Did Kylie Jenner really cost Snapchat $1 billion?

In the end, Jenner’s tweet diss wasn’t good news for the company, but neither was it a death knell

Kylie Jenner, social influencer, scourge of Wall Street. Photograph: Ari Perilstein/Getty Images

Kylie Jenner, social influencer, scourge of Wall Street. Photograph: Ari Perilstein/Getty Images

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On February 21st, a 20-year-old American took to one social media platform to express her disillusionment with another.

“sooo” she asked, “does anyone else not open Snapchat anymore? Or is it just me... ugh this is so sad”.

Taken on their own, such sentiments may not graduate to the level of moderately interesting, but since this 20-year-old was Kylie Jenner, it quickly became the biggest tech story of 2018. Blared from headlines in Bloomberg, Forbes, the Financial Times and the Wall Street Journal came the news: Kylie Jenner just wiped $1 billion off the price of Snapchat.

Throughout the coverage, the model and reality star was cast as a one-woman Black Sunday; an unthinking leviathan, recklessly grinding the tech giant like a bath bomb twixt two giant, market-shaped fingernail extensions. Writ large across the story was alarm and amazement that a careless comment could wreak such havoc, but this reaction overlooked two key facts.

Firstly, their disbelief at Jenner’s position as an influencer seemed somewhat disingenuous. She’s not a tech entrepreneur, but nor is Jeremy Clarkson a mechanical engineer. As consumers and content creators, their word carries weight regardless. While it may be shocking that one person’s commentary can have such an effect, outright bafflement by the concept of user-influencers is notably absent if car sales are affected by Clarkson panning the new Mercedes.

Secondly, Jenner’s tweet didn’t tank the stock at all. While the day itself was not a good one for Snap Inc, it was merely a small nudge in a tumultuous recent past that’s seen its share price half in under a year. Just last month, the Daily Beast mounted a scoop on the company’s data, long kept secret and touted to be much less impressive than reported. Among details of a single, $4 million LA party, and the entirely secret floor of their NYC headquarters, it also referenced disappointing uptake of the app’s key features and dissatisfaction with their extensive and unpopular redesign.

When first put up for public offering in March last year, Snapchat peaked at a formidable $27.09 per share, but by the time of the Daily Beast’s January 9th story, this had dropped to $13.92. One day after Jenner’s tweet had “destroyed” the company, the price had reconstituted itself to $17, a four dollar improvement on where it had been a month before she’d done so.

In the end, Jenner’s tweet wasn’t good news for the company, but neither was it a death knell. More than anything else, the whole hurrah tells us less about economics and more about the media’s attitude toward billion-dollar stories, famous women, and the promise of snappy headline.

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