Twitter made a subtle but vital tweak last week. If you weren’t looking carefully, you could have easily missed it.
Without any fanfare or ado, Twitter reclassified their app in the Apple store from the “Social Network” category to the “News” category, where it has quickly reaped the benefit of being the #1 free news app on the market.
Some are arguing that this move is a tactic to gain visibility as the #1 news app, rather that the #4 social network app (behind Facebook Messanger, What’s App and Facebook proper – along with a fast rising Musical.ly on its coattails).
I would argue that the move solves a deeper existential question Twitter has been wrestling with since its IPO.
It also reminded me of a great scene from Mad Men where Don Draper gives his most poignant sales lesson:
“If you don’t like what’s being said, change the conversation.”
In the episode, executives from a building company are taking a public beating for their decision to tear down the beloved Penn station to build an arena and concert hall now known as Madison Square Garden.
Instead of focusing on the past – on Penn Station – Don suggests ignoring the outcry. Stop acknowledging the problem.
“I was in California. Everything is new, and it’s clean. The people are filled with hope. New York City is in decay. But Madison Square Garden is the beginning of a new city on a hill.”
Back to Twitter.
Twitter is not Facebook. It never will be. Maybe it could have been, but it’s not.
Not only is Twitter not Facebook, but it’s also not Instagram, Snapchat or What’s App.
Despite its best efforts, Twitter is not an uber growth social network.
But it is a real business.
Twitter did $2.2 billion in 2015. That’s up 57% YoY.
Facebook is doing 10x that. But again Twitter is not Facebook.
Twitter differentiates itself through its ability to disseminate real-time news. It’s the very best “second screen” experience, which is why it was awarded the NFL’s mobile streaming contract despite higher bids from Verizon.
When there’s an earthquake, an election, a sporting event, a crisis people flock to Twitter.
Here’re some more revenue figures:
Time Magazine: $3.1 billion in 2015 (down from $3.3)
Gannet (USA Today) $2.8 billion in 2015 (down from $3.1)
New York Times: $1.5 billion in 2015 (flat)
If you don’t like what’s being said, change the conversation – the sooner Twitter starts embracing what they are, the more the public will realize the strong underlying business, based on revenue and engagement not vanity metrics like user growth.
Wall Street needs to stop comparing Twitter to the social networks de jour. Twitter isn’t a social network. It’s the Newspaper.
It now looks like Twitter is starting to understand that themselves.