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今年秋季, 管理层的产品团队的员工收到了一个令人惊讶的信息, 来自首席执行官埃文明镜周刊: 停止你正在做的工作, 他们被告知。计划已经改变了。
随着股价的下跌和用户的增长停滞, 抢购将进行疯狂的冲刺, 以大修其旗舰应用程序。在10月开始的短短六周内, 该公司将100名工程师转移到该项目, 这是代号为 "猎豹"。使命: 简化 Snapchat, 把焦点从大出版商转移到亲密的朋友那里。
结果是, 它为您的朋友创建一个独立的、动态的内容提要, 另外一个用于出版商和其他不追随您的用户, 应该是 向世界各地的用户推出.但是五周后, 很少有用户得到了更新--而且快照也不会说什么时候可以期待。
一个月后, 猎豹包裹, 抢购敲响了在新的一年, 在洛杉矶市中心的一个奢华的党, 员工和他们的邀请客人享受的表演, 德雷克和二乘法在阴影下的公司的发光幽灵徽标。几天后, 一个关键的华尔街投资公司 削减了公司的收入预测 30% 之后, 对大型广告商的调查发现, 96% 的人宁愿把钱花在 Instagram 上。
因此, 当2018开始, 捕捉发现自己在加强审查。一方面, 该公司继续擅长开发新产品, 并在发行时产生嗡嗡声。另一方面, 该公司的斗争表明了其独特的 "枢纽和分支" 组织结构所带来的挑战, 这使得明镜在公司所有决策的中心。
半打现任和前员工访谈 的边缘 说, 踢掉猎豹的高级别法令, 紧接着是一连串的活动, 是典型的 "捕捉" 方法。他们描述了一个处于焦虑转型状态的公司, 从风险投资的创新暴发户, 到一家上市公司, 在 Facebook 上与一位富有无情的竞争对手抗衡时, 他们的资金大量流失。
中心和分支的模型意味着, 公司有时可以比同行更快地进行迭代, 通过内部政治来达成有远见的突破。与他共事的一位人士说, 明镜周刊仍然花了40% 的时间在 Snapchat 的核心产品上工作。
但同时, 业内人士表示, 这种模式可能会造成瓶颈, 导致核心投诉数月或数年未得到解决。除了其他的后果, 明镜公司更慎重的做法可以让谷歌在 Facebook 上处于劣势, 这不仅是克隆了其最成功的产品, 而且也迅速地对其进行了重复。
篡夺的结构也从其产品经理那里获得了权威, 他们中的一些人在抱怨他们缺乏在其他大型科技公司拥有的自主权的情况下离职, 前雇员说。在瞬间, 明镜的优先地位至高无上, 其他一切都是次要的--这一事实可能使公司更难吸引和留住顶尖人才。
"即使在我被采访的时候, 我问到在 Snapchat 工作的好处和坏处, 缺点是一切都通过埃文, 如果埃文休假, 决定不会得到," 一位前雇员说, 他去年离职。"很多人雇用的一个策略是找到他不关心的领域或他没有注意到的事情, 或者找到一个你可以在不需要得到他明确认可的情况下改进应用程序的领域."
首先是短暂的消息传递, 再加上短暂的广播 "故事", 明镜周刊在社交媒体上发表了十年中最有影响力的两个观点。"在世界上从事社会工作的最聪明的人永远不会重复他们的故事," 另一位前雇员说, 他指的是明镜的一个签名成就。"你只是不能做到这一点。它花了新一代的新视角。
但明镜的本能也使公司误入歧途。前雇员表示, 他投入了大量的精力给 Snapcash, 这是一个很少被采纳的对等支付产品。眼镜, 一个高调的移动到硬件, 售出的单位比公司预计的少得多, 离开了公司4000万美元未售出的相机增强太阳镜。一位前雇员说: "你的战略是要创新你的竞争对手, 最难的是你必须继续拉兔子的帽子。"这是一件很难做的事情。
前雇员说, 明镜周刊对每项产品建议的细致参与, 以及像眼镜这样的宠物项目的风险投资, 都花费了公司的时间和金钱。"事情终于与他同在, 但时间太长了," 一位前雇员说。"Facebook 正在全面攻击。他们的每个应用程序都在 Snapchat。我认为这是太少, 为时已晚。
Spiegel has taken some steps to delegate more work, people who have worked with him say. “He aspires to go to a more distributed leadership role,” one former employee said. But in the meantime, current and former employees said, information is tightly controlled. Only a handful of lieutenants truly have Spiegel’s trust, one former employee said — where “trust” is defined as the ability to ship changes to the product that Spiegel personally disagrees with.
One person Spiegel is said to trust is Tom Conrad, the co-creator and former chief technical officer of Pandora, who joined the company in March 2016 as vice president of product. “He keeps a pulse on the spokes, and is a shadow for Evan,” one person said. “He extends Evan’s view when Evan’s not in the room.”
Snap picked up just 4.5 million new users in the past quarter, at a time when growth at its chief rival, Instagram, is still accelerating. (Instagram gained more than 200 million new users — more than Snapchat’s entire user base — in the year after cloning stories.) Meanwhile, Snap lost an eye-popping $443 million in the past quarter. The company’s stock price has declined by $15 billion, or about 60 percent, since it went public in March.
The Cheetah project, which Snap unveiled on November 29th, was designed to return the company to fast growth. The streamlined app that emerged from the project is intended to encourage more candid sharing among groups of close friends while moving professionally produced content into a separate part of the app. It includes a new dynamic friends page that, for the first time, will push items from your close friends to the top of the feed, based on how often you interact with them. (Previously, the Stories feed was arranged in chronological order.)
Snap has positioned the redesign as a more evolved form of social media. “While blurring the lines between professional content creators and your friends has been an interesting internet experiment, it has also produced some strange side-effects (like fake news) and made us feel like we have to perform for our friends rather than just express ourselves,” the company said in a statement.
But there was another, more practical goal. In a note to investors in early November, the company admitted to a long-standing challenge it faced in getting new users to understand the app. “One thing that we have heard over the years is that Snapchat is difficult to understand or hard to use, and our team has been working on responding to this feedback,” the note read. “As a result, we are currently redesigning our application to make it easier to use.”
This marked a significant reversal for a company that has prided itself on baffling older people. One former employee characterized Snapchat’s ideal user, in the eyes of Spiegel, as “a 16-year-old girl in the US on the newest iPhone.” Having mostly saturated that market — while losing ground to Instagram internationally — the company is now belatedly working in earnest to make itself more approachable.
That has been slow going. While it was announced in November, the new design appears to have rolled out to very few users, and when the new look does become more broadly available, the company has already warned that the new design will likely result in lower advertising revenue as users spend more time chatting with friends and less time browsing ad-heavy publisher content.
“There is a strong likelihood that the redesign of our application will be disruptive to our business in the short term, and we don’t yet know how the behavior of our community will change when they begin to use our updated application,” Spiegel said during the company’s last earnings call. The company remains, as ever, a bet on his vision.