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Snapchat’s head of content Nick Bell is out

Snapchat’s head of content Nick Bell is out
[Photo: Frederick M. Brown/Getty Images]

Snap’s woes continued on Monday with the news that head of content Nick Bell is leaving the company. Bell, an articulate Brit, was a high-profile and long-tenured exec, overseeing its media and entertainment divisions, specifically its deals with content partners to develop original content for Snapchat. 

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Under his leadership, Snapchat transformed from a messaging-only app into a popular entertainment destination for young audiences, who hungrily snacked on Snapchat’s ephemeral, short-form videos. But the Discover platform, which he helped build, was never as successful as Stories and failed to gain significant traction both among users and the companies that created content for it. Many of those companies were traditional media entities that struggled to translate their content to Snapchat’s vertical, short, quick-cut format.  

Bell’s departure comes just weeks after the company announced a new slate of 12 original “serialized” shows called Snap Originals. The play is an attempt to create content that drives audiences to their service, something that everyone from Amazon to Snap rival Facebook is also doing (Instagram launched IGTV, its short-form video feature, earlier this year). Last month Bell took a swipe at IGTV, saying, “I don’t think they’re really trying to push forward the kind of quality bar of mobile video in the same way that we are. And you know, I’ve not seen anything on there to date which, as I said, is really compelling, that’s going to keep me coming back.” 

Snap’s struggles can be traced to Instagram’s moves into its turf, particularly since Snap’s 2017 IPO. Snapchat has struggled to grow and keep apace with Instagram, whose popularity has been aided by the adoption of its own Stories platform–which execs have candidly said it copied from Snapchat. During the third quarter of this year, Snapchat lost 2 million daily active users. Its stock hit a record low in late October when it closed at $5.99. On Monday it was trading down 2%, at $6.60.

Bell adds to the number of senior executive departures of late, including its CFO and VPs of product and engineering, and most notably, chief strategy officer Imran Khan, another longtime executive who announced in September that he’d be leaving the company. Khan was replaced by Jared Grusd, who will now also oversee Snapchat’s content team. 

In a memo to Snapchat’s staff, Bell wrote on Monday: “After nearly five years and a once in a lifetime ride, I have let Evan [Spiegel, Snap’s cofounder and CEO] know that I am leaving Snap to take some time off to recharge before deciding on my next adventure.” 

Spiegel, in a statement, said, “We are so grateful for Nick and everything he has built at Snap. It has been an incredible journey that began with our vision for what content could be on mobile. Today, more people are watching more premium content on Snap than ever before, and we couldn’t be more excited about the momentum we are seeing with Snap Originals. We will miss Nick and we wish him all the best.” 

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