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November 8, 2015 1:47 pm

Snapchat triples video traffic as it closes the gap with Facebook

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People take pictures in front of the Snapchat Inc. headquarters on the strand at Venice Beach in Los Angeles, California, U.S., on Wednesday, Aug. 14, 2013. Snapchat is a photo and video sharing application that allows the user to pre-set a period of time, no more than ten seconds, for the receiver to view the content before it disappears from the screen. Photographer: Patrick Fallon/Bloomberg©Bloomberg

Snapchat is closing the gap with Facebook in the social networks’ battle for scale in video. The number of videos viewed on messaging app Snapchat every day has tripled since May to 6bn, according to people close to the company.

That compares with the 8bn daily video views announced by Facebook last week, which has doubled from 4bn in April. Facebook’s figure includes both desktop and mobile views, while Snapchat’s audience — though smaller in size overall — is entirely made up of smartphone users.

Snapchat confirmed the 6bn views figure, but declined to comment further.

Video is fast becoming one of the most popular activities on social networking apps, and the race for eyeballs comes as analysts predict huge growth in digital video advertising. Clips are an important source of new revenue, as advertising rates tend to be higher for video compared with static images or text.

During last week’s earnings call, Facebook chief executive Mark Zuckerberg said 500m people watched videos every day on its site and apps.

“Over the next few years, video is going to be some of the most engaging content online,” Mr Zuckerberg told analysts on Wednesday.

Last month Facebook began testing a new page dedicated to video in its app. Some 1.5m small businesses posted video to the site in September. Facebook has set its sights on beating Google’s video site YouTube, which has more than 1bn monthly active users who generate “billions of views” every day. Snapchat says it has more than 100m daily active users.

Comparing the three services’ video consumption on a like-for-like basis is difficult. YouTube prefers to track usage in hours, while Facebook counts a video as viewed if it has played for just three seconds. Snapchat reportedly charges advertisers for videos that play for fractions of a second, as many of its ephemeral clips are much shorter than on other platforms. Last month it launched a new ad format, “sponsored lenses”, allowing marketers to add digital “stickers” to users’ video messages to promote their products.

eMarketer forecasts a 42 per cent leap in digital video revenues this year to $7.5bn in the US, while Forrester Research estimates that ad spending on the medium will reach $12.6bn in the US by 2019.

Mr Zuckerberg said last week that the kinds of video being watched on digital platforms were very different to the long-form content aired on television, requiring producers to adapt their output.

“The more interesting question is not in the near term what we’re going to do to develop ways to consume long-form content, but what traditional media and content producers who have traditionally produced long-form content are going to do to chunk their stuff up better, so that way it can be more easily consumed by this big community online,” he said.

“We’re just so early in this right now. It’s pretty amazing how quickly it’s growing, but there’s a lot more to do.”

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