Will Snapchat Become The Industry’s Next Walled Garden Oligopolist?

paulciminoData-Driven Thinking” is written by members of the media community and contains fresh ideas on the digital revolution in media.

Today’s column is written by Paul Cimino, former CEO at Brilig and Snickelways.

I don’t fully understand Snapchat as a user, but as an Internet entrepreneur I know powerful new media when I see it. I don’t understand why my kids send and receive hundreds of Snaps a day, but I understand numbers and potential for brands and publishers.

The numbers are astonishing. Even when compared with the fastest-growing unicorns, Snapchat is a leader. It has 150 million regular daily users, 60% are 18 to 34 years old and 60% send content everyday, generating an industry leading 6 billion video views a day, resulting in a $15 billion valuation.

What drives Snapchat usage? Most folks older than 35 who don’t use Snapchat don’t “get” Snapchat, especially if they are parents of Snapchatters. Heck, the first thing I did, as I do with all new digital tech, is look to protect my kids. So I warned them that nothing on the Internet is completely private.

But as I watched them and others use Snapchat I saw that they weren’t communicating crazy stuff. They were communicating whimsy – meaning this is how I am right now – using pictures, text, videos, lenses and stories. Ephemerally communicating what you’re doing or how you’re feeling is a powerful new type of peer-to-peer marketing. Different than Facebook or Instagram, which are mostly many-to-many.

Here are a few things were worth noting, in terms of audience, branding and data:


If brands want to reach millennials, it’s simple deduction:

  • The amount of time consumers spend on digital media is shifting from desktop to mobile, especially apps.
  • Millennials watch much less TV than boomer and Generation X groups.
  • Within mobile, behavior is spreading from social networks (one-to-many communication) to social messaging platforms (one-to-one or one-to group).
  • Demographically, 60% of 13- to 34-year-old millennials use Snapchat; while 60% have a Facebook account, time spent using Facebook is less.
  • They are the biggest group ad blockers, according to PageFair.


How are big brands supposed to get in front of non-TV-watching, ad-blocking millennials? Facebook and Google are killer platforms for direct response, but how is a brand supposed to drive awareness?

The answer could be Snapchat. Why? Because one-to-one-to-many ephemeral, visual communication seems to be a completely new type of human communication and Snapchat has a near monopoly on this behavior. If a picture or an Instagram is worth 1,000 words, then how much is a Snapchat worth? Maybe double Facebook’s $5 CPM?

Just imagine when Snapchat expands its augmented reality feature (called “Lenses”), goes into virtual reality messaging and starts to use more video. It doesn’t take a futurist to see that the future of telephony and messaging somehow is evolving into this new ephemeral video messaging form.

It’s About The Data 

Underneath all of these dominant social companies is a different kind of data mentality and database technology. Some in the press has taken to calling the dominant walled garden media oligopolists GAFA (Google, Apple, Facebook, Amazon). These firms think differently than physical companies or more traditional Internet companies.

To them media is data, meaning that, as the content appears, it becomes usable data, including mouse position, path to and from the content and all interactions with it.

They save all the data: the web logs, ad server logs and RTB exchange logs. It’s not known how much data these firms store but it’s safe to say that each has hundreds of petabytes at their fingertips.

How do they keep, analyze and refine all data? It really comes down to the difference between traditional database systems and modern data tech, such as Hadoop and Spark.

So maybe GAFA will become GAFAS and include Snapchat as they spread globally. Companies like Snapchat were born with a mentality to store, analyze and recall all data – every interaction, every user, for all time. And although Snapchat doesn’t offer audience targeting (yet), its “media is data” mentality, combined with its approach that “content is media,” makes it a powerful platform for brands.

Follow Paul Cimino (@paulcimino) and AdExchanger (@adexchanger) on Twitter.

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  1. Izzet Agoren

    Snapchat’s recruitment of Claire Valoti from Facebook and Paul’s commentary being published the almost simultaneously are all the proof points I need to invest budget. Next year.