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April 23, 2019
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Snapchat revives growth in Q1 beat with 190M users

in Advertising Tech/Apps/Delhi/earnings/Evan Spiegel/India/Media/Politics/snap inc/Snapchat/Snapchat Android/Snapchat earnings/Social/TC by

Snapchat appears to have turned the corner after a year of flat or negative user growth thanks to a strong Q1 2019 earnings report. It reached 190 million daily active users, up 2 percent from 186 million in Q4 2018 but still down from 191 million a year ago, in part thanks to its newly reengineered Android app. Snap saw $320 million in revenue and -$0.10 non-GAAP EPS, beating Zack’s consensus estimates of $306 million and -$0.12 EPS, with revenue up 39 percent year-over-year.

One concern is Snapchat provided guidance of greater losses next quarter, ranging from $125 million to $150 million compared to this quarter’s $123 million. That’s because increased usage triggers higher Amazon AWS and Google Cloud bills for the company. Since Rest Of World users only earn an average of $0.97 vs $2.81 for North American users, international growth could cost Snap money until it figures out how to make more off ads there. This could delay Snapchat hitting profitibility, which Spiegel had set of goal of reaching by the end of 2019.

The strong beat on earnings led Snap’s share to climb about 10 percent in after hours trading to around $13.11 in after hours trading, after closing at $11.99 earlier today. That’s up from a low of $5.07 in December. But the share price dropped back to evan by 1:50pm pacific.

Snap managed to add users in all its markets, growing 1 million in North America, 1 million in Europe, and 2 million in the developing world where the Android app is critical. The 25 percent smaller, 20 percent faster Android app generated a 6 percent increase in Snaps sent from low-end Android devices in the first week after they upgraded.

One blemish on an otherwise powerful earnings report was that average revenue per use dropped below its Q3 2018 $0.85 level in Europe to $0.77. That may in part be due to usage increases spreading ad revenue thinner across users. But that’s a lucrative market where Snap will need to do better with advertisers. Snap saw a net loss of $310 million on $320 million in revenue, meaning it’s still deep in the hole and needs to manage how much it’s pouring into employee compensation and augmented reality hardware R&D that could take a decade to pan out.

Snap reiterated a stat shared at its big Partner Summit conference this month, which is that it now reaches 90% of all 13-24 year-olds and 75% of all 13-34 year-olds in the U.S. It claims that’s more 13-24 year olds in the US than Instagram. That stat could get advertisers to give Snapchat the time of day even if its its total user count isn’t over 1 billion monthlies like Instagram thanks to its international prominence.

With Android fixed, a product that remains differentiated thanks to ephemeral messaging and Discover, and losses coming under control, Snapchat looks like it may have finally ended its post-IPO slump. And now it finally has a coherent strategy for competing with Facebook’s clones, which I detail in my feature piece “To stop copycats, Snapchat shares itself”. Instead of taking the moral high road, it’s colonizing other apps with its Stories platform and ad network to recruit allies to fight the Zuckerberg empire.

Snap may never be a billion-user company. But if it can keen teens who’ve adopted it as their messaging app entertained with media content while using its best-in-class ephemerality to attract downloads, it could survive until profitability. Then it can start looking to the future again as it prepares to battle the tech giants for the future of augmented reality eyewear.

 Come see Snap CEO Evan Spiegel speak at TechCrunch Disrupt SF on October 2nd-4th. Get your tickets here.

News Source = techcrunch.com

Snapchat fully rolls out reengineered Android app, boosting usage

in Apps/Delhi/earnings/Evan Spiegel/India/mobile/Politics/snap inc/Snapchat/Snapchat Android/Snapchat earnings/Social/TC by

After a year of its user count shrinking or staying flat, Snapchat is finally growing again, and more growth is likely on the way. That’s because it’s finally completed the rollout of Project Mushroom aka a backend overhaul of its Android app that’s 25 percent smaller and 20 percent faster. Designed for India and other emerging markets where iPhones are too expensive, Snapchat saw an immediate 6 percent increase in the number of people on low-end devices sending Snaps within the first week of upgrading to the new Android app.

Snapchat grew from 186 million daily active users in Q4 2018 to 190 million in Q1 2019, adding 1 million in North America, 1 million in Europe, and 2 million in the Rest Of World where the Android app makes the biggest difference despite rolling out near the end of the quarter. It’s been a long wait, as Snap first announced the Android reengineering project in November 2017.

“As of the end of Q1, our new Android application is available to everyone” Snap CEO Evan Spiegel wrote in his prepared remarks for today’s estimate-beating earnings report. “While these early results are promising, improvements in performance and new user retention will take time to compound and meaningfully impact our top-line metrics. There are billions of Android devices in the world that now have access to an improved Snapchat experience, and we look forward to being able to grow our Snapchat community in new markets.”

Some of the growth stemmed from tweaks to Snapchat’s ruinous redesign including better personalized ranking of Stories and Discover content, as well as new premium video Shows. Now with the Android app humming, though, we might see significant growth in the Rest Of World region in Q2.

Unfortunately, since Snapchat uses bandwidth and storage-heavy video, more usage also means more Amazon AWS and Google Cloud expenditures. That’s partly why Snapchat is predicting a slight increase in adjusted EBITDA losses from $123 million in Q1 to between $125 million and $150 million in Q2. Rest Of World Users only earn Snap about one-third as much money as North American users, but cost nearly as much to support.

We first highlighted Snap’s neglect of the international teen Android market when Instagram Stories launched in August 2016. Spiegel and Snap were too focused on cool American teens, squandering this market that was Snapped up by Facebook’s Instagram and WhatsApp. Now Snapchat will have a much harder time winning emerging markets since they’re not the first to bring Stories there. But if it can double-down on ephemeral messaging, premium video, and its augmented reality platform that are leagues ahead of Facebook’s offerings, it could finally creep towards that 200 million DAU milestone.

 Come see Snap CEO Evan Spiegel speak at TechCrunch Disrupt SF on October 2nd-4th. Get your tickets here.

News Source = techcrunch.com

New Sesame Street-themed PSA encourages kids to reduce mobile device use

in Delhi/India/mobile/Politics/sesame street/Sesame Workshop/TC/tech addiction by

Device addiction plagues us all — even Apple CEO Tim Cook. But children with phones and tablets are even more susceptible to the lures of apps and games, which often use psychological tricks to keep users logging in and regularly returning. A new PSA from Sesame Workshop and advocacy organization Common Sense aims to address kids’ unhealthy use of mobile devices by focusing on one particular problem: devices at the dinner table.

This is not the first time the #DeviceFreeDinner campaign has run — previous years’ spots featured Will Ferrell as a “distracted dad” on his phone at the table, ignoring his family’s conversations.

But this time around, the organization is teaming up with Sesame Workshop, which is lending its characters to a new PSA. The spot will feature the “Sesame Street” muppets modeling healthy mobile phone behavior by putting their devices away.

Phones are shut up in drawers, tablets placed on shelves, other devices are put in handbags — and, you know, thrown into garbage cans and stashed in pumpkins, as the case may be.

The muppets then gather around a table and happily chatter until they notice Cookie Monster is still on his phone, texting. (Don’t worry, their disapproval sees him eating the device in the end.)

The idea, explains kids advocacy organization Common Sense, is to raise awareness around media balance and encourage families to make the most of their time together.

It comes at a time when now one-third of kids ages 0 to 8 “frequently” use mobile devices, the nonprofit explains. But taking a break from devices is shown to have positive benefits, ranging from better nutrition and focus at home to fewer problems at school, Common Sense says.

Plus, it notes, simply putting the phone down is not enough — it shouldn’t be at the table at all, as research has shown that even the presence of a phone on the table can hurt the quality of conversations.

While Common Sense puts out a lot of material for children and families like this, Sesame Workshop’s involvement on the new PSA is particularly interesting given the company’s recent connection with Apple.

A new Sesame Workshop-produced show set to air on Apple’s soon-to-launch streaming service will teach kids coding basics — an agenda Apple regularly pushes to get its programming language, Swift, into the hands of the next generation of coders. 

In the show, the same “Sesame Street” characters who today are telling kids to put down their phones will instead tout the joys of coding to the preschool set.

The juxtaposition of a programming-focused Apple kids’ show and the new PSA are a perfect example of how complicated the issues around kids on devices have become. On the one hand, parents want to encourage their children to pursue STEM subjects — which often requires kids to regularly use computers and other devices to practice new skills, like coding with MIT’s Scratch or building for Minecraft. But on the other hand, parents see that when kids are given devices, addiction soon follows.

The real question for parents may be, instead, whether kids should have devices at all — or whether they should take their cues from tech billionaires and Silicon Valley parents who are ripping devices from their own children’s hands like they’re the modern-day equivalent of sugary breakfast cereal.

Perhaps Sesame Workshop should have chosen a side on this issue, rather than teaming with the billion-dollar company that’s now trying to distance itself from fault with regard to the device addiction problem at the same time it runs PSAs about kids’ device addiction.

Or maybe it’s just as confused at the rest of us are over where to draw the line.

Starting today, the new “Sesame Street”-themed PSAs will be distributed across networks and platforms, including NBC, Fox, Xfinity, Comcast, Charter, Cox, National Geographic, NCM, PBS, Univision, Telemundo, HITN and Xfinity Latino.

News Source = techcrunch.com

Squarespace makes its first acquisition with Acuity Scheduling

in Acuity Scheduling/Delhi/eCommerce/India/Politics/squarespace/Startups by

Squarespace is announcing its first acquisition today, a 13-year-old company called Acuity that allows businesses to manage their online appointments.

Squarespace CEO Anthony Casalena noted that the company has been expanding beyond website building already — he said he now wants to provide tools around online presence (i.e., building a website), commerce and marketing.

To do that, Squarespace has been building its own products, but in this case, Casalena said it made more sense to just bring Acuity on-board, particularly since the there already an integration between Acuity’s scheduling software and Squarespace’s page-building tools.

“What [CEO Gavin Zuchlinski] had built at Acuity is a great business,” he said. “It’s been growing pretty organically up until this point, with 45 employees who really understand the space and a very customer-centric culture. They have a great product. That would just be faster for us [to acquire them], versus building our own product.”

The plan is to build more integrations over time, while also continuing to support Acuity as a standalone product. The entire Acuity team is joining Squarespace, with Zuchlinski become vice president of Acuity within the larger company.

Asked whether this means we can expect Squarespace to make more acquisitions in the future, Casalena said, “I think we just are able to look at things that are going to be a little more meaningful right now … Our size kind opened our perspective to what’s possible.”

This also comes as the email marketing product that Squarespace launched last year is coming out of beta with new features like campaign scheduling and improved analytics.

News Source = techcrunch.com

Tim Cook wants you to put down your iPhone

in app developers/app stores/Apple/Apps/Delhi/India/iOS/iOS App Store/iOS apps/iPhone/iTunes/mobile/mobile apps/Opinion/Politics/push notifications/screen time/smartphones/Tim Cook by

Tim Cook thinks people should get off their iPhones and decrease their engagement with apps. The Apple CEO, speaking at the TIME 100 Summit today, was discussing the addictive nature of our mobile devices and Apple’s role in the matter when he made these comments. He said the company hadn’t intended for people to be constantly using their iPhones, and noted he himself has silenced his push notifications in recent months.

“Apple never wanted to maximize user time. We’ve never been about that,” Cook explained.

It’s certainly an interesting claim, given that Apple designed a platform that allowed app developers to constantly ping their users with the most inane notifications — from getting a new follower on a social app to a sale in a shopping app to a new level added to a game and so much more.

The very idea behind the notification platform, opt-in as it may be, is that developers should actively — and in real-time — try to capture users’ attention and redirect them back to their apps.

This is not how such an alert mechanism had to be designed.

An app notification platform could have instead been crafted to allow app developers to notify users in batches, at designed intervals within users’ control. For example, users could have specified that every day at noon they’d like to check in on the latest from their apps.

Or, in building out the iOS App Store, Apple could have implemented a “news feed” of sorts — somewhere users could opt to check in on all the latest news from their installed apps in a dedicated channel.

Or perhaps Apple could have structured a notification platform that would have allowed users to pick between different classes of notifications. Urgent messages — like alerts about a security breach — could have been a top-level tier; while general information could have been sent as a different type of notification. Users could have selected which types of alerts they wanted, depending on how important the app was to them.

These are just a few of many possible iterations. A company like Apple could have easily come up with even more ideas.

But the fact of the matter is that Apple’s notification platform was built with the idea of increasing engagement in mind. It’s disingenuous to say it was not.

At the very least, Apple could admit that it was a different era back then, and didn’t realize the potential damage to our collective psyche that a continually buzzing iPhone would cause. It could point out how it’s now working to fix this problem by putting users back in control, and how it plans to do more in the future.

Instead, it created a situation where users had to turn to the only defense left to them: switching off push notifications entirely. Today, when users install new apps they often say “No” to push notifications. And with Apple’s new tools to control notifications, users are now actively triaging which apps can get in touch.

In fact, that’s what Tim Cook says he did, too.

“If you guys aren’t doing this — if you have an iPhone and you’re not doing it, I would encourage you to really do this —  monitor these [push notifications],” the CEO suggested to the audience.

“What it what has done for me personally is I’ve gone in and gutted the number of notifications,” Cook said. “Because I asked myself: do I really need to be getting thousands of notifications a day? It’s not something that is adding value to my life, or is making me a better person. And so I went in and chopped that.”

Yep. Even Apple’s CEO is done with all the spam and noise from iPhone apps.

The comment, of course, was supposed to be a veiled reference to the addictive nature of some apps — social media apps in particular, and especially Facebook. Today, Apple throws barbs at Facebook any time it can, now that the company has fallen out of public favor due to its ongoing data privacy violations and constant scandals.

But a more truthful telling of the iPhone’s past would recall that Facebook’s app — and all its many notifications — was originally a big selling point for Apple’s mobile device.

When the App Store first launched in 2008, Facebook proudly sat in the top row in a featured position. It was heavily promoted to users because it was a prime example of the iPhone’s utility: here was this popular social network you could now get to right from your phone. Amazing! 

The fact that Facebook — and every other app — later leveraged the iOS push notification platform to better its own business without regard to how that would impact users, isn’t entirely app developers’ collective fault. The notification platform itself had left the door wide open for that sort of psychological abuse to occur, simply because of its lack of user-configured, user-friendly controls.

Above: The App Store at launch, via The NYT

A decade after the App Store launched, Apple finally started to dial back on the free-for-all on user attention.

It announced its suite of digital wellness tools at WWDC 2018, which included Screen Time (a dashboard for tracking and limiting usage); increased parental controls; and finally a way to silence the barrage of notifications, without having to dig around in iOS Settings.

Now Tim Cook wants to have us believe that Apple had never wanted to cause any of this addiction and distraction — despite having created the very platform that made it all possible in the first place, which in turn, helped sell devices.

Isn’t it telling that the exec has had to silence his own iPhone using these new tools? Isn’t that something of an admission of culpability here?

“Every time you pick up your phone, it means you’re taking your eyes off whoever you’re dealing with are talking with, right?,” Cook continued. “And if you’re if you’re looking at your phone more than you’re looking at somebody else’s eyes, you’re doing the wrong thing,” he said.  “We want to educate people on what they’re doing. This thing will improve through time, just like everything else that we do. We’ll innovate there as we do in other areas.”

“But basically, we don’t want people using their phones all the time. This has never been an objective for us,” said Cook.

Except, of course, for those 10 years when it was.

News Source = techcrunch.com

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