DUBAI: Camera company Snap Inc. has launched its new entertainment platform Spotlight throughout the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region.
With 75 million regional users, Snap aims to capitalize on the audience by allowing them to share their creativity on the platform and be rewarded for it through an incentive program paying out millions of dollars to users every month.
A Snap spokesman told Arab News that Snapchatters had a desire to use the Snapchat messaging app as a “social platform” where they could share their creations with a community, not just with friends.
Snap did not want to lose users to other platforms and had been thinking for “quite a while” about how it could cater for this need.
Hussein Freijeh, general manager of Snap Inc. in the Middle East, said: “We’ve seen from our platform that Snapchatters are super creative and looking for more ways to share snaps with the larger community. We want to help empower them to express themselves and share their experiences through the Snapchat Camera.”
The answer came in the form of Spotlight, which features the most entertaining snaps from the community. These snaps will be tailored to each user over time based on their preferences and favorites.
Anyone on the app can share snaps on the platform – either anonymously or through their profile. The content is then moderated by a computer and a person before being published on Spotlight.
Comments are also turned off in order to avoid offensive and inappropriate content on the new platform. “So, rather than relying on content being reported, it’s pre-moderated before it goes live,” said the spokesman.
He added that with other content-based platforms, there were always a few users who racked up followers and soon enough started creating professional content, which served as a deterrent of sorts to amateur users of the platforms.
“Our hope was that Spotlight lowers the barrier to content creation and we have already seen this taking place in countries where we have rolled it out so far,” Freijeh added.
The new platform had garnered more than 100 million users as of January, just two months after its initial release. Part of its success has been attributed to the incentive program that is now being launched in the MENA region.
The spokesman said that when any new platform came up, influencers switched to it taking their followers with them, resulting in “a closed circle of people who get wide distribution,” because most platforms rewarded content creators based on the number of followers. “We did not want to do that,” he added.
On Spotlight, the incentive program is not based on the number of followers or celebrity status of a user, but rather on the engagement received on a snap.
He likened the incentive program to a football tournament. “It’s like the World Cup of content. At the group stage that they (users) start off in, they compete against each other and the snaps that are the most engaging and get watched through will unlock more distribution, where they will go against other content, which has gone through that previous stage.
“And then the most engaging piece of content in that subset will unlock more distribution with the ones that get the most (distribution), earning money directly from Snapchat.”
Spotlight sounds and feels quite similar to platforms such as TikTok, as several users have pointed out. However, the spokesman said there was a “huge difference” between the type of content that did well on Spotlight versus TikTok. “You can accidentally create an amazing Spotlight, but I don’t think you can accidentally create an amazing TikTok,” he added.
“Most content creators (on other platforms) rely on sponsorships from brands and huge follower counts. It’s a closed circle to most people, so we wanted to open it up to more people.”
However, Snap is continuing to develop new creator tools for more professional creators, and “they will have really good opportunities to earn money on Spotlight as well,” he said.
Spotlight was launched in 11 countries in November and has been slowly introduced to other markets since then. The reason for the slow rollout, the spokesman said, was the moderation of each piece of content before it appeared on the platform – especially in local languages.
It is now available throughout the MENA region in Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Algeria, Morocco, the UAE, Jordan, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Bahrain, Palestine, Libya, and Iraq.
“Looking ahead, we’ll continue to learn from our community as we continue to evolve Spotlight and see what resonates among Snapchatters,” said Freijeh.