Snap held its first-ever “Partner Summit” on Thursday — the Snap equivalent of the larger, more established developer conferences held by tech giants like Facebook (F8), Google (Google I/O), and Apple (WWDC) each year.
The point of the event was to unveil new products — some for users, some for developers — and encourage potential partners to build features or products that work with the Snapchat app. The event was very on-brand for Snap, which likes to consider itself and its product a “fun” way to communicate. Hosted at an LA studio lot in West Hollywood, the event featured a number of playful product announcements, new mobile games, and lots of augmented reality. There was even a Snapchat ghost mascot walking around to take pictures with attendees.
One of the most important announcements, at least from a business perspective, came in the form of Snap’s new ad network, called Snap Audience Network. The plan is for Snap to sell ads that will appear inside other companies’ apps, a move that will help Snap advertisers reach a larger group of people than just those who use Snapchat, and theoretically help Snap grow its business despite the fact its own user base is no longer growing.
Snap Audience Network wasn’t the only announcement, though. Here’s what else the company unveiled on Thursday.
Snap is building Stories for other apps
Snap invented Stories, the ephemeral photo and video montages that Facebook copied into all of its apps. The format took off and is a major part of Facebook’s future. Snap clearly believes Stories will be a popular sharing format for other apps as well. On Thursday, it announced App Stories, which will let people share the photos and videos they take from the Snapchat in-app camera to a Stories feature built into other apps, like Tinder and Houseparty.
In other words, Tinder thinks Stories is a cool way for its users to share photos and videos about their life, but doesn’t want to build that product itself. So Snap is building it for them; once people link their respective accounts, they can share Stories from Snapchat’s app directly to Tinder’s.
Snapchat clearly sees value in providing the camera software and technology to create Stories inside other apps. If Stories take off inside Tinder, for example, it should create some dependence on Snapchat and its camera product. Perhaps more importantly, these partnerships give Snap more real estate outside of its own app to better compete with Facebook’s stable of Stories products that have grown much bigger, much faster, than Snapchat’s original version.
Snapchat is launching games
Snap unveiled a new game that was built in-house, called Bitmoji Party, which lets users play mini competitions against one another to earn things like coins and virtual prizes. People can play the game as their Bitmoji avatar, which means you get to play the game as a cartoon version of yourself.
Snap also announced new games from partners like Zynga and ZeptoLabs. The games are meant to be multi-player, and you can launch them from inside a conversation thread. Two potential benefits of adding games to user chats: People may spend more time inside the app, and more time usually means they see more ads (which means more revenue for Snap). Plus, games will give Snap even more ad inventory. Some of the games will ask users to watch a six-second ad in exchange for special features or bonuses, like coins or power-ups. If games take off — a big if — it could lead to more revenue.
More augmented reality features that aren’t face filters
Snap is best known for its wacky face filters, which let users turn their selfies into a zombie or a puppy. But Snap has built other augmented reality features that aren’t face filters, and added a few more on Thursday. Developers can now create AR features for a user’s full body or their hands, not just their face. They can also build AR filters for pets, like a dog or cat.
Snap also announced a product called “Landmarks” — imagine a face filter, but for iconic landmarks around the world, like the Eiffel Tower. It’s tough to argue that these kinds of playful AR elements provide a huge business boon, but they play into Snap’s reputation as a playful product.
More original video content
Snap launched a slate of original shows last fall for its Discover content section. The 3- to 5-minute shows were exclusive to Snapchat, and each series included a number of episodes. The arrangement was successful enough that Snap has decided to do that again. It announced eight new original shows on Thursday, including a comedy show, a zombie apocalypse show, and a docu-series about race in America. Two of the shows are produced by Indigo, a joint venture between Snap and NBC. Other partners include Dakota Pictures and Insurrection Media.
In some cases, Snap is funding the shows. In other cases, the show is paid for by media partners. In both instances, the shows will include ads, and the revenue split for those ads depends on who’s footing the bill when it comes to production costs.
The ultimate goal, again: Create more reasons for people to spend time inside Snapchat’s app. If people come to Snapchat to message their friends but stick around to watch some shows (and also watch some ads), Snap will be happy.