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Snap Hits Stormy, Shark-Infested Waters

Hi, welcome to your Weekend! 

I can’t remember the first time I heard of Snapchat, but I do remember being instantly nonplussed by it. What was it with these wacky millennials taking pictures of themselves vomiting rainbows  (among other NFSW activities)? Why would you want photos of your friends to disappear after only a few seconds? And how was this whole thing going to become a multibillion-dollar business? 

As soon as my two kids learned about Snapchat around ages 6 or 7, they would grab my phone at every opportunity and open up the otherwise neglected app. They loved playing with the rotating selection of hilarious—and sometimes disturbing—augmented reality photo lenses. I suddenly got it: Snapchat wasn’t popular because American teens collectively decided it was cool; it was cool because it elicited so much authentic, childlike joy. It was, and maybe still is, the most consistently fun social network just to mess around with. And as a bonus, it hasn’t helped to destabilize our democracy!

Of course, no amount of joy can save Snap from the realities of the current market. Even after five years of 50%-plus revenue growth, Snapchat’s advertising engine has decelerated dramatically, and its stock price has consequently tanked. In this weekend’s cover story, journalist Ryan Broderick traces the company’s dizzying, decade-long rise in order to understand how it’s gotten into its current predicament—and what it might do to get out of it.

Now onto the stories...

the big read

A Visionary Afloat: Snap CEO Evan Spiegel Helped Create the Social Web as We Know It. Now He’s Sinking Under It

“Snapchat isn’t about capturing the traditional Kodak moment,” the 22-year-old future Snap CEO wrote in 2012. Ten years later, the app Spiegel swore wouldn’t “conform to unrealistic notions of beauty or perfection” is still forging its own path. But now that path has run into a brick wall. The company’s stock has cratered, its top execs are leaving, its revenues are growing slower than ever, and on Wednesday it announced it was laying off 20% of its workforce. In his first story for Weekend, Ryan looks at a decade’s worth of decisions by Spiegel that led Snap to this point. 


‘Like an Hour of Meditation in 10 Minutes’: How Tech Insiders Do Fitness Recovery

Sports medicine experts maintain that recuperating after strenuous exercise is essential for preventing injuries and soreness. But how can you pack an hour of recovery into the few minutes between pickleball, eFoiling and the next Zoom meeting? Annie checked in with tech entrepreneurs and investors to find out the products they’re using—from ice baths to infrared saunas—to rapidly recover after workouts.


The Social Media Founder Who Controls His Vibrating Bed From His Phone

In spring 2021, Alex Ma’s social media app, Poparazzi, made a dramatic breakthrough, soaring to the top of Apple’s App Store chart, and landing a $15 million Series A led by Benchmark. It’s been over a year since then and the app now has over 5 million members. In this week’s edition of “Screentime,” Margaux checks in with Ma and finds out what apps, besides his own, have changed the way he operates.

Noticing: A walking tour of Joe Rogan’s studio 
In her just-debuted newsletter Flack, Substack communications chief Lulu Cheng Meservey does her fellow flacks a solid by detailing how she scored an appearance on the “Joe Rogan Experience Podcast” for her boss, Substack CEO Chris Best. For the rest of us, she offers up a photo tour of Rogan’s truly insane recording studio, which Meservey accurately dubs “the Buckingham Palace of man caves.” Behind the doors of an unmarked, nondescript building in Austin, Tex., is a massive MMA gym loaded with fighting gear; an indoor archery range; some menacing taxidermied film props; and an “attractive nurse” who, as a pre-game warmup, “offers us an enhancer of B12 or NAD+, through a shot or an IV.” Meservey takes the injection of NAD+, reasoning “if you saw this woman, you too would ask for a shot of whatever she’s on.” —Jon

Watching: Next-gen outfit changes
Among the many artforms it has mastered, “I know kung fu”-style,  now Dall-e can crank out fashion designs with the acuity of a Project Runway contestant. Video artist Karen X. Cheng—whose work with the image-generating AI we covered last month—tweeted a video of herself walking down a street as her outfit morphs from shorts to dress to overalls. Paul Trillo, an LA-based director, also crafted his own Dall-e costumes, posting a 30-second, 100-look AI fashion show.  Dall-e may not be the next Dior, but human designers have to wonder whether their jobs may soon be at risk. – Annie 

Reading: What to do if your kid wants to be an influencer 
Kids don’t want to be astronauts or ballerinas anymore; now they want a camera, a ring light, and an all-inclusive vacay to the Bahamas. A recent Morning Consult poll showed that a majority of US kids would become influencers if given the chance, leading Vox’s Rebecca Jennings to write about how parents should handle their children’s new ambitions. Through interviews with young creators’ parents, she explains the delicate dance between supporting a child’s dream and enabling abuse. Do you let them show their face, or just do voiceovers? Are bikinis appropriate for TikTok dances? And how to explain that almost all YouTubers make below the poverty line? – Margaux

Makes You Think

One nerd to rule them all. A hearty welcome to our new Weekend mascot, Jeflon!

Until next Weekend, thanks for reading.


Weekend Editor, The Information

Jon Steinberg is the Weekend Editor at The Information. He is a former editor-in-chief of San Francisco magazine and senior editor at New York magazine.
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