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Snapchat to give users share of $1m a day for most entertaining clips | Technology

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The promise of viral fame has always been a lure for online content creators, but Snapchat hopes it has found a more immediate way of encouraging people to post pictures and videos: a share of a daily $1m (£747,000) prize.

The messaging app is to begin paying its users for their most viral snaps, as the platform moves to head off a feared exodus to TikTok with a new feed of user-generated content.

The new feature, called Spotlight, will be a major change to how Snapchat users find content on the platform – and also represents one of the most serious efforts yet on the part of a social media company to share revenue with all its users, rather than a narrow selection of the most famous creators.

“Spotlight will surface the most entertaining snaps from the Snapchat community all in one place, and will become tailored to each Snapchatter over time based on their preferences and favourites,” Snap said in a statement.

“As a way to celebrate and reward the creativity of the Snapchat community, Snap will distribute over $1m every day to Snapchatters who create the top Snaps on Spotlight, at least through the end of the year.”

The company created the new feature after realising that videos created with the Snapchat camera were regularly going viral on other platforms, such as TikTok and YouTube, because creators had little opportunity to grow their audience on Snapchat itself.

For users, the feed will be reminiscent of TikTok’s “For You” page, the crown jewels of the video-sharing app. But behind the scenes, Snap’s philosophy is very different.

Users must explicitly decide to post videos to Spotlight, but by default, their profiles will be obscured when they do so – a move which allows creators to dabble in content creation without running the risk of unwanted attention.

That anonymity also lets Snapchat promote the feed as a meritocracy: one where previous fame counts for little. The videos users see in their Spotlight feed won’t be affected by who they follow on the platform, and a new post from someone with millions of followers faces exactly the same hurdles as a first-time video from a new user in reaching the higher tiers of viral fame.

The company hopes that approach will prevent famous users from coasting on mediocrity, as well as encourage normal people to produce the most entertaining videos they can.

As will the $1m fund. Other platforms, such as Twitch and YouTube, have revenue-sharing agreements with top creators, but all require a certain level of fame to qualify. Snapchat is instead promising that any video that gets big – around 100,000 views in a day, the company says – will receive its share of the cash.

Before users can end up in the Spotlight feed, however, they will need to pass through a tier of human moderators, who both categorise the video – helping some of the personalisation elements – and ensure it fits the company’s content guidelines. Those include the expected limitations, such as bans on copyright infringement or underage alcohol consumption, as well as some others that fit the platforms idiosyncratic approach: “Spotlight is an entertainment platform, rather than a space for news or overtly political content,” the guidelines say, adding that they “should be vertical videos with sound”, rather than still images or text-only snaps.

Despite strong competition from TikTok and Instagram, Snapchat remains one of the world’s largest social media apps. In its most recent quarterly earnings report, Snap said it had 249 million daily users, with an 18% growth year on year. More than 40% of the US Gen Z population watched sports content on Snapchat’s publisher platform, Discover, in August, it added.

Snap hits

Damn Daniel

Teen Snapchatter Josh Holz’s videos of his friend Daniel’s white Vans trainers went unexpectedly viral in 2016, bringing the pair onto Ellen Degeneres’ show.

Anime lens

Snapchat’s AI-powered lenses have regularly gone viral in their own right, and a filter that turned users into Japanese Anime characters is its most recent success – though many of the most successful videos were made in Snapchat then posted to TikTok.

Jaden Smith

Snapchat’s Discover platform is a more traditional publisher-run space, where the company and media partners produce shortform content – like Jaden Smith’s series from this September, the Solution Committee, which addressed social and racial justice and urged viewers to vote.

Dance challenges

Sometimes the company has seemed to actively court Tiktok success. One recent collection of lenses saw Snapchat partnering with four TikTok stars to create lenses, which worked with specific dance trends, in order to encourage users to film themselves on one app and post to the other.

Jeremy Corbyn

In 2016, the then-Labour leader became the first head of a major UK party to join Snapchat, and his Stories were briefly the talk of Westminster.



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Watch the ads that have been released so far

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Still from Michelob Ultra’s 2021 Super Bowl commercial.

Michelob Ultra

This year’s Super Bowl will be an extravaganza of first-time Super Bowl advertisers.

Super Bowl mainstays like Pepsi, Coke and Budweiser aren’t buying ad time on this year’s game (Pepsi is still sponsoring the halftime show.) Instead, they’re being replaced by companies that had a strong year while people were home during the pandemic.

Though the game is about two weeks away, some companies have already started releasing their commercials for the biggest TV event of the year. It’s an even bigger event this year, since so many 2020 events were cancelled, postponed or downsized. The brands advertising on the CBS broadcast will include Vroom, Toyota, M&Ms, PepsiCo‘s Cheetos and Doritos, Fiverr, Kellogg‘s Pringles, Intuit‘s TurboTax and more.

Here are the Super Bowl commercials that have already been released. This list will be updated as brands release their official spots:

Chipotle

Chipotle is running its first-ever Super Bowl ad, titled “Can a Burrito Change the World?” The restaurant chain’s spot highlights its “Food with Integrity” standards to reduce carbon emissions, save water and support local growers. The ad was created with advertising agency Venables Bell and Partners.

Mercari

E-commerce company Mercari is running a 15-second ad to show you can “buy almost anything from home.” The company, a first-time entrant to the big game, said it provided a safe way to clean out closets as Americans decluttered their homes during the pandemic. The ad was done with Rain the Growth Agency.

Michelob Ultra

Michelob Ultra’s 60-second spot, “Happy,” will feature talent like Serena Williams, Peyton Manning, Anthony Davis and Brooks Koepka. It asks the question, “are you happy because you win, or do you win because you’re happy?” The company worked with Wieden + Kennedy on the spot.

Vroom

Used car retailer (and, yes, another first-time Super Bowl advertiser) Vroom is using its airtime on the big game to show just how painful it believes buying from a car dealership is. The 30-second spot was made with ad agency Anomaly and wants to show the benefits of “contact-free” at-home car delivery.


Nominations are open for the 2021
CNBC Disruptor 50, a list of private start-ups using breakthrough technology to become the next generation of great public companies. Submit by Friday, Feb. 12, at 3 pm EST.


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GameStop jumps another 110% to above $140, trading briefly halted in another wild day

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Copies of ‘Grand Theft Auto V’ on display for sale at a GameStop store in Peru, Illinois.

Daniel Acker | Bloomberg | Getty Images

The explosive rally in GameStop is showing no signs of slowing down as retail investors talking in chat rooms and hedge funds rushing to cover their short bets against the stock pushed it above $120 a share at one point Monday.

Shares of the brick-and-mortar video-game retailer soared more than 110% to $142.96 at its high of the session in morning trading. The stock was briefly halted for volatility. Within an hour of the opening bell, more than 60 million shares has already changed hands, doubling its 30-day average trading volumes of 29.8 million shares.

GameStop shares have more than quadrupled in January alone and are up almost 700% in three months. The stock was worth just $6 apiece four months ago.

Monday’s jump came despite a double-downgrade from Telsey Advisory Group. The Wall Street firm slashed its rating on GameStop to underperform from outperform, saying there’s a disconnect between fundamentals and valuation.

“The sudden, sharp surge in GameStop’s share price and valuation likely has been fueled by a short squeeze, given the high short interest, and, to a lesser degree, speculation by retail investors on forecasts for the new gaming cycle and the involvement of activist RC Ventures,” Telsey analyst Joseph Feldman said in the note on Monday.

“We believe the current share price and valuation levels are not sustainable, and we expect the shares to return to a more normal/fair valuation driven by the fundamentals,” the firm added.

GameStop has been a popular short target on Wall Street. In fact, more than 138% of its float shares had been borrowed and sold short, the single most shorted name in the U.S. stock market, according to FactSet citing the latest filings.

On Jan. 11, news broke that activist investor and Chewy co-founder and former CEO Ryan Cohen is joining GameStop’s board. The stock jumped on the announcement on hopes Cohen would drive a change in strategy. The gain triggered a rush of short covering from hedge funds and traders who bet against the stock. When a shorted stock trades sharply higher, short sellers would have to buy back shares to cut their losses, which fuels the rally.

GameStop has also been a hot topic in online chat rooms, Twitter and Reddit as some retail investors and day traders aim to push shares higher and squeeze out short sellers.

One post on the popular “wallstreetbets” Reddit Monday morning said “IM NOT SELLING THIS UNTIL AT LEAST $1000+ GME.” The post quickly drew more than 2,000 comments.

“It’s just another reflection of the ebullient mood,” Peter Boockvar, chief investment officer at Bleakley Advisory Group, said Monday of GameStop, “Again, it will matter when it does, whenever it does.”

Citron Research, a vocal GameStop short seller, said Friday it would not be commenting on the company any longer because of attacks from the “angry mob” that owns the stock. Citron said there were too many people hacking Citron’s twitter account on Friday, and it canceled a livestream where it was going a detail five reasons why the stock will go back to $20.

Telsey’s 12-month price target is $33. According to FactSet, the average price target of analysts is just $12.39, far below where it was trading Monday.

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WhatsApp loses millions of users after terms update | WhatsApp

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A poorly explained update to its terms of service has pushed WhatsApp users to adopt alternative services such as Signal and Telegram in their millions.

The exodus was so large that WhatsApp has been forced to delay the implementation of the new terms, which had been slated for 8 February, and run a damage limitation campaign to explain to users the changes they were making.

Over the first three weeks of January, Signal has gained 7.5 million users globally, according to figures shared by the UK parliament’s home affairs committee, and Telegram has gained 25 million.

In both cases, the increase appears to have come at WhatsApp’s expense. Data tracked by the analytics firm App Annie shows WhatsApp falling from the eighth most downloaded app in the UK at the beginning of the month to the 23rd by 12 January. By contrast, Signal wasn’t even in the top 1,000 apps in the UK on 6 January, yet by 9 January it was the most downloaded app in the country.

Niamh Sweeney, WhatsApp’s director of public policy for Europe, the Middle East and Africa, told the home affairs committee that the exodus was believed to be related to the update to the company’s terms of service. She said that update was intended to do two things: enable a new set of features around business messaging, and “make clarifications and provide greater transparency” around the company’s pre-existing policies. “There are no changes to our data sharing with Facebook anywhere in the world,” Sweeney said.

But after viral posts – ironically, widely spread on WhatsApp – claimed that the privacy policy instead gave the service the right to read users’ messages and hand the information over to its parent company Facebook, WhatsApp announced a delay in the implementation of the new terms of service. “We want to be clear that the policy update does not affect the privacy of your messages with friends or family in any way,” WhatsApp said in an update posted to its site, which it is paying to advertise on Google under searches for “WhatsApp privacy policy”. The company says it will delay the implementation of its new policy until 15 May.

App Annie’s director of market insights, Amir Ghodrati, said moving quickly was important. “These types of shifts in messaging and social networking apps are not unusual. Due to the nature of social apps and how the primary functionality involves communicating with others, their growth can often move quite quickly, based on current events. We’ve seen growing demand over the last few years for encrypted messaging and apps focused on privacy.”

The shift to more privacy-focused messaging apps had been building before WhatsApp’s public relations disaster, Ghodrati said. “Messaging apps that provide privacy features saw the greatest engagement growth in [the first half of] 2020. These apps saw on average 30% more active users than the alternatives. Apps like Signal, Telegram, Wickr, and WhatsApp offer privacy features ranging from end-to-end encrypted data transfer to ‘self-destructing messages’.”

Ironically, in some ways WhatsApp is more privacy-focused than its competitor Telegram. The former applies end-to-end encryption – which prevents the service provider from being able to access user messages – by default to every chat except those between users and large businesses.

Telegram, however, only turns on end-to-end encryption for “secret chats”, an option that users must actively select for each individual contact. Such chats “are meant for people who want more secrecy than the average fella”, the service explains in an FAQ.


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