Snapchat's video push clicks with users

Snapchat's aggressive push into curated video appears to be paying off.

The social media app, popular with young users, has reached 4 billion daily video views, Snapchat spokeswoman Jill Hazelbaker said.

That puts the app on par with Facebook, which reported 4 billion daily video views in April, and means that Snapchat has doubled its daily views in just three months.

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The new numbers follow a series of deals with MTV, Major League Baseball and concert promoter Live Nation Entertainment to include content that promotes the partners in the app's curated "Live Stories" feature.

Exactly what counts as a view, however, has provoked controversy. Some platforms, such as Facebook, say a view is at least three seconds long. YouTube counts views at about 30 seconds.

The difference matters to advertisers, who want to know that their content is being watched as long as possible.

Snapchat would not say how many seconds must elapse before it counts a video view, but a test on a personal account showed it required just over one second to register a view on the app.

Snapchat is one of the few platforms that places strict limits on how long videos are — just 10 seconds. And it's also one of the few places where videos are shown in full-screen mode by default, leaving less chance that users are distracted by something else.

Popular content creators on YouTube — who rely on digital advertising and need standardized rates — decry Facebook's three-second gauge for video views, saying it inflates the true value of its daily tally of 4 billion views.

"That's a problem for creators trying to standardize rates for brand integrations, for agencies and brands trying to understand this constantly shifting landscape, and for everyone who wants a little more stability in the online video industry," Hank Green, a popular YouTuber, wrote in a widely read post on Medium in July.

Facebook countered by saying three seconds was sufficient to determine a viewer hadn't moved on.

As the controversy sorts itself out, media partners and advertisers covet Snapchat's 100 million users, 45% of whom are between the ages of 18 and 24, according to ComScore.

"Snapchat has certainly proven itself to be a major player in video distribution in a very short period of time," said Peter Csathy, a streaming video expert and chief executive of Manatt Digital Media, a consulting and venture capital firm. "The question now is how do they monetize it."

The answer is complicated. Snapchat has welcomed some advertising already into its "Live Stories." Its coverage of the MTV Video Music Awards Sunday included ads from CoverGirl, Taco Bell and Verizon.

Past advertisers include big brands such as Coca-Cola, McDonald's and Universal.

But Snapchat Chief Executive Evan Spiegel has expressed a reluctance to fully embrace marketing. In a rare interview with Bloomberg in May, the 25-year-old founder said targeted ads generated through user's profiles (like the ones on Facebook) were creepy.

"It's definitely weird when a vacuum follows you around the Internet," Spiegel said, adding that he would not allow ads in one-to-one video messaging on his platform.

Leaked documents obtained by Gawker last month show that Snapchat generated $3 million selling its first eight or so ads over six weeks last fall. That paled in comparison to the $129 million in expenses the company had during the first 11 months of 2014, the documents showed.

It's unclear how much Snapchat charges marketers to appear in "Live Stories." There are typically four slots for ads in the stories, each ad running 10 seconds. The first slot costs the most, with rates for the remaining slots cheaper in descending order, advertising executives say.

"Live Stories" aren't the only place Snapchat can charge advertisers. The app's "Discover" feature carves out a place for about 15 publishers such as CNN, Vice and Tastemade to present stories and videos, and place ads. Snapchat charges 10 cents for each ad viewed.

But Csathy of Manatt Digital Media noted that it wasn't imperative just yet for Snapchat to build revenue. The company has raised more than $1 billion in funding, placing its valuation at about $16 billion.

"Evan Spiegel isn't doing things the old-fashioned way," he said. "They're building their reach and experimenting."

Twitter: @dhpierson@peard33

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