Snap’s New Spotlight Feature Aims to Encourage Viral Videos

Snap is introducing a video-sharing feature called Spotlight designed to help its Snapchat app better compete with TikTok and Instagram Reels. Spotlight allows the creation of content that could go viral, a marked difference from its long-time focus on communication between friends and curated posts. Snap will spend $1+ million a day to reward those who post the best content and highlight top snaps to its 249+ million daily users in a feed they can swipe or tap. With Spotlight, Snap hopes customers increase the time they spend on the app. It also opens the door to advertising.

The Wall Street Journal reports that, “like Snapchat, the Spotlight function is free to users.” The risk that Snap faces with Spotlight is that, “the goal of going viral could make their platform toxic,” but company executives say “they can avoid that fallout by encouraging users to post fun and healthy content … [and] the money it plans to pay out is a carrot to encourage good behavior.”

That’s what TikTok executives said in the app’s early days, but “enforcing those values became more difficult as TikTok grew.” Snap stated it plans to moderate Spotlight content via humans and software to “take down items that violate its rules against things such as hate speech, bullying and conspiracy theories.” Top videos will face extra scrutiny by a human moderator.

WSJ points out that Facebook followed a similar path to lure TikTok creators to Instagram Reels, adding that “borrowing ideas from others isn’t unusual among social-media companies.” Snap’s Spotlight, however, will keep personal profiles “private by default and won’t include public comments that can become an area where content creators receive abusive messages.”

CNBC reports that, according to a Snap spokesperson, “Spotlight will not include ads at launch, but the company expects to introduce ads to the product in the coming months.” Spotlight content, which “will play in a continuous loop until users swipe to the next one,” offers a “centralized location where [users] can access an endless feed of user-generated content.”

With regard to the $1+ million daily payout to viral snaps, “the company will use a proprietary equation to determine payout based on how many views a snap gets in comparison to that of other highly viewed snaps … [and] users have to be 16 or older to earn a payout.” A Snap spokesperson said the daily payouts will be on offer “through at least the end of 2020.”

CNBC notes that, “the idea of a feed featuring short videos that play in a continuous loop was innovated by Twitter-owned Vine in 2013,” which the company shut down in 2017. That’s the same year ByteDance purchased Musical.ly and, in 2018, merged it with TikTok. Other ways that Snap hopes to differentiate Spotlight is that the feature “will not include … any overtly political content at launch, and Snap’s policies do not allow any posts with misinformation.”

Initially, Spotlight will be available in the U.S., Canada, Australia, New Zealand, the U.K., Ireland, Norway, Sweden, Denmark, Germany and France.