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News / Business

Ring has a new mission: ‘Hey, there’s raccoons in my yard’

Users saving and sharing video on social media

By Matt Day, Bloomberg News
Published: June 1, 2024, 6:02am

For years, Ring touted its crime-fighting bona fides, selling smart doorbells that let homeowners remotely monitor their residences — and sometimes share what they recorded with local police. Now the Amazon.com Inc. unit is looking to transform itself into a smart-camera business with a cheery social-media side hustle, sort of a mashup between Nextdoor and TikTok.

Previously users mostly shared videos of suspicious activity on Ring’s Neighbors app or browsed a map of police investigations. They still do, but now they’re more likely to post whimsical clips of pets, water balloon fights, a neighbor wearing a dinosaur costume.

“Reduce crime in neighborhoods” was Ring’s original mission statement. Now it’s “Keeping people close to what’s important.”

It’s a big strategy shift, and one that seems to be working. Ring “recently” became profitable, according to Chief Executive Officer Liz Hamren, thanks to a recurring stream of subscription revenue from people willing to pay as much as $20 a month to save and share videos captured by their devices.

“People want that recorded video,” said Hamren, who revealed Ring’s new mission statement in an interview Wednesday with Bloomberg Television. “We have a really healthy subscription business.”

In each of the last three years, Ring either raised prices on some subscription plans or placed previously free features behind a paywall, moves that coincide with Amazon’s effort to turn its sprawling consumer electronics division into a sustainable business after pouring billions into the Alexa digital assistant.

About half of recent video doorbell buyers in the U.S. reported purchasing a Ring device, according to Parks Associates, which surveys buyers of smart-home devices. Ring is the largest smart camera maker and the second-largest seller of security systems, according to the researcher. The company has also made strides with its paid security monitoring services, which now trail only ADT Inc. in market share.

Ring’s pivot will come as little surprise to anyone familiar with the company’s travails. Founded by Jamie Siminoff in 2011 and acquired about seven years later by Amazon for $839 million, Ring’s crime-fighting focus soon became a public-relations liability. Civil liberties groups accused the company of building a private surveillance network vulnerable to abuse by the law enforcement agencies keen to get their hands on video captured by Ring devices.

The company also suffered embarrassing security lapses, including attacks by hackers exploiting weak user passwords to hijack cameras and employees watching unencrypted user videos. Amazon paid $5.8 million to settled Federal Trade Commission charges related to those episodes, even as it denied violating the law. The company in recent years mandated more secure two-factor authentication for users and began offering end-to-end encryption.

Last year, Siminoff left Ring and was replaced by Hamren, a former Microsoft Corp. executive and alumnus of Dropcam, which made internet-connected cameras before being acquired by Google’s Nest division.