Here come the ads: It’s business time at Snapchat

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Credit: Gigaom illustration

For the first time ever, you’re going to start seeing ads in your Snapchat feed, put there by the company itself. Snapchat announced the news in a blog post Friday, telling users, “It’s going to feel a little weird at first, but we’re taking the plunge.”

The ads won’t appear in private messages between friends because, as Snapchat said, “That would be totally rude.” Instead, they’ll appear under “Recent Updates,” the section of the app where people’s daily “Stories” show up. Initially, users can decide whether they want to click to view the ads. In other words, seeing an ad won’t be a prerequisite before viewing a non-ad snap. Furthermore, the ads in the beginning won’t be targeted. Snapchat didn’t say why, but given the company doesn’t have nearly as much information on its users as, say, a Facebook, that might be part of it.

It’s the first test of Snapchat’s money-making abilities, which has been a big question mark until now. Although the app has a huge user base, a reported 100 million monthly actives, and high enough engagement to sway Facebook to bid $3 billion for it, the big question hanging in the air was whether ephemeral messaging could be a good home for ads. The intimate and fleeting nature of the communication wasn’t a natural fit for brand messages from companies — there have been concerns that such ads would be intrusive and users would react badly.

But make money Snapchat must, and the ads have been rumored for awhile now, with The Wall Street Journal reporting on Snapchat’s meetings with advertising agencies. The company addressed potential user concerns in its blog post, promising, “We want to see if we can deliver an experience that’s fun and informative, the way ads used to be, before they got creepy and targeted.” It didn’t say how, exactly it would offer “informative” ads that simultaneously weren’t “targeted.” Isn’t that the point of targeting an ad? So it’s more likely to reach a person who finds it useful?

Looks like Snapchat’s day of reckoning has finally arrived.

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