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Snap’s stock price plummets after weak earnings

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The company’s losses are growing far faster than its revenue

Photo by Amelia Holowaty Krales / The Verge

Snap published its third quarter earnings report as a public company this afternoon. This first two did not go well, and the third was no better. The company missed investors’ expectations in terms of revenue and user growth, and the share price plunged over 15 percent in after-hours trading.

The company brought in $207 million in revenue for the third quarter, up 62 percent over the same period last year. But its losses expanded much faster: Snap lost $443 million in the third quarter, nearly quadruple the amount of cash it burned through during the same period in 2016. Around $40 million of that was a write-down for unsold Spectacles.

Snap said it now has 178 million daily active users, up 17 percent year over year, and it has 4.5 million more daily active users than it did last quarter.

Snap has been making progress in its efforts to automate its ad business. But the short term impact on revenue has been rough. “Our efforts at automation have gained traction very quickly this year, with 80 percent of Snap Ad impressions delivered programmatically in Q3, up from zero percent one year ago,” said Spiegal in his prepared remarks for today’s investor call. “The speed of this transition surpassed our expectations, but has dramatically reduced pricing as advertisers move from direct sales to our unreserved auction. This has decreased CPMs more than 60 percent year-over-year, which has made it harder to grow revenues at the rate we would have liked.”

Reports have indicated that downloads and public mentions of Snapchat have fallen steadily since the company went public. Both Instagram Stories and WhatsApp Status have now passed Snapchat in size, with over 300 million monthly users each. Snap says it plans to start paying top creators to incentivize its top users, creating a virtuous cycle it hopes will attract more users.

Snapchat has introduced a number of new augmented reality features in the past year. This offers up a new canvas for advertisers, but doesn’t do much to simplify the process of self-serve advertising that could really act as a catalyst for revenue growth. The company also introduced Snap Maps, which shared users’ locations. It’s not clear yet if the company has any plans to tie that into its advertising business, but it has found ways to monetize geofilters in the past.

Hardware sales have never been a big part of Snap’s revenue picture, but it has long sold investors on the idea that it’s first and foremost a “camera company.” It launched its Spectacles to a ton of fanfare and reportedly acquired a drone startup to explore producing its own flying camera. A few weeks ago, however, The Information reported that sales of Spectacles have slumped, and that hundreds of thousands of unsold units are now sitting in a warehouse. Snap’s earnings report confirmed that, with a $40 million loss translating to roughly 300,000 pairs of Spectacles.

Spiegel said in his prepared remarks that the company plans to dramatically redesign the app to make it easier for users to understand, a move Snap hopes will boost growth. But he warned it could have repercussions. “There is a strong likelihood that the redesign of our application will be disruptive to our business in the short term, and we don’t yet know how the behavior of our community will change when they begin to use our updated application. We’re willing to take that risk for what we believe are substantial longterm benefits to our business.”