- Initiative is key to drawing new users amid slower growth
- Takes advantage of Twitter's role as news wire for digital age
Twitter Inc.’s newly installed chief executive officer, Jack Dorsey, says a key to a turnaround is making the product more understandable for people who aren’t hardcore users. On Tuesday, the social network unveiled a feature that is critical to that plan.
The new product, called Moments, curates the avalanche of information flowing across Twitter about major events, including big games, entertainment-awards shows, breaking news or silly cultural memes. It’s a long-awaited project aimed at helping people more easily see information coming across Twitter.
Moments emphasizes Twitter’s position as a news wire for the digital age. While the social-media site is often first with details about major global events, it can be difficult to keep up for those who aren’t familiar with the text-heavy, stream-of-consciousness format. People use Twitter by "following" other accounts, allowing users to customize the product around specific interests, but it also means missing out on things being said by those they aren’t tracking. With the Moments tool, Twitter will use human editors and algorithms to pull together posts about particular events -- such as the Academy Awards or a political debate -- so users can quickly catch up.
“We know finding these only-on-Twitter moments can be a challenge, especially if you haven’t followed certain accounts,” Madhu Muthukumar, product manager for Moments, said in a blog post. "Moments helps you find the best of Twitter as easily as tapping an icon -- regardless of who you follow.”
The product, initiated under former CEO Dick Costolo, will test Dorsey’s ability to draw in a wider audience. User growth has stalled in recent quarters and the company’s stock has dropped 23 percent this year as investors question Twitter’s long-term prospects. Hundreds of millions of Twitter accounts are dormant or rarely used, according to an analysis by Wells Fargo. The shares declined 1.9 percent to $27.62 at the close Tuesday in New York.
Twitter is putting together a marketing campaign to promote Moments, something it has rarely done for product announcements. The feature will be available first in the U.S. as a new tab within Twitter’s iPhone and Android applications, as well as on its main desktop website. It will contain sections on subjects including entertainment and sports.
The San Francisco-based company has been building up a team of curators that will sift through Twitter for notable posts. Partners on the project also will contribute, including Bleacher Report, Buzzfeed, Entertainment Weekly, Fox News, Getty Images, Mashable, NASA, New York Times, Vogue and Washington Post.
Dorsey touted Moments, known internally as Project Lightning, on a conference call Monday announcing his permanent return to the CEO role, saying it’s among a number of changes the company will be making to simplify Twitter and attract new users.
“Project Lightning is one such opportunity to really make sure that we can show off exactly what’s going on in the world in a very contextual way,” Dorsey said.
The product also creates new advertising opportunities for Twitter, the main way it makes money. The company plans to roll out "promoted moments," where brands can sponsor a collection of tweets about particular events. While Twitter’s revenue increased 61 percent in the second quarter to $502.4 million, it still isn’t profitable, compiling a net loss of $136.7 million in the period.