In some ways Spotlight looks similar to TikTok and Instagram’s Reels. It features auto-playing vertical videos, and you can swipe up or down to quickly move between clips. An algorithm will determine which clips appear in your feed, though you can also dive into specific topics.
But Spotlight is different in other ways. Notably, the feature doesn’t allow for comments or the kind of remixing core to TikTok. In fact, many of the snaps featured in Spotlight will be anonymous. Unless the video crater has a public profile (most Snapchat users do not), videos in Spotlight appear with no name or handle. That lack of context could be a bit jarring, if you’re used to following specific users. But it could also remove some of the pressure that might otherwise be associated with posting publicly.
For users, the biggest draw will likely be the promise of a potential payout. The company isn’t sharing exactly how much any one user can expect to make, though it notes payments are based on a formula that “rewards Snapchatters primarily based on the total number of unique video views a Snap gets in a given day.” For now, the company is committing to spending a million dollars a day through the end of the year, though Snap hasn’t set a firm end date yet so the arrangement could continue into 2021. Long term, Snap plans to bring advertising to Spotlight, so it’s not difficult to imagine the direct payments could evolve into a more traditional revenue-sharing arrangement.
What’s less clear is how much appetite there is for this kind of content within Snapchat, and whether the company can turn it into something that has a shot at being something like an actual TikTok competitor. Though Instagram has already gained some traction with Reels, it’s also filled with straight-up copies of TikTok videos. That, at least, won’t be an issue for Spotlight: Snapchat doesn’t allow uploads of videos with watermarks.