worth $3 billion.

I've been getting angry at every post I've seen about Snapchat. Mostly because they all say the same thing. Snapchat is a fool for turning down the money from Facebook. Snapchat has no future plans for effective monetization on their current model. Snapchat has no way to lock users onto the platform. Snapchat's product isn't complex enough to fend off competitors. Ads will scare away current users.

All of these products are well-thought out and everything... actually they aren't. They are instinctively what might appear to be the case and they're all reasonable enough. So let's consider them one by one.

Questionable Plans for Monetization
Currently they have no future plans for effective monetization on their current model. This is a criticism I have heard countless times and the majority of the instances I first heard this critique is why I find it such a laughable one. This is exactly what everyone was saying about Facebook before they declared their IPO. It's why their stock fell the first few weeks it was on the market.

The same was said about Twitter, a company that even up to its IPO was hemorrhaging upwards of 70 million dollars per year. When it came to monetize, they looked to their user-base and the reach was so widespread that they were able to come up with an effective strategy which was what exactly? Oh! Analytics and lead generation- two simple services that any application sending data can provide.

Ads Alienate
Now- don't get me wrong, this is the reason that Facebook now has more ads. Sure Facebook has lost some users- but they still have a fairly solid core among its original user-base. Or at the very least, one strong enough to warrant a 3 billion dollar offer to a potential competitor. Aside from the fact that the multi-billion dollar mogul is threatened by any company, offering a $3 billion buy-out, one would guess, requires a fairly solid business and budget.

But what about the users that are leaving Facebook? Facebook is suffering from ads! What's the evidence of that? Most reports cite that the users fleeing Facebook are the younger users. Which is no surprise considering that the people most active on my Facebook Wall and Home page are family members. With potential job employers, people who just want to party and post pictures are realizing that this isn't the community for them. Though this does indicate a drop in overall reach, it does not indicate the failings of a business, rather the securing of a niche.

Ads Won't Work for Snapchat
Okay- so maybe ads were okay for Facebook- but Snapchat works differently. Users interface in a short time frame by sending each other pictures. Where is the room for advertisement? Apparently, no content marketers work with PPC or CPC or Google AdSense anymore. Most complaints assume, that ads will necessarily be entertaining snapchats users receive from third-part marketers or intrusive banner ads that will drive users int he opposite direction... because users are too savvy to watch ads.

This is an interesting argument, considering that I can think of a large number of services that don't feature advertisements and extremely successful competitors that do. For example, I generally watch television on a third party site "without advertisements". The site lists all episodes of most every series and by being quick on the draw to a few pop-ups, I have twenty to forty minutes of uninterrupted serenity with New Girl, How I Met Your Mother, Breaking Bad, Game of Thrones, or whatever. 

But the only time I use this series is when I've missed a new episode and it's not up on Hulu, Xfinity, or Netflix yet. The fact is, freemium software has always been around and it's always had a limited user-base. In my life, I've used countless free alternatives including Word Processors, Video Editing Software, Audio Editing Software, MP3 Player Third Party Software (mediamonkey), VLC Player, and (seriously) countless others. But I still pay for premium versions of those types of software regularly. I bought GarageBand, my dad bought Microsoft Office (which came with three licenses) and I've used iTunes Store many a time in the last year.

In conclusion...
The fact of the matter is that if Facebook was willing to shell out $3 billion for Snapchat, it is worth at least $3 billion. If not to Facebook, then to someone, somewhere. Snapchat requires accounts and could easily track analytics for ads which marketers might find valuable enough to form partnerships with Snapchat.

Anyways, there are a billion reasons to think that Snapchat will fail but those reasons essentially amount to one thing: a lack of creativity. So will Snapchat be creative enough to avoid losing hundreds of millions of dollars where even titans like Twitter have only lost tens of millions? Fuck if I know- but get of your haughty high horses on your consumer watch Linkedins- waiting to say I told you so- because your theories are cracked out bullshit and you know it.


Thursday, June 20, 2013

Commuting and Death

I once tried to start a web-comic with some friends and in one of the comics, a character is making light of his self-esteem issues. His line was, “I was going to hang myself on a bridge, but I didn't want to be a burden on the city.”

I was riding home on the BART the other day. I was six stops away from home, which would normally be a thirty minute ride. Suddenly, the train began to slow down between stops and an announcement was made. “Due to a medical emergency at the Hayward Station, Bay Fair will be the final destination of this train.” Everyone put down their books and looked to their neighbors curiously. Bay Fair was a good four stops short of the end of the line, several cities away. The denial was obvious as everyone shared the same information, but insisted on asking everyone around them to confirm what they had heard. Before anyone could reach acceptance, the conductor added that further details would be announced soon.

After another few minutes of everyone speculating on the possible details, the announcer revealed the source of the problem- a person on the tracks had been hit by the train. There was no emotional reaction felt in the car aside for an air of suspense. The conductor continued, “Therefore, the tracks are obstructed and this train will not be able to progress further than the Bay Fair Station,” there was more to the announcement, but all I could hear was the pained groans of a populace set back on their daily commute by a few hours.

Once I arrived at the Bay Fair station, a general sense of confusion left countless standing around aimlessly, asking “what am I supposed to do now?” and “will there be more trains?”

Eventually, I made my way through the herd of confused lemmings to find that BART had worked with AC Transit to reroute several of their largest buses to transport BART passengers to the four remaining BART stations. Upon boarding the bus, complaints were still the majority of what was heard among the crowd. At this point, I had muted my music to observe the overwhelming tones of hatred for the man on the tracks. The dissatisfaction continued as they asked us to leave an overcrowded bus which did not have enough room for all the BART passengers so that we may board a much larger one. People grumbled the whole way, mumbling profanities against the bus driver for doing his job to ensure that we all made it home. 

Once on this bus, I found myself in the midst of a crowd, unable to reach a handrail and standing uncomfortably in order to not fall. As I stood, the general tone of discontent settled down as the entire bus began to listen to one woman in a red shirt.

“I don’t know what’s going on or where I’m going!" she shouted. "These stupid fucks have got us moving from one bus to another and they're not even telling us where we’re going.” Despite the falsity of her statement, one could presume her complaints drowned out any such announcements whilst she followed the herd of lost cattle from car to bus to bus. “Some goddamn idiot was on the tracks. Yes, he died. I’m glad he did, because I would've killed the bastard if he hadn't. Son of a bitch, I would have killed him.” The air of the train had shifted from uncomfortable to upset in a hurry. Her rant carried on for some time, before a brave woman had the decency to ask for the bare minimum standard of decency.

“Do you have to curse so much?” It was at that moment, the woman realized that the people around her were listening to her curse the dead. Her rant toned down a bit as we reached the second stop and a seat opened up.

Once she was sitting, the dirty looks were enough to get her to say her final farewells to the brave soul on the other end of that cellular and sit in the solemn situation patiently with the rest of the dozens of people displaced by one unknown person who was now indisposed.

I stood and stared out the window, contemplating the way we can be so angry at a dead man. There are times to be angry at the dead, sure. When a loved one needlessly takes their own life, or when a mad shooter’s killing spree is brought to an end by his own bullet seem fair enough instances. But when we are mad at the dead for extending our commute, I think it's safe to say we're having the wrong reaction.