Sep 10, 2015 ยท 4 minutes

Last week, the tech press reported a surprising number: Snapchat is doing more than four billion video views in a single day.

The most obvious take away of that news was this: Snapchat is right on the heels of Facebook, which hit the same milestone earlier this year.

That volume of video shouldn’t be too shocking to Snapchat users, who’ve seen the service buckling under the pressure to load all those videos for much of the past year. Or to those who remember the head of Vodafone UK saying in an earlier press conference that Snapchat made up a whopping 75% of all mobile instant messaging data in the UK.

Far more interesting was this: The source in the article said that the four billion video number was solely based on Snapchat’s live stories.

It’s hard to know if that stat is accurate. It doesn’t seem possible, given that all of Snapchat was doing three billion views just five weeks ago. It’s hard to believe Snapchat’s core business of one-to-one videos would be that much of a minority of Snapchat’s overall video traffic. And indeed, the article appeared on Business Insider: Where insiders go to “leak” outrageous vanity numbers that aren’t backed up by reality.

But if there’s some grain of truth here, and live story video views are indeed in the billions, it’s great news for Snapchat and its investors-- some of whom bought common stock with no protections at a crazy $20 billion valuation. It’s possibly the clearest sign yet that the messaging sensation is also sitting on a gigantic business opportunity.

A few weeks ago I wrote that Snapchat should kill Discover-- the product that so much of the press has hyped up as Snapchat’s ad revenue salvation-- and go all in on Stories. It’s a far better product that ties into the core of what Snapchat is, and yet isn’t a creepy place to insert a branded message.

Stories simply extended the one-to-one messaging that made the service so popular to one-to-many for your story and many-to-many for live stories. It was as brilliant a migration of a product as Facebook’s paced, careful roll out from college social network to a place where more than a billion people in the world connect.

Discover, meanwhile, is a bizarre bolt-on that has nothing to do with why anyone goes to Snapchat. Worse: It’s so embarrassingly, self-consciously aimed at what aging content partners think millennials are into that it alienates anyone else… and probably a lot of millennials too.

As I wrote a few weeks ago:

A much better potential to build a business that’s distinctly Snapchat is in Stories. Stories were one of the smartest product moves Snapchat has done-- a way to gently migrate users from one-to-one to one-to-many. That’s an important shift because it would be near impossible to insert ads into highly personal one-to-one feeds if the company is concerned about “creepiness.” But one-to-many is do-able. That Snapchat can work with.

Snapchat has taken this product even further into a group space with Live Stories, where people opt into sharing their story as part of a greater one. Snapchat’s capturing and live streaming of prayers at Mecca at Ramadan was far more powerful than any of the insipid content I’ve seen in Discover….

Making users want to be part of something bigger, that’s inherently not anonymous but still every bit as personal, is exactly where Snapchat needs to go to create something it can sell against. Discover is a weird bolt-on where-- with the exception of VICE-- old brands and media platforms are trying to speak to an audience they don’t get in a format they don’t get either.

If those live stories video numbers are close to right, it seems I didn’t need to tell Snapchat that. No only is it a product that actually makes sense in context of Snapchat, and is a feasible place to put an ad, but apparently Snapchat’s users are voraciously consuming it. The most anyone has said Discover is doing in traffic is in the single digit millions. Snapchat’s overall vanity numbers don’t matter if the thing advertisers are buying isn’t getting a meaningful slice of the attention.

This is all the more important if Snapchat is going to build a business around video ads in particular. Discover was never going to be either of those things. For all the excitement around the future of video ads, buying them is an incomprehensible mess right now. There’s an IAB standard, but none of the big players adhere to it. Facebook and YouTube can’t even agree on what “a view” is.

But because Facebook and YouTube have such massive troves of views, brands will mostly just learn to use their custom formats, and forget about any sort of IAB standard. And that potentially locks a lot of smaller players out of the biggest pots of video ad revenue. For anyone else to grab meaningful video ad revenues they need just as jaw-droppingly large an audience, and a compelling custom format to interact with them.

Snapchat may just have it.