Narrative: Twitter is Stuck
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Narrative: Twitter is Stuck (Dec 27, 2016)
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Twitter Hires Sriram Krishnan as Senior Director of Product (Sep 19, 2017)
Twitter Finally Adds Curation by Topic, But It’s Flawed (Aug 16, 2017)
Twitter has finally added curation by topic, but only as part of its Explore tab, and the implementation seems to be pretty flawed. I argued that Twitter needed to get beyond its account-centric model to enable further growth in a piece written a year ago this week, so I welcome the move in principle. But the topic-based feeds are buried behind the search button, and the actual content in the various feeds feels unfocused and often irrelevant. More to the point, this topic-based approach needs to be part of the on boarding experience for Twitter, which has remained far too account-centric and therefore overwhelming for new users, something I documented here a few months back. So this is a step in the right direction, but needs to go further.
At the time I’m writing this, Twitter stock is off 13% after it reported another set of poor earnings. It failed to grow global monthly active users at all in the quarter (US users actually shrank, offset by modest growth elsewhere), daily active user growth shrank from 14% in Q1 to 12% in Q2, and revenue was down 5% year on year, the second straight quarter of overall revenue declines. Importantly, all of this happened in a quarter when Twitter released a big redesign of its apps and sites and launched its Lite product in India, both of which should have driven good growth if effective. The contrast with Facebook’s results last night couldn’t be starker, with the two companies moving in seemingly opposite directions. The one thing they have in common is that both are working to convince advertisers of the value of spending money on their platforms, but Facebook is doing so from a position of strength, trying to win more TV ad dollars with its targeting and attribution features, while Twitter is mostly still trying to convince advertisers that it has a world-class ad platform at all. In theory, it’s making progress behind the scenes with its ad offerings, and users are responding positively to its product changes too, as evidenced by the fact that DAUs have grown quite a bit faster than MAUs over the past year. But the company also suggested on today’s earnings call that DAUs as a percentage of MAUs haven’t shifted much from three years ago, when that ratio was below 50% in its top markets. The picture that’s emerging here is one of a smaller number – perhaps around 160 million – highly engaged users (likely including most of the bots on the platform) and a constantly cycling second 160-170 million users coming onto and then rapidly leaving the platform as they fail to find value in it, something I first hinted at in this piece last October. Twitter would arguably be best served by emulating Snap’s reporting and ditching MAUs in favor of DAUs, then focusing on growing that number, which it seems to be doing more successfully. And yet it’s bafflingly reluctant to report DAUs directly, probably because that would be a concession that it’s reaching a much smaller engaged audience than it likes to claim. Note that just 17% of its MAUs watched any live videos last quarter, for example. It’s getting tougher and tougher to believe that Twitter is ever going to outgrow its current stagnation.
via Twitter (PDF)
Twitter has a blog post up and apparently also spoke to reporters about its efforts to curb abuse and harassment on the platform. The company released data about the improvements it’s made over the past year and the positive effects it says these are having, such as acting on ten times as many abusive accounts, removing twice the number of repeat offenders, and so on. But there’s nothing in the new data or the blog post about why so many reports still get dealt with as false positives, as reported by BuzzFeed earlier in the week. And there’s no real transparency about how the decisions are made, by whom, or what exactly the guidelines are. Twitter clearly is making progress here – the numbers show that – but the fact that BuzzFeed had no trouble quickly finding cases where it’s still falling short suggests it’s far from done here yet. And though Twitter is clearly taking the problem more seriously today than it was even six months ago, before this current effort began, it’s still too often defensive and closed rather than transparent and honest in talking about why abuse and harassment are still such issues. At root, it feels like Twitter is still erring too much on the side of maximum freedom of speech rather than on the side of protecting users from abuse, while much behavior by Twitter users is utterly unacceptable and yet likely goes unreported simply because it’s not directed at a specific individual.