If you’ll indulge us we’d like to start this one with an unrelated story…
In 2003, Mel Karmazin, at the time, the head of Viacom, visited Google to learn more about what was then a young, but quickly growing company.
The story of Karmazin visiting Google is told in detail in Ken Auletta’s Googled, The End Of The World As We Know It.
Karmazin was appalled to find out that Google was serving ads based on very specific user data. His company, which owned CBS, MTV, Paramount, and many other big ad-reliant media properties, had less specific data for its advertisers.
When Karmazin realised that Google’s highly targeted, super specific ad model was going to pose a threat to his business, he half jokingly said to the executives, “You’re f–cking with the magic!”
This line was repeated for days within Google, as employees joked about how their business was presenting a better, more accurate alternative to what established media companies had thrived on for years.
That line, “You’re f–king with the magic,” has always rattled around in my head. It’s a funny line and one that fits in many situations, even situations unrelated to business model disruption.
For instance, this morning, I read about Snapchat releasing a major update to its app. And the first thing I thought was, “They’re f–king with the magic.”
Snapchat has added a bunch of new features to its app, but there’s one major feature addition that stands out: Replay, which lets users look at a Snapchat image/video, or “a snap” more than once.
So, say a friend sends you a snap that only lasts three seconds. You see it, but you wish you had more time to take it in. With the replay feature, you’ll be able to look at it again.
The entire appeal of Snapchat (in theory) is that the message goes away after a few seconds. This feature makes those photos ever so slightly less ephemeral.
Let’s just say someone sends you a nudie Snapchat. You see it once, perhaps unexpectedly, and then it’s gone. Now you have a second chance to capture the image, either with another camera, or a screenshot.
My gut feeling is that the Snapchat people know what they’re doing, and this little experiment isn’t that big of a deal. Some people will freak out about it, but overall, it’s fine. If it’s a problem, then Snapchat can just undo the feature. If people really like it, then it can expand the feature.
It’s just interesting to watch Snapchat, which is such a phenomenon, test out new ideas and see what sticks.
For its sake, let’s hope it’s not messing around with its magic.