It wasn't that long ago Snap Inc. announced the launch of a redesigned Snapchat. Actually it was about a month ago, but most Snapchat users are still waiting to experience it.
The new Snapchat separates branded content and places them in a separate feed from friend content. At the time of the announcement, Snap Inc. CEO Evan Spiegel described it as, "separating the social from the media". All of that sounds good - great actually - but there's one problem, very few users have actually received the update with the new design.
Nicknamed the Cheetah Project within Snap Inc, the redesign focuses on increasing user engagement by prioritizing content from Snapchat accounts users interact with regularly. This kind of app design gives people more reasons to stay in the app and share more. This is a good move for Snapchat which has been struggling against a persistent onslaught from Facebook-owned Instagram. It is catching up to the algorithm changes already put in place by both Facebook and Instagram. The Cheetah Project should be launching a new, more competitive era for Snapchat...
...Instead the slow roll-out of the app raises more questions for the company. The main question is, why is it taking so long? Rumors in the tech world point the finger to Spiegel himself. The CEO's alleged micromanaging is said to be a factor in the slow progress of the new streamlined app. According to The Verge:
...the company’s struggles illustrate the challenges created by its unusual “hub-and-spoke” organizational structure, which puts Spiegel at the center of all decision-making at the company...At Snap, Spiegel’s priorities reign supreme, and everything else is secondary — a fact that could make it harder for the company to attract and retain top talent.
One person making all the decisions creates a formidable bottleneck, which seems to be a contributing factor to the sluggish release. It also has repercussions for the direction of the entire company. If staff retention is poor, that obviously affects work in progress like product development and design. Snapchat can't afford any further slowdowns with Instagram moving quickly and decisively.
While The Verge's sources say he is getting better at delegating tasks, Spiegel seems to remain the unilateral decision-maker for most things at the company. Spiegel may be trying to emulate the late, great Steve Jobs but this has strong potential to backfire. Product teams need to feel some kind of ownership to create a winning product for both user and company. It seems this is lacking within Snap Inc.
So what does this mean for Snapchat's future?
Ultimately, the company's user base and revenue will continue to fall in comparison to Instagram. That is unless Spiegel & Co. can find better strategies for growing and innovating. This mini corporate soap opera only highlights a point we have already made, Snapchat needs to make this the year it gets serious about fighting back against Instagram and Facebook. That involves Spiegel sitting back more and trusting his team to do their jobs.
As they say, adapt or die.