The story sounded like a good one at the time. Snap (NYSE:SNAP), the parent company of messaging platform Snapchat, was following in the footsteps of highly successful social networking companies like Facebook (NASDAQ:FB) and Twitter (NYSE:TWTR). Surely SNAP stock would be a winner, too.
That’s clearly not how things have worked out, though. After launching its IPO at a price of $17 in March of last year and trading as high as $29.44 just a few days later, SNAP stock has dwindled to a mere $9.12 right now.
And worst of all, SNAP stock has deserved the punishment.
It’s a reality faithful fans, followers and owners of SNAP stock are largely going to reject. There’s even chatter about a potential buyout, as Alphabet (NASDAQ:GOOG,NASDAQ:GOOGL) has been pegged as a potential suitor. Such an acquisition isn’t likely to happen, though, since even Google’s parent likely realizes that Snapchat is a sinking ship that can’t be saved.
Kudos to BTIG analyst Rich Greenfield for saying just a few days ago what many have been thinking for awhile. He explained in an interview with Bloomberg “We see a product problem… Snapchat, from a product standpoint, I think has gotten worse over the past twelve months. Users are frustrated. We’re seeing more and more engagement with the app move away from users creating and watching stores and purely move to communications… but they don’t make a lot of money [with messaging].”
Greenfield lowered BTIG’s rating on Snapchat stock to a “Sell” and cut the price target on the name to $5, which is a bit more than half the stock’s present price, concluding “The product has just not gotten better the way we thought it would.”
The numbers support Greenfield’s opinion. Last quarter, Snapchat’s daily average users fell 2% compared with the first quarter. In the social media industry, year-over-year dips in user activity are rare, and sequential declines are practically unheard of.
Supporters of SNAP stock will point out that the new-and-improved Snapchat is still a work in progress, highlighting that the company will soon allow media outfits like CNN and NBC to create and curate their own ‘Our Stories’ which users will be able to view through the app .
It may be a misguided product, however, that will interest few users. Snap certainly has some experience with unsuccessful products. CEO Evan Spiegel was certain he’d be able to sell the company’s Spectacles by the truckload. When all was said and done, though, not enough people cared sufficiently about the camera/glasses combo to make it a success.
Don’t Bet on a Buyout of Snapchat Stock
But is Snapchat a nearly great platform that just needs a different direction and some veteran guidance? Could an acquisition solve its problems?
Don’t count on it, since different or even better leadership isn’t the answer.
As enlightened and empowered as consumers are, they’re still a funny bunch. Old habits die hard, and many are hesitant to try new things, even if they’re not thrilled with older ones.
That’s a vague way of saying that Facebook is the odds-on favorite to win the messenger war with its Instagram messaging service, not necessarily because it’s better, but because Facebook already has two billion users plugged into its social networking website. It also has deeper pockets and more marketing firepower, while Snapchat never really had a chance of out-innovating FB.
But would a player like Google have that kind of muscle? Sure. But Google already took a shot at the whole social media thing in an effort to keep Facebook in check. It was called Google+, and was finally shuttered (as we know it) early last year, joining a long list of other social networking flops by the search giant.
It’s just not in the company’s wheelhouse, particularly given Twitter’s and Facebook’s lead in that race.
Bottom Line for SNAP Stock
I’m not suggesting there won’t be a messaging service called Snapchat in operation many years from now. Given its established name, certainly somebody somewhere will do something with it. What’s not certain, however, is who will ultimately own it and how SNAP stock will perform between now and then. If there’s not room for another social media service in the world, there just isn’t room.
In retrospect, it won’t be too difficult to eventually recognize that SNAP stock suffered from the same problem that companies like Groupon (NASDAQ:GRPN) and GoPro (NASDAQ:GPRO) did. That is, everyone thought that their product was clever. It’s just that not enough people wanted that particular product.
As of this writing, James Brumley did not hold a position in any of the aforementioned securities. You can follow him on Twitter, at @jbrumley.