Insights on mobile & Facebook from leaked Snapchat email

I just spent some time going through Wikileaks, examining the leaked emails from Sony on Snapchat. There is some pretty interesting stuff in there (Including shareholder mishaps)!

If you want to get some insight into mobile, advertising and Facebook, this is email below is worth digesting. It’s by Anthony Noto (Twitter CFO, then at Goldman) who sent this interesting analysis of Facebook’s 2014Q1 earnings to Evan Spiegel (Snapchat CEO) end of April, 2014.

From: “Noto, Anthony” <[email protected]>
Date: April 24, 2014 at 9:01:27 AM EDT
To: “‘[email protected]'” <[email protected]>
Subject: Perspective on FB

Like we discussed last night the headline growth rate of 72% yoy with ad revenue accelerating to 82% yoy growth is remarkable at this scale and should be a real positive for the sector.

Just finished doing a deep dive on FB results

The exact opposite trend drove results than what we discussed last night. # of ad impressions actually decline by 17% year over year and was off set by revenue per impression being up 118%. FB is seeing declining ad impression due to mix shift from desk top to mobile. On mobile there are fewer ads since there is no right hand rail. But mobile monetizes better which is rare….a key question here is why does mobile monetize better? Is it due to higher prices per click or higher click through rates. If its the latter ie click through rates than its enormously positive because higher click through rates are highly correlated with better ROI which leads to ad spending. If its due to higher prices per click I would be concerned and want to understand advertiser cohort analysis ie of those that advertised last year on mobile how much did their yoy spend increase this year. If the growth in spending on a same store basis (ie holding the # of  advertisers from last year constant) is single digits yoy than once everyone tries mobile ads on FB the growth rate of ad revenue yoy will plummet from triple digits to high single digits over night (aka Groupon; priceline in circa 2000).

Second key question about the decline in the number of impression due to mix is what is the change in impressions on each platform on a stand alone basis ie desktop vs mobile as opposed to overall change in ad impressions. It might be the case that desktop ad impressions are growing at a huge rate solely due to a significant increase in ads per page. If this is the case than the decline in ad impressions due to the mix shift from  desktop to mobile is actually way worse than the reported 17% yoy year decline. I can explain live but in essence the yoy decline in ad impressions if the number of ads per page on desktop was held constant might be much much worse than 17% and if so once the ad load on desktop doesn’t keep increasing than the real decline in total impression will come through and be worse than a 17% decline.   Similar to the scenario I made earlier if the # of advertisers is held constant yoy what’s the change yoy in revenue growth.

All of that said if desktop ad load is not increasing and the same store advertisers on mobile are growing their spend significantly vs being masked by spend from first time advertisers than FB is crushing it. Specifically if the growth in Ads is primarily all driven by higher click through rates due to better relevant ads on mobile than all of the private mobile companies that have a great medium from advertising will be viewed much more favorably and be more valuable (ie think u have a great medium for ads) Specifically if ads on mobile are more engaging for consumer and more relevant than desk top ads than the addressable ad market for mobile will be bigger than desktop ad market and the valuations of mobile companies will be greater than desktop all else equal on audience size etc etc. Ie this would be a very positive factor for Snapchat

If Facebook knows this to be true it would result in them being willing to pay higher valuation for mobile companies than other acquirers because google won’t know nor will yahoo msft etc because none of them have scale in mobile to understand these powerful secular trends and in essence they under value mobile vs FB and thus under invest and fall farther and farther behind.

Last point on ad trends for FB…the actual revenue on FB desktop grew only 6% yoy vs last qtr that had 10% yoy growth. Once desktop FB revenue growth turns negative which is likely to happen in 2014 without any innovation (ie a successful desktop ad network or something else in the works) it will create a real drag on overall revenue growth and if any of the negative scenario trends I outlined earlier are true  (significant increase in ad loads on desktop significantly offsetting the mix shift issue to mobile and price driving monetization instead of click thru rate driving monetization) vs the positive scenarios (ie click thru rate is the driver and ad loads on each platform are flat) than facebook is heading for an air pocket on growth.

Mobile Mau’s grew 34% yoy to 1bn….that growth rate at such scale (in absolute terms given 1 bn is a big # and  more importantly on a relative basis to its overall user base mobile is already 85% of  its current WW user base) is remarkable and a clear indication that facebook is still in early days on mobile penetration and  there is a lot more room for growth in mobile MAUs for everyone in mobile….this is great news for Snapchat as you are mobile first and mobile only and if the user base on mobile is bigger than desktop (which I think it is by a magnitude or more)  than you will be valued more favorably than before in absolute terms and long term at scale you will be more value than desktop companies at scale. I would note the FB’s mobile only MAU # reached 341m which is outstanding for Snapchat when you think about where your MAU number is vs 341mm and you have only been available for 2 years and don’t have a desktop user base of 1+bn plus to target or the same geographic footprint or brand awareness!!!!

Also mobile dau to mau is higher on mobile than desktop at 60% vs 50% for FB. 60% is a good benchmark target for you to want to achieve on Snapchat.

Let me know if you have any questions


Anthony Noto
Goldman Sachs & Co
Co-Head Global Tech, Media, & Telecom Investment Banking

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