Social media’s scramble to catch TikTok’s lightning in a bottle continues to prompt updates. Instagram’s recent revision highlights its nascent short-video feature Reels, and on Monday, Snapchat launched Spotlight, a new area that puts short videos in a never-ending, scrolling vertical feed.
Snap describes Spotlight as an “entertainment platform” that sits within the Snapchat app. New features come along for the ride, including captions, a continuous shooting mode for longer Snaps and the ability to trim singular Snaps, adding to its existing creative tools for augmented reality and Sounds music. When Snaps are complete, users can send them to friends, add to their Story, share to the Snap Map or post them directly to Spotlight.
Spotlight content should be ample. Snapchat’s pipes swell with more than 4 billion Snaps coursing through the network every day. But just to ensure a healthy flow during the launch period, Snap is also awarding more than $1 million a day to creators with the top Spotlight Snaps.
Videos earn varying amounts of money on a sliding scale based on unique daily views, and any creators age 16 and older are eligible. The program runs until the end of the year.
The goal is to compile the most entertaining Snaps and, over time, the platform will get smarter about a given user’s tastes.
Spotlight rankings are based on how many people watch a video, how long they watched it and how many favorited and shared it, as well as how many people jumped past it. Visibility, though, works on a customized basis. A Snapchatter will see videos based on personal preferences and what he or she has favorited before.
In other words, there should be plenty of content, curated by Snap’s technology, to keep users tuned in. The vertical, infinite scrolling proposition uses a similar approach to TikTok’s feed, but with some differences.
TikTok’s “For You” videos come from public accounts, while Snap’s Spotlight vids can come from public or private accounts. Videos that come from private accounts don’t feature the creator’s handle, and users can’t direct message the account.
“It’s moderated,” a Snap spokeswoman explained. “It doesn’t feature public comments and profiles are private by default.” If users want to grow a fanbase or connect via DMs, they can opt to make their profiles public. But either way, Spotlight videos won’t allow comments. It’s an interesting choice since it eliminates the kludgey swamp of comment moderation, but it could impact engagement.
In terms of which videos are eligible for Spotlight, the company points to its community guidelines, a set of rules that seem designed to avoid social media’s biggest controversies of the moment. Users can’t spread false or misleading information, hate speech, profanity, bullying, harassment and violence and other questionable or malicious content.
The company also rolled out new guidelines and terms of service for Spotlight specifically, which cover eligibility and formatting rules. Snaps must be suitable for a 13-plus audience, be vertically oriented with audio up to 60 seconds, feature a #topic hashtag and use Snapchat Captions, Sounds, Lenses or GIFs.
It’s well-known that music fuels TikTok’s popularity, so soundtracks have become all the rage for rivals Instagram and Snap, the latter of which introduced music to its app last month. While music rights can be a nightmare to manage, social platforms seem keen to avoid missteps, typically setting their own catalogues of licensed songs and sounds. Likewise, Snapchat’s new Sounds collection gives users a selection of approved audio to power their Spotlight videos.
As for video, the company requires that the content be original — which makes sense, from a rights perspective, but could throw a wrench into things like video sampling and memes.
In all, Snap seems to be taking cues from TikTok, while the latter has been branching out more into Snapchat’s augmented reality turf with the summer’s launch of AR Branded Effects. And both have become more fascinated by social commerce, an area aggressively pursued by Facebook and Instagram. This sets up a new tech, social and e-commerce battlefront during a time when people are flocking to social media and online services.
Snap is clearly putting its best effort at the forefront. In addition to paying creators, unleashing new tools and streamlining moderation to avoid potential complications, the company gave the Spotlight feed valuable screen real estate, setting up a new tab on the Snapchat home screen marked by a “play” icon. If it gets the sort of traffic that Snap envisions, some sort of deeper monetization play is likely to follow.
Spotlight goes live Monday for iOS and Android users in the U.S., Canada, Australia, New Zealand, the U.K., Ireland, Norway, Sweden, Denmark, Germany and France to start, with more markets coming before long.