In a move sure to stir up even more speculation about the future of Snap Inc., the company's vice president of content, Nick Bell, is leaving the company after five years.
He's just the latest departure from the rapidly dwindling team of veteran executives at Snap. Bell was deeply involved in pioneering the company's move from a mere messaging app and into a destination media platform.
"We are so grateful for Nick and everything he has built at Snap," Snap founder and CEO, Evan Spiegel, said in a statement to CNBC. "It has been an incredible journey that began with our vision for what content could be on mobile."
Just a couple of years ago, Snapchat was widely viewed as the next frontier for traditional media brands to extend their reach and capture the fleeting attention of millennials and younger users, with some media organizations devoting entire teams to the mission of creating Snapchat-only content.
For some, Snapchat's Discover feature, in particular, was seen as a potential alternative to the rigid confines of Facebook (the company that attempted to acquire Snapchat years ago for $3 billion) in the race to draw and retain eyeballs.
Alas, the ephemerality of the app may have worked to build a massive base of messaging users, but the dynamic hasn't entirely translated into big-time success for media companies. It turns out that the walled garden nature of Snapchat that drives its messaging success actually (shock!) limits the virality of often brilliantly produced content — it usually goes unshared and unseen on other social media channels.
Nevertheless, the company hasn't dampened their original content ambitions. Earlier this year, Snap launched Yellow, an incubator for smaller media startups that provides office space at the company's Venice, California headquarters and $150,000 in funding per startup. (To Snap's credit, while the focus is on mobile, with a heavy emphasis on AR and interactive approaches, the program doesn't require the startups to be exclusively focused on Snapchat as a platform.)
Currently, Snapchat still boasts original content offerings from the likes of The Daily Mail, Vice, Cheddar, Wired, Complex, Cosmopolitan, Esquire, The Washington Post, Seventeen magazine, and others. Overall, Snapchat reportedly paid publishers $100 million in advertising revenue in 2017, which explains the survival of Discover, despite the falling number of regular users on the platform.
"I have let Evan know that I am leaving Snap to take some time off to recharge before deciding on my next adventure," said Bell in a note to his colleagues, which failed to explain the reasoning behind his sudden departure. "Although I am announcing this news today, I will be transitioning out of the role between now and the end of the year. I am so proud of all that we have achieved together at Snap, and most proud of the team I leave behind to continue to execute against the vision."
Bell was also involved in the company's new efforts to develop original programming, which married traditional filmed content with augmented reality. New arrival Jared Grusd, Snap's chief strategy officer, will reportedly take over some of Bell's duties, along with other executives.
"Today, more people are watching more premium content on Snap than ever before, and we couldn't be more excited about the momentum we are seeing with Snap Originals," said Spiegel. "We will miss Nick, and we wish him all the best."
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