Whisper + Images + Text = the LOLcatization of the Internet
Adam Rifkin stashed this in Snapchat
Erin Griffith writes about teh "LOLcatization" of teh Internets:
LA-based Whisper hasn’t hit Silicon Valley tech circles yet, but it has taken college campuses by storm. The iOS app, which launched officially last November, now hosts millions of anonymous secrets uploaded by more than one million users. Those users open the app an average of six times a day and spend, on average, 30 minutes each day with it. Last month, the app hit a billion pageviews.
Whisper’s secrets are delivered in a meme-style format that transfixes Web surfers: text over image. Scrolling through Whisper’s feed of anonymous secrets can be a roller coaster of emotions from sad or thrilling to touching and funny — it’s a Post Secret for the mobile set. What’s more, users pay $5.99 a month to communicate directly with each other inside the app.
Whisper’s fast adoption caught the eye of Jeremy Liew of Lightspeed Venture Partners, who says Whisper has the same sort of engagement and retention that Snapchat had starting out. Lightspeed led Snapchat’s seed round last March; it’s since raised $13.5 million.
Similar to Snapchat, Whisper has a differentiator that Facebook can’t match: Where Snapchat has ephemeral messages, Facebook wants to be a permanent record. Where Whisper has anonymity, Facebook requires real identities. “So both can grow without worrying about Facebook coming in later to knock them off,” Liew says. (Facebook has tried to knock off Snapchat with Poke; it hasn’t really worked.)
Further, Whisper supports Lightspeed’s thesis around the “LOLcatization” of the Internet. LOLcats popularized the text over image format of content, which has since spawned entire companies devoted to this style of content. The text-over-image form factor is just irresistibly easy to consume and share in massive quantities. Liew noted that the most talked about Facebook pages, like Shut Up I’m Still Talking, OIESAMAMADA, or Jesus Daily (with 17 million likes), all post using this format.
Here are the trends that Snapchat and Whisper are playing into:
1. You don't have to use your real identity.
2. You don't have to share with all your Facebook friends.
3. IMAGES. (Text over images is okay; text without images notsomuch.)
[Jeremy Liew calls #3 "lolcatization" but I've heard it called "image macros" and "memes" a lot.
So really, Whisper is just the latest in a field that includes Tumblr, BuzzFeed, 9gag, Reddit, and Imgur.
Except, without gifs.
On the other hand, they do have addicted mobile users and an interesting monetization strategy.
Whisper saw more than a billion page views on the app last month, and has about 800,000 private messages sent each day. Users are incredibly engaged, opening the app on average about six times a day and spending more than a half hour checking out content through the app out of each 24. So with all that usage, it’s no big surprise that investors jumped on the opportunity to back Whisper.
Lightspeed first noticed Whisper in the App Store on a Monday and Liew met with the team the next day. By Friday they had a term sheet ready to sign, with Liew flying to L.A. on Saturday to finalize the deal. At the time it invested, Whisper was doing about 500 million page views per month, with each session being about 20 page views. “When you see that sort of engagement, it shows that the content really is compelling,” Liew wrote in an email.
Liew compared his interest in the application to a tiny little company called Snapchat that his firminvested in last year. For Liew, being able to provide a differentiator that is orthogonal to what Facebook stands for — i.e. creating a “journal of record for your life” through your real identity — is an important part of doing social in a way that Facebook can’t replicate.
“With Snapchat, we saw much more real and authentic engagement than Facebook or Twitter or Instagram because you weren’t being ‘held to’ your photos and messages since they disappeared,” Liew wrote by email. “With Whisper you get much more real and authentic posts than FB or Twitter or Instagram because you weren’t being ‘held to’ it because of the anonymity. In both cases it makes for really compelling content.”
So will Whisper be the next Snapchat? While it’s grown quickly over the first several months of downloads, it doesn’t necessarily play in the same arena. And the Whisper team of 10, with some VC backing behind it and revenues from messaging, is looking to continue to expand.