So, Snapchat's just for sexting, right? Apparently not.
Snapchat says that its most popular feature is now its most public, least ephemeral one: Stories. Snapchat tells The Verge that more Stories are now viewed per day than snaps. One billion Stories are viewed per day, the company says, up from 500 million just two months ago. If you’re not familiar, Snapchat’s Stories feature launched late last year and lets users create compilations of snaps that last 24 hours. Stories are only be viewable by friends, unless you change a setting to let anyone who adds you view your Stories.
More Stories are now viewed per day than snaps, Snapchat says
Snapchat caught the trend early, and has just released a new Stories product it’s calling "Our Story" to see how the popular feature works outside of your friend group. This weekend, the app will widen its circle significantly to include the projected 400,000 dedicated ravers swarming this weekend’s Electric Daisy Carnival in Las Vegas. Users will be able to add photos and videos they’ve taken to one giant communal Snapchat Story, which anyone can view. The feature’s aim recalls Color, a buzzy app from a few years ago that hoped to let small groups of users create seamless photo streams based on location. But this time, those photo (and video) streams are public and organized around events you might actually want to watch.
Snapchat plans to curate the Story as it happens to eliminate any inappropriate material, though it won’t offer any more details on how that will work or how many people are assigned to help screen incoming photos and videos from the festival. The EDC Live Story will show up automatically to Snapchat users at the event, but the bass-drop enthusiasts who aren’t present can add EDC Live as a friend to keep up with the event in real-time as spectators.
Though it might seem to be a marketing stunt, collaborative Stories are a big leap for Snapchat. By letting users who aren’t friends collaborate in real time around an event, the company is moving beyond its original "messaging" focus. Snapchat is crowdsourcing footage of live events and thus hinting at a future hinged on delivering live content, which could open a lot of doors for the company. If Snapchat’s Our Stories feature doesn’t get bogged down by bad cell service or nudie pics posted by festival-goers, Stories could potentially be much more entertaining that skimming the #EDC Twitter stream or Instagram page for updates from the ground. Snapchat hopes to nip the former issue in the bud by offering free Wi-Fi at the festival which lets you get online, but only to use Snapchat or the festival app itself.
It would have been difficult for the company to pick a more Snapchat-able spectacle at which to debut its new feature. Now in its seventh year, Electric Daisy has grown exponentially along with the popularity of dubstep and other electronic music in the US — now handily referred to under the umbrella term EDM — and it’s an intensely visual, neon-heavy event. For 31 hours between Friday and Sunday, festival-goers will be assaulted by close to $35 million dollars’ worth of lasers, carnival rides, fireworks, over 15,000 pounds of confetti, and a near-constant stream of pyrotechnics. As Pasquale Rotella, owner of the Electric Daisy’s production company Insomniac told The New York Post last year, "We’re creating an environment along the lines of what you see at a theme park — but on an even larger scale."
To date, there aren’t very many ways to accurately capture the experience of being at a music festival or a theme park, let alone an ordinary concert — unless you want to catch a highly produced livestream of an event on YouTube. This is doubly true of events like Electric Daisy, which might be considered lifestyle events as much as musical ones. In the same way that Snapchat made sending photos more authentic and immediate, the company seemingly hopes to do the same for capturing live events. I, for one, have noticed countless people capturing video on Snapchat at recent concerts I’ve attended.
It would have been difficult for the company to pick a more Snapchat-able spectacle
The company won’t speak to future events it might also attach a Story to. The air around this launch is that the EDC Story is very much experimental, but if it goes over well, I’d expect to see more event-based Stories from Snapchat. Sponsored live Stories could be a lucrative revenue stream if and when Snapchat starts thinking more seriously about how it can make money. Live events like Fashion Week, for example, might approach Snapchat to promote an event inside the app, or even to offer branded filters for users. Fashion Week might offer a compilation of behind-the-scenes moments as they happen, taken from several different vantage points, but all in one stream.
As the messaging service has grown and evolved, it has moved further and further away from its original perceived utility. But that's okay. Snapchat is growing up. I don’t think Snapchat will abandon its simple photo-messaging and video chat anytime soon, but the new Stories could bridge the the gap from ephemeral messaging app to a more durable business.
Additional reporting by Molly Osberg