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From: Glenn Petersen11/14/2020 7:51:48 PM
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Parler, Backed by Mercer Family, Makes Play for Conservatives Mad at Facebook, Twitter

The libertarian-minded platform aims to challenge tech giants through a focus on free speech; surge in users since the election

By Jeff Horwitz and Keach Hagey
Wall Street Journal
Updated Nov. 14, 2020 5:48 pm ET

CEO of Parler John Matze says the platform has grappled with its rapid growth. PHOTO: BRIDGET BENNETT FOR THE WALL STREET JOURNAL

As Facebook Inc. FB 0.68% and Twitter Inc. TWTR 1.57% have taken a harder line against unsubstantiated claims of a stolen presidential election, prominent conservatives on both platforms have responded with anger and a frequent retort: Follow me on Parler.

Launched in 2018, the libertarian-leaning social network was the most downloaded app on both Android and Apple devices for most of last week, according to data from Google and analytics firm App Annie. Its leaders envision it as a free-speech-focused alternative to the giants of Silicon Valley.

The platform also has some deep-pocketed investors. Hedge-fund investor Robert Mercer and his daughter Rebekah are among the company’s financial backers, according to people familiar with the matter. The Mercers have previously financed a number of conservative causes.

After The Wall Street Journal reported on the Mercers’ ties with Parler, Chief Executive John Matze confirmed that Rebekah Mercer was the lead investor in the company at its outset and said that her backing was dependent on the platform allowing users to control what they see. Mr. Mercer couldn't immediately be reached for comment.

Ms. Mercer also said in a post on the platform that she and Mr. Matze “started Parler to provide a neutral platform for free speech, as our founders intended.” She said the effort is an answer to what she called the “ever increasing tyranny and hubris of our tech overlords.”

Rebekah Mercer, right, and Nick Ayers, a Trump adviser, arriving at Trump Tower in New York in 2016.PHOTO: AP
The company’s user base more than doubled to 10 million in under a week, making it difficult for its roughly 30-person staff to keep up with the flood of new sign-ups.

“You’d fix one thing, and another would blow out,” Mr. Matze said. “We’re now solid at this point.”

Other allies of President Trump have joined Ms. Mercer in framing Parler’s rapid growth as a rebuke to major tech platforms’ efforts to more aggressively label content or restrict the reach of posts that the platforms deemed misleading or dangerous. Fox Business anchor Maria Bartiromo announced she was quitting Twitter TWTR 1.57% for Parler, where she has amassed more than 1 million followers. Conservative talk show host Dan Bongino—who is both one of Facebook’s most popular content creators and an investor in Parler—heralded its growth as “a collective middle finger to the tech tyrants.”

Both of them have continued to post on Facebook and Twitter, though, raising the question of whether Parler will eventually complement or replace larger platforms with much bigger audiences.

In part, that answer will be determined by the success of Parler’s business model, which eschews some of the foundational tools of social media.

Twitter and Facebook gather extensive data about the content users interact with—and then customize what users see based on what’s likely to appeal to them. When the platforms detect content that’s popular among a swath of users, they promote that content in more users’ feeds—creating the sort of viral sensations social media is known for.
Parler doesn’t do that. The platform doesn’t use content-recommendation algorithms, collects almost no data about its users and, for privacy reasons, hasn’t provided the tools to let users easily cross-post from other platforms. Parler simply shows users all the posts from everyone they follow, in reverse chronological order.

While Parler’s terms of service allow the app to tailor content for its users in the future, executives said they were committed to their libertarian principles.

“We’re choosing to be a neutral platform,” said Jeffrey Wernick, the company’s chief operating officer.

Parler’s hands-off philosophy could test users.

Unlike Facebook and Twitter, Parler leaves virtually all moderation decisions up to individuals, allowing them to choose whether to apply filters that hide content such as hate speech, graphic violence and pornography. The minimal enforcement that exists—primarily the removal of spam, threats of violence, or illegal activity—is handled by “community jurors,” all currently volunteers.

That policy leads to freewheeling political discussion. It also allows some communities to flourish that don’t fit as easily on other platforms, such as a group of users who publish their nude photos on the platform, Mr. Matze said.

Parler has also been embraced by individuals who have been banned by other platforms. Far-right talk-show host Alex Jones, the extremist group The Proud Boys and the “Stop the Steal” election protest organizers all have established sizable followings on Parler after being banned from Facebook.

In recent weeks the app has teemed with claims about election fraud without offering evidence, white-supremacist content and posts from backers of the QAnon conspiracy theory, the Anti-Defamation League said in a blog post Thursday.

Mr. Matze said allowing those groups on the platform is consistent with the company’s commitment to free speech, even if not all of it is to his taste.

“Those Q-Anon people, they creep me out,” said Mr. Matze, the 26-year-old CEO who founded the Henderson, Nev.-based company after graduating from the University of Denver.

“I can see why there’s interest in this,” said Antonio Garcia Martinez, a former Facebook product manager and Twitter adviser, noting that mainstream platforms feel they must make concessions on free speech in order to reach the broadest possible audience.

Yet recent history suggests that “at some point the world revolts against this sort of thing,” he said, noting the struggles of alt-right platforms such as Gab. It faced both public condemnation and a blockade by web-hosting and payment providers in 2018 after revelations that a man who killed 11 people at a Pittsburgh synagogue had posted on Gab about plans to act on his anti-Semitic beliefs. Gab said afterward that it would bolster efforts to prevent threats of physical harm.

Shannon McGregor, a social media researcher at the University of North Carolina’s Center for Information, Technology and Public Life, said partisan social media has traditionally struggled, in part because sparring across ideological lines keeps users engaged.

In addition, she said, Parler’s commitment to chronological feeds for users could present challenges for high-profile content creators.

“It’s not going to give the greatest voice to the leading figures in the way that an algorithmic feed does,” she said.

Parler executives acknowledge that their principles could slow their growth.

Turning a profit isn’t an urgent concern, Mr. Wernick said, adding that the surge in Parler downloads has been accompanied by interest from new potential investors and advertisers.

“We think that, long term, doing the right thing will pay off,” he said.

Write to Jeff Horwitz at and Keach Hagey at

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From: Glenn Petersen11/17/2020 9:09:45 AM
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Twitter is rolling out competitors to Instagram, Snapchat and Clubhouse

Salvador Rodriguez @SAL19


-- Twitter on Tuesday launched Fleets, its competitor to Snapchat and Instagram’s stories features, to all users.

-- The company also announced Spaces, a feature that will allow users to join virtual rooms where they can engage in real-time, audio conversations with others. The feature is similar to that of Clubhouse, a popular startup.

Twitter on Tuesday launched Fleets, its competitor to the stories features available in Snapchat and Instagram. It also announced that it will soon start testing a new audio feature similar to that of popular startup Clubhouse.

Fleets lets Twitter users post full-screen photos, videos, reactions to tweets or plain text that disappears after 24 hours.

Twitter began testing Fleets in March in select markets like Brazil, but it starts rolling out globally to iOS and Android Twitter users on Tuesday. The feature will show up at the top of users’ apps, above their feed. The company said it expects this feature to encourage more users to post content.

“People feel more comfortable joining conversations on Twitter with this ephemeral format because what they’re saying lives just for a moment instead of feeling like it’s around forever,” said Joshua Harris, Twitter design director.

The company on Tuesday also announced Spaces, a feature that will allow users to join virtual rooms where they can engage in real-time, audio conversations with others.

Spaces brings to mind Clubhouse, a startup that quickly gained popularity earlier this year among venture capitalists. Clubhouse allows its users to join rooms where they can engage in real-time, audio conversations with others.

Twitter product lead Kayvon Beykpour said Spaces will allow Twitter users to have more thoughtful debate and exchanges.

“It’s not a ‘Here’s an interesting startup doing something interesting. Let’s try and replicate it,’” Beykpour said. “It’s very fundamental for us. If we want Twitter to be a place where we can have thoughtful conversations, we need to support a wide spectrum of those conversations.”

Spaces will roll out to select test users before the end of 2020. At the start of that testing, Spaces will only be available to users who are women or of marginalized backgrounds, the company said. Those are users who face a disproportionate amount of harassment on Twitter, said Maya Gold Patterson, Twitter staff product designer.

“The team is interested and the company is interested in hearing first from this group of people on their feedback,” Patterson said.

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From: Glenn Petersen11/22/2020 7:08:31 PM
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Twitter’s New ‘Fleets’ Are for People Who Are Afraid to Tweet

‘Tweeting, retweeting, engaging in conversation can honestly be incredibly terrifying,’ the company’s head of research said

Will Oremus
OneZero via Medium
November 17, 2020

Twitter Fleets, a new “Stories”-like feature. Image: Twitter

Twitter on Tuesday launched “Fleets,” its version of the Snapchat Stories (or Instagram Stories, or Facebook Stories, or LinkedIn Stories, or… well, you get the idea). Like those others, they can come in the form of text, images, or video; they appear above the feeds of the people who follow you and they disappear after 24 hours. On Twitter, they can also include a tweet, either yours or someone else’s, along with your reaction to it. Unlike tweets, they can’t be retweeted, liked, or replied to, except via direct message.

From one perspective, this is just Twitter keeping up with the Joneses, launching a familiar feature in a characteristically belated fashion. In a call with journalists on Monday, however, Twitter executives made the case that Fleets are part of a larger push to reshape the service as something friendlier, safer, and more comfortable for novice users. Along with Fleets, the company teased an upcoming feature called Spaces, which will allow users to set up live audio chat rooms and control who can join.

If you ask Twitter’s power users what the company’s biggest problems are, especially in the United States, you’re likely to hear about issues such as content moderation, abuse and harassment, bots, partisan echo chambers, and its codependent, love-hate relationship with Donald Trump. Those are all real issues that the company continues to struggle with. From a business standpoint, however, Twitter’s biggest problem is simply that most people still don’t tweet.

While the platform has grown in recent years, closing in on 200 million daily active users worldwide, it was long ago lapped by younger rivals such as Instagram, Snapchat, and TikTok, and the pandemic has not resulted in the boom that other online platforms have experienced. What’s holding Twitter back, the company believes, is not a lack of public interest in its platform, which has become integral to politics and culture. It’s that a lot of people, even after they join, are scared to tweet.

“Tweeting, retweeting, engaging in conversation can honestly be incredibly terrifying,” especially for new users, said Nikkia Reveillac, the company’s head of research. “They don’t know if anyone will reply; they don’t know if anyone will even care.” That matters to Twitter because its data show that, while some people may settle in as lurkers, actively tweeting and replying is what drives people to make Twitter a habit, rather than just an occasional visit.

Early tests of Fleets in several countries suggest that new users find them to be “an easier way to get started,” and that those with the feature enabled go on to engage more, said Joshua Harris, a director of design at Twitter. “We’ve been able to see how this new experience allows people to share what they’re thinking with less pressure.” Harris seemed to view the feature as primarily conducive to casual, tossed-off personal thoughts or reactions that don’t merit a permanent, public tweet. Granted, that describes a lot of tweets that people already send — but also, it seems, a lot that they opt not to.

Recent Fleets from people you follow will appear above your timeline, a piece of real estate that Twitter is now referring to internally as the “Fleet line.” But they won’t have that spot to themselves. In the coming months, they’ll share it with Spaces, an audio chat product that Twitter said it will roll out “as an experiment” to a small group of users.

Twitter Spaces will allow users to start voice chats with groups of people. Image:

Those with Spaces enabled will be able to convene a live group voice chat on Twitter and invite either their followers or a few specific people to join. Anyone can listen, but the person who creates the Space controls who can participate. The concept calls to mind Clubhouse and Discord, which have grown fast amid the pandemic, but which have also been beset by moderation problems that may be endemic to voice platforms. But Twitter’s mostly public nature suggests that, for better or worse, it might feel more like an onstage panel than a living room chat.
Another thing that will set Spaces apart is the initial audience. Twitter product designer Maya Gold Patterson said the feature will be enabled first for women and people from marginalized communities — that is, some of the people most likely to face harassment, abuse, and bigotry on Twitter. “The company is interested in hearing first from this group of people on their feedback on audio Spaces,” Patterson said.

Recent Fleets from people you follow will appear above your timeline, a piece of real estate that Twitter is now referring to internally as the “Fleet line”

Taken together, these product updates suggest that Twitter views its longstanding problems with user safety and user growth as two sides of a coin. If Twitter can find ways to make marginalized users feel safer, it should in theory feel safer to everyone else, too — and more welcoming for people who have been hesitant to get involved at all.

Then again, Twitter has been trying to solve those same two problems for years, in various ways. The company, to its credit, seems to finally be ramping up its pace of product development. But it’s not clear yet whether bolting on additional features can change the underlying nature of Twitter’s service —or convince newcomers that it’s worth their time.

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To: Glenn Petersen who wrote (1299)12/13/2020 11:40:57 AM
From: Glenn Petersen
   of 1333
h/t Ron

Why would anyone wish to participate in an echo chamber?

Conservatives flocked to Parler after the election. But its explosive growth is over

By Kaya Yurieff, C NN Business
Updated 6:23 AM ET, Thu December 10, 2020

(CNN)In the wake of the US election, conservatives flocked to alternative social networks including Parler over complaints that Facebook and Twitter censored their voices.

At one point, Parler hit the number one spot overall on Apple's US App Store, ahead of big names like TikTok and YouTube. In about a week, the app saw more than 4.5 million new people sign up for accounts, according to a letter from Parler CEO John Matze.

Now that bump appears to be fading.

New downloads for Parler have plummeted and are approaching the same levels as before the election, according to data from Apptopia, which tracks mobile apps. While Parler's daily active users, a key metric of how engaged people are in the service, remains higher than before the election, the number is decreasing, Apptopia says.

"The data trends resemble a fad, and a short-lived one at that," said Adam Blacker, VP of insights at Apptopia. "Parler had a very good spike. People were interested, it's in the news, it receives downloads. ... But it appears, in our data, that there is no staying power."

According to the data, on Oct. 25, Parler was downloaded about 16,000 times. Downloads peaked in mid-November, when it was downloaded nearly 340,000 times in a single day. On Monday, it was downloaded nearly 20,000 times. Daily active users on Parler shot up from about 500,000 on Oct. 25 to a peak of about 2.9 million in late November and have since fallen to 2.3 million.

Parler, founded in 2018, bills itself as "unbiased social media" and a place where people can "speak freely" without fear of being "deplatformed," according to its website and App Store description. It looks like a mashup of Twitter and Instagram, with a main feed, follower metrics and ways to share posts and links. It's also rife with misinformation, including a stream of baseless allegations of voter fraud.

In recent years, cries of conservative bias or accusations of censorship have made way for several alternative platforms, including Gab, 4chan and 8chan. However, none of them have yet succeeded in creating a robust right-leaning platform that sticks with a significant audience.

Upstarts don't have the vast resources of behemoths like Facebook ( FB), they often can't handle an influx of traffic without problems and they lack the functionality that mainstream networks have built up over the years. Plus, it can be hard for people to fully leave the platforms they've used for years.

CNN Business previously spoke with Trump supporters who have used alternative social media platforms, including Parler, and almost none of them had totally ditched services like Facebook and Twitter. Some said they don't want to cede the space to the "other side," some want to be able to see what the other side is saying and to argue with them.

Experts in content moderation also said that while the concept of a platform with little content moderation might sound appealing on paper, the reality is more complicated. For example, Parler's lack of moderation policies has allowed for a proliferation of pornography on the platform, according to a report from the Washington Post.

"In theory, a user is like 'I don't want Twitter to silence my speech,'" said Daniel Kelley, associate director of the Center for Technology and Society at the Anti-Defamation League. "But in practice, if you're really not doing any content moderation, even at the level of the most egregious, the experience for users declines significantly."

Prominent conservative voices who have joined the platform, including Fox Business host Maria Bartiromo, Fox News host Sean Hannity, radio personality Mark Levin and Congressman Devin Nunes, continue to post frequently. But that won't be enough to keep the platform going, according to Kelley.

"Ninja made the jump from Twitch to Mixer, and Mixer shut down earlier this year," Kelley said, referring to the prominent "Fortnite" streamer who said he would exclusively use Microsoft's Mixer video game streaming platform. "You can definitely boost [a service] with people who are prominent, but there has to be an organic community in order for platforms to grow."

After Mixer shutdown due to lack of momentum, Ninja went back to Twitch.

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From: Glenn Petersen1/25/2021 9:22:34 PM
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Twitter launches 'Birdwatch,' a forum to combat misinformation

Twitter said it hopes to build a community of "Birdwatchers" that can eventually help moderate and label tweets in its main product.

Jan. 25, 2021, 11:56 AM CST
By Ben Collins and Brandy Zadrozny

Twitter unveiled a feature Monday meant to bolster its efforts to combat misinformation and disinformation by tapping users in a fashion similar to Wikipedia to flag potentially misleading tweets.

The new system allows users to discuss and provide context to tweets they believe are misleading or false. The project, titled Birdwatch, is a standalone section of Twitter that will at first only be available to a small set of users, largely on a first-come, first-served basis. Priority will not be provided to high-profile people or traditional fact-checkers, but users will have to use an account tied to a real phone number and email address.

“Birdwatch allows people to identify information in Tweets they believe is misleading or false, and write notes that provide informative context," Twitter Vice President of Product Keith Coleman wrote in a press release. "We believe this approach has the potential to respond quickly when misleading information spreads, adding context that people trust and find valuable."

While Birdwatch will initially be cordoned off to a separate section of Twitter, the company said “eventually we aim to make notes visible directly on Tweets for the global Twitter audience, when there is consensus from a broad and diverse set of contributors.”

Demos of the product viewed by NBC News showed a separate area in which tweets are discussed and rated in a format that combines elements of both Reddit’s and Wikipedia’s moderation tools.

Birdwatch users are able to flag tweets from a dropdown menu directly within Twitter’s main interface, but discussion about a tweet’s veracity will remain exclusively in the Birdwatch section. Twitter says it does anticipate some users linking directly to Birdwatch discussions underneath high-profile and controversial tweets, just as some users would link out to fact-checking sites.

Participants in Birdwatch are able to rate others’ notes, as a mechanism to prevent bad-faith users from gaming the system and falsely labeling true tweets as false. Those ratings are then assembled into a Birdwatch profile separate of a Twitter profile, not unlike Reddit’s user-rating system.

Twitter said it hopes to build a community of "Birdwatchers" that can eventually help moderate and label tweets in its main product, but will not be immediately labeling tweets with Birdwatch suggestions.

Twitter has faced increased pressure over the last year to address rampant misinformation on the platform. Aside from removal, it has relied on labeling, or adding context below tweets that spread misinformation. In March, facing a deluge of misinformation about the pandemic, it began removing “misleading and potentially harmful content” about Covid-19. By May, it had introduced labels to respond to tweets containing conspiracy theories about the origins of the disease and fake cures.

In February, Twitter rolled out a new “manipulated media” label, affixing it first to a tweet from then-President Donald Trump. In the months ahead, it would label many more for misinformation around the Covid-19 pandemic and the election. In just the final two weeks before the election, Twitter said it labeled some 300,000 tweets for “disputed and potentially misleading” content.

Twitter told NBC News it was encouraged by early trials of the program, which have been ongoing in the last year. NBC News first reported on a leaked demo of the program, which was then titled “Community Notes,” in last February.

Twitter heavily focused on the threat of “manipulation” by what it calls “swarms” of bad actors, who may seek to use the platform as another weapon in online information wars.

“We know there are a number of challenges toward building a community-driven system like this — from making it resistant to manipulation attempts to ensuring it isn’t dominated by a simple majority or biased based on its distribution of contributors. We’ll be focused on these things throughout the pilot,” Coleman wrote.

Researchers will also be able to download bulk data about Birdwatch entries, which he hopes will “enable experts, researchers, and the public to analyze or audit Birdwatch” and deter manipulation.

“We know this might be messy and have problems at times, but we believe this is a model worth trying,” Coleman wrote.

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From: Glenn Petersen2/4/2021 8:53:39 PM
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Banning Trump Didn't Change How Much People Use Twitter, New Data Shows

Trump’s presence on Twitter had no impact on how much people used it, contrary to the popular narrative.

Alex Kantrowitz
Big Technology
February 4, 2021

For as long as Donald Trump was president, there was a common misconception that Twitter’s fate was tied to his. That without his presence, Twitter would lose truckloads of users and engagement, and it was therefore beholden to him. Now that Twitter’s banned Trump though, the data shows he had no discernable impact on how much people used it.

Daily use of Twitter has remained remarkably consistent after it banned Trump last month, according to new data from mobile research company Apptopia. Across January, Twitter barely registered a blip in the number of times people used its app. The day of the ban itself is impossible to pick out when looking at the trend line.

“It is not easy for one person to have a noticeable impact on such large social network apps,” Adam Blacker, Apptopia’s VP of insights and global alliances, told me. “Cultural events are seen much better in the data than any singular person's situation.”

The new data, first published here, can finally put to rest the notion that Twitter kept Trump on its service to boost engagement and make money from ads. Despite Trump’s numerous run-ins with its rules, Twitter kept his account live as a matter of principle.

“Twitter felt an extreme responsibility to allow and stimulate public conversations,” one former Twitter executive told me. “They wrestled with that charge, the ability to enable those conversations, and what Trump had done to turn the conversations — and even the platform — negative.”

Beyond ideological opposition to removing Trump, Twitter’s real risk in banning him was it could spark concern among world leaders that they might be next. These leaders could block Twitter or punish staff in their countries, something the ex-executive said was a real fear. (Indeed, India is now threatening Twitter employees with prison time for letting journalists criticize its government.) For Twitter, this was more worrisome than a potential drop in usage that was never likely to materialize.

Twitter declined to comment. But it didn’t dispute the data. Apptopia pulls data from 125,000 apps on iOS and Android, along with publicly available sources, to reach its conclusions. Its data didn’t show any meaningful change in Twitter downloads, sessions, or time spent after the ban.

Twitter’s business did have a solid four years under Trump. While Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey only narrowly survived an activist investor’s attempt to oust him, the company’s stock price tripled during Trump’s presidency. Twitter’s success however was largely the result it finding direction under Dorsey, who had it focus on news while Facebook pulled back.

With @realDonaldTrump no longer active, Twitter might even enjoy a bump in business, according to Darren Lachtman, a former Twitter global director of brand strategy. “Twitter is and has been a steady part of pop culture, and one user — no matter who he is — disappearing clearly didn’t make a big difference,” he told me. “If anything, this will be a plus for advertisers who were turned off by toxicity from the past few years.”

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From: Glenn Petersen2/9/2021 8:09:42 PM
1 Recommendation   of 1333
Twitter is ‘bigger than any one account,’ says Dorsey in first earnings call after Trump ban

Salvador Rodriguez @SAL19


-- Twitter’s stock was flat in after-hours trading on Tuesday after the company reported its fourth-quarter earnings, as the company beat Wall Street’s earnings and revenue expectations.

-- But the company failed to meet Wall Street’s user growth expectations.

-- The company warned it expects headcount growth of more than 20% this year, with overall expenses increasing more than 25%.

Twitter’s stock was up slightly in after-hours trading on Tuesday after the company reported its fourth-quarter earnings, as the company beat Wall Street’s earnings and revenue expectations. But the company failed to meet Wall Street’s user growth expectations.

Here are the key numbers:

Earnings per share: 38 cents, adjusted, vs. 31 cents forecast by Refinitiv

Revenue: $1.29 billion vs. $1.19 billion forecast by Refinitiv

Monetizable daily active users (mDAUs): 192 million vs. 193.5 million expected, according to StreetAccount

Looking ahead, Twitter said it expects revenue to grow faster than expenses in 2021, assuming the pandemic continues to improve and taking into account an expected “modest impact” from Apple’s upcoming privacy changes to iOS 14. However, the company warned it expects headcount growth of more than 20% this year, with overall expenses increasing more than 25%.

Twitter guided that it is expecting revenue between $940 million and $1.04 billion in the first quarter. Analysts were expecting guidance of $965 million on average, according to Refinitiv.

Twitter also noted that despite “the unusual circumstances” in the first quarter, the increase in “average absolute mDAU” through the end of January was above the average of the last four years. This stat may have been a reference to the company’s Jan. 8 decision to permanently suspend the account of former President Donald Trump. The company said it expects to see mDAU growth of approximately 20% year over year in the first quarter.

“We’re a platform that is obviously much larger than any one topic or any one account,” Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey told analysts on a call.

Later, when asked a variant of the same question, Dorsey reiterated that 80% of Twitter’s audience is outside the U.S. Dorsey added that Twitter users are able to follow more than 6,000 different topics, explaining that those topics drive growth.

“We have a global service. We are also not just dependent upon just news and politics being what drives Twitter,” Dorsey said. “This is why I believe being able to follow topics and interests is so critical and so important.”

Twitter’s total mDAUs grew by 5 million from the third quarter to 192 million but fell shy of analysts’ expectations of 193.5 million. The user base was up 26.3% compared to a year ago.

Twitter ad revenue grew 31% year over year to $1.15 billion, according to the report, with total ad engagement growing 35% over the same period.

Twitter noted that revenue from its Mobile Application Promotion (MAP) offering, a part of its direct response ad business, was up 50% year over year in the fourth quarter. The company on Monday announced the launch of its rebuilt MAP product, and said in its earnings report that it “should increase our addressable market and diversify our customer base.”

This is breaking news. Please check back for updates.

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To: Glenn Petersen who wrote (1305)2/9/2021 11:00:14 PM
From: Glenn Petersen
   of 1333
Twitter Considers Subscription Fee for Tweetdeck, Unique Content

By Kurt Wagner
February 8, 2021, 7:00 AM EST

-- Internal groups are researching options users might pay for

-- Social network says ‘revenue durability’ is now top priority

Twitter Inc. is building a subscription product as a way to ease its dependence on advertising – a plan the social network has considered for years, and one that has taken on a heightened priority given the pandemic and pressure from activist investors to accelerate growth.

The majority of Twitter’s revenue comes from targeted advertising, which serves up promoted posts aimed at specific groups of users. That business has grown in recent years at a slower pace than competitors like Facebook Inc. and Snap Inc., and Twitter’s slice of the digital ad market globally remains at at a lackluster 0.8%, according to EMarketer.

Twitter, the thinking goes, would benefit from a separate revenue stream that isn’t as reliant on brand advertising. The company’s user base in the U.S., its most valuable market, has also started to plateau, meaning it can’t rely on simply adding users to juice revenue.

To explore potential options outside ad sales, a number of Twitter teams are researching subscription offerings, including one using the code name “Rogue One,” according to people familiar with the effort. At least one idea being considered is related to “tipping,” or the ability for users to pay the people they follow for exclusive content, said the people, who asked not to be named because the discussions are internal. Other possible ways to generate recurring revenue include charging for the use of services like Tweetdeck or advanced user features like “undo send” or profile-customization options.

Subscriptions have always offered a tantalizing alternative to advertising, but social networks have traditionally stayed free as a way to encourage user growth and engagement, which is then subsidized with paid marketing posts. Still, Twitter Chief Financial Officer Ned Segal said on a call with investors last year that a subscription option of some kind would offer sales “durability,” and recurring revenue is more consistent than advertising spending. Segal cautioned in July that Twitter was not only “very, very early” in exploring a subscription service, but also planned to be picky about how it goes forward. “We have a really high bar for when we would ask consumers to pay for aspects of Twitter,” he said.

The San Francisco-based company may update investors on its thinking when it reports earnings on Tuesday. It has mentioned the idea of subscriptions on the past two quarterly calls -- but the company has historically been slow in making product decisions. For the fourth quarter, analysts project revenue rose 18% from a year earlier to $1.19 billion, with profit estimated to come in at 30 cents a share, according to data complied by Bloomberg.

“Increasing revenue durability is our top company objective,” Bruce Falck, Twitter’s head of revenue products, said in a statement, adding that this “may include” subscriptions. “While we’re excited about this potential, it’s important to note we are still in very early exploration and we do not expect any meaningful revenue attributable to these opportunities in 2021.”

Some possibilities for this kind of recurring revenue have emerged based on user surveys, executive comments or past product moves. Twitter tested the idea of user “tips” in the past with its soon-to-be defunct live video service Periscope, and it’s become a popular business model for companies hoping to help creators make money from their fans or followers. Twitter would take a cut of the transactions.

The company is also considering charging some power users for a suite of services, which might include Tweetdeck, a sort of dashboard useful for viewing multiple feeds and overseeing different accounts. The service is typically used by Twitter’s more advanced users, and lets them follow multiple streams of tweets at one time. Tweetdeck is currently free, and doesn’t have ads, which makes it appealing to some users as an alternative to the main feed.

A recent survey from July, discovered by journalist Andrew Roth, also shows that Twitter is weighing whether consumers would pay for special features, like an “undo send” option or custom colors for their profiles. It is still unclear which products will eventually reach Twitter consumers.

Analysts have different ideas about which choices might work best. “A subscription offering that either offers more content or removes ads would be well received among Twitter’s more loyal users,” Ron Josey, an analyst at JMP Securities, wrote last summer.

Michael Levine, a senior analyst at Pivotal Research Group, doesn’t think people will pay for ad-free Twitter, but agrees that the company’s best option is to start selling some type of exclusive content.

“If they’re going to do this and they’re going to get this right, there needs to be some premium content that they are going to lean into that’s going to require investment,” he said. Levine also worries that Twitter won’t be able to entice enough signups to make a subscription business work. Even if Twitter, which had 187 million daily users in the third quarter, were to reach 10 million subscribers, Levine said, it wouldn’t be enough. Building a subscription product that’s only interesting to a small subset of users would be “an utter waste of time and a distraction,” he said.

Twitter has kicked around subscription ideas for years, according to former employees. The most serious effort was in 2017, when an internal team looked into ways it could charge for Tweetdeck. Some users were surveyed about which types of Tweetdeck features they might pay for, and internally employees discussed a broad range of options, like an enterprise tool to help people manage multiple accounts, or charging people to keep Tweetdeck ad-free. The research was ultimately abandoned and no subscription features were ever tested.

Twitter’s vision to build a subscription service was also complicated by rivals, including Facebook Inc., which has always been free. Facebook Chief Executive Officer Mark Zuckerberg has argued that charging users would cut into growth and hurt the company’s mission to connect the world. When it acquired the messaging app WhatsApp for $19 billion in 2014, it killed the app’s $1 annual subscription to encourage more people to sign up.

Twitter struggled with the idea of charging anything for its own service while competitors like Facebook refused to do the same, according to two former employees. There was also some fear that a subscription service might betray the idea of a free, open service that CEO Jack Dorsey envisions.

That thinking has changed, though, as indicated by Segal’s recent comments. Twitter hasn’t said what it plans to charge for, but Segal has shared hints in conversations with investors and analysts in recent months.

“You’ll be able to see us try all kinds of different things,” he said in early December at a Bank of America conference. “It could be higher-quality video. It could be analytics. It could be business presence. It could be the ability to look at something in a different way than you might be able to today.”

As Twitter moves closer to actual products tests, here’s a summary of some possible features or services the company could charge for:

• Ad-free feed. This may be a popular idea among consumers, but there are some, including Facebook’s Zuckerberg, who say offering users the ability to buy their way out of targeted advertisements and data collection is unfair because it rewards economic advantages. Doing this would also put Twitter’s most prominent business at risk.

• Tweetdeck. Power users love Tweetdeck, which has never had ads or generated revenue, because they can get tweets from multiple timelines in real time. Twitter has considered charging for Tweetdeck before.

• Exclusive content. This could be rolled out in many different ways. One option would be to let users charge followers for a separate timeline of their tweets. It’s similar in concept to a newsletter business. Some tweets are available to everyone, but others – perhaps analysis or breaking news tweets – cost extra. Twitter just acquired Revue, a newsletter startup, so it’s clear the company is interested in this general model.

• Higher-quality video. Segal has mentioned this idea, which makes more sense for video creators who want to upload high-quality video or clips that are longer.

• Verification. This idea could be popular among users, but seems unlikely to gain ground within the company. Verification is intended for “notable accounts,” according to Twitter, which indicates it doesn’t think verification should be for sale. Twitter surveys have shown that it is considering a verification badge for businesses, though it’s unclear what that would involve or if the company would charge a fee.

• Analytics. Users already get some free analytics, like how many followers someone added in a month and how many impressions posts get. But there is much more Twitter could offer, like follower demographics or what times are best for posting. Segal and user surveys have signaled the company is considering this option.

• Consumer features. This could include custom colors, hashtags or stickers for user profiles and posts. These kinds of small upgrades work with some messaging products, so there could be an audience for them on Twitter.

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From: Glenn Petersen2/11/2021 8:22:38 PM
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The Bull Case For Twitter Spaces

Why Twitter’s Clubhouse clone is poised to give the hottest app on the planet a run for its money.
Alex Kantrowitz
Big Technology
February 11, 2020

Twitter is considering building Spaces directly into its timeline
I live a simple life with a few steadfast rules. They include: 1) Be kind 2) Call loved ones at least once a week 3) Don’t expect too much from Twitter. Alas, after a hasty hot take and then some serious thought about Twitter’s new Clubhouse clone — called Twitter Spaces — I’m relaxing rule number three for just a moment. Lord help me.

Twitter and Clubhouse are locked in a battle to dominate a new form of audio social networking that feels equal parts podcast, industry convention, and conference call. For the uninitiated, the format has people gather in virtual “rooms” where a convening moderator sets a topic and invites people to speak. No new form of social media has been as promising since Snapchat debuted Stories in 2013. And like Stories, there’s a case to be made that the primary beneficiary will not be the originator.

Clubhouse, which pioneered this format, has built something special, no doubt. The discussions in its rooms feel timely, entertaining, and sometimes a bit edgy. Being in a room with celebrities and industry icons, even if you’re not a speaker, creates a feeling of shared presence that’s flat out electric. So it’s no wonder that Clubhouse invites are going for $125 on eBay.

But while Clubhouse may be the hottest app in the world, Twitter is well positioned to co-opt its energy with Spaces, a clone that replicates Clubhouse’s features and integrates them into the Twitter app. Twitter’s version — just rolling out — is intuitive, a logical fit, and adds a meaningful new experience to the app. It may not work (see: Rule three), but it’s likely not Google+ 2.0.

Whenever I evaluate a new social network’s prospects, I return to Eugene Wei’s framework: Status as a Service. In a lengthy post written two years ago, Wei, a former Amazon and Facebook employee, explained that when people use social networks, they “seek out the most efficient path to maximize their social capital.” People, in other words, expect to earn status from the effort they put into creating stuff on social media. That’s why they post for free. Young people, for example, stay away from Twitter because it’s difficult to reach anyone with their tweets. But they use Instagram because, per Wei, they can add lots of hashtags, get their posts on discovery pages, and build a following.
Clubhouse’s early boom is, in part, a land grab for status. People who spend time there sit in rooms, speak, and then revel in the followings they’re building. Nearly every early Clubhouse user I speak with brings up their follower count unprompted, and most within the first five minutes. Building a following on Clubhouse gives you an opportunity to reengage your followers in another room sometime down the road. It’s valuable social capital.

Twitter Spaces is better positioned to deliver that precious commodity though. On Spaces, people participate in rooms and add followers in the same way they do on Clubhouse (sounding smart, funny, engaging). And while they get that same ability to reengage their followers in a Spaces room sometime down the line, there’s an added benefit: The opportunity to drop tweets into new followers’ timelines.

A Twitter follower is therefore more valuable than a Clubhouse follower when it comes to building social capital. And for people looking for the most efficient path to maximize their social capital, a minute spent on Twitter Spaces is more useful than a minute on Clubhouse. So they’ll allocate their time accordingly. It’s a bit crude. But this is how these platforms work.
Twitter Spaces’ toughest challenge will be matching Clubhouse’s ability to highlight interesting rooms. “The magic of Clubhouse is the hallway,” Josh Constine, a Clubhouse power user and an investor whose firm invests in the app, told me. What Constine means is that when you open Clubhouse you can peruse a feed of rooms — that is, the hallway — and drop in and out as you scroll through. On Twitter today, you can only find Spaces when someone you follow is participating in one (it shows up in the Fleets bar), or when you see a tweet with a link to one. But Twitter has a valuable shortcut.

Unlike Facebook, where you connect with friends and family, on Twitter, you follow people based on your interests: reporters, athletes, politicians, entertainers, and so forth. Your Twitter follow list is therefore a loud signal pointing to the topics you’d be interested in hearing about, and the people you’d want to hear talk about them. Even without a “hallway” (a form of which the company seems intent to build), Twitter will show you relevant conversations right off the bat. “This experience fundamentally is the same thing,” Twitter product head Kayvon Beykpour told me in a conversation on Spaces last night. “The same use case, with slightly different mechanics.”

Twitter has another advantage when it comes to recruiting participants for Spaces: An engaged userbase filled with some of the world’s most prominent people. When Elon Musk goes on Clubhouse, it’s a news story. When he logs onto Twitter, it’s Wednesday. These power users will generate buzz for Spaces when they gain access to it, and they’ll get their millions of followers accustomed to using the format on Twitter. They’ll gravitate toward Twitter for a simple reason: Reach. They’ll be able to speak with more people on Twitter, which 192 million people use each day, than Clubhouse, which 2 million use each week.

Meanwhile, for the middle class of content creators (people with moderate sized-followings), Twitter has quietly assembled a suite of products to win them over. It acquired Revue, a newsletter platform that lets creators charge for subscriptions (and takes a 5% cut vs. Substack’s 10%) which syncs quite nicely with Spaces. Imagine the following scenario: Someone builds a paid newsletter on Revue, uses their Twitter account to share their work, and then jumps into Spaces to deepen their relationship with subscribers after they post. It works.

Finally, Twitter needs this and will do everything in its power to give it a chance. Twitter conversations have become so toxic that opening the app fills people with dread. Twitter can be fun and interesting. But most often it’s a rolling shouting match where even the most benign statements are picked apart by angry people looking to fight.

Spaces, in a best-case scenario, could help people see each other as humans, not 2D avatars. With audio, you can hear nuance, intonation, sarcasm, humor: context that is too often lost in the hellscape of the timeline. Talking — dialogue — can make even the most tense exchanges cool off (we saw this when San Francisco District Attorney Chesa Boudin dropped into a Clubhouse chat with some of his biggest haters). And this is why Twitter is going all in. For the sake of its future, this must work.

Case in point: After I tweeted that Twitter would win out vs. Clubhouse earlier this month, I got a lot of terse and angry pushback. Tonight, I’m going to talk it out on Clubhouse with some of those who disagreed with me (venue chosen at their request). The conversation will, with 100% certainty, be more productive than a Twitter spat. And sometime soon, we could be seeing this type of engagement regularly, perhaps in the same app.

If you have Clubhouse, you can join here and listen to the discussion at 6 p.m. pacific time today, Thursday 2/11:

I write this without a rooting interest. I haven’t invested in either company, unlike many of Clubhouse’s core evangelists. And I definitely don’t have a special affinity for Twitter. (Not long ago, I wrote a story that caused 1 million people to tweet #RIPTwitter over a weekend.) That said, I’ve been studying the service for a long time, and believe Spaces is a particularly unique fit. Twitter may well mess it up. And there are plenty of reasons why it won’t work. But everything seems aligned for Twitter Spaces to become the next iteration of Instagram Stories.

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From: Glenn Petersen2/17/2021 8:07:24 PM
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Twitter Closes at Record as Advertising Market Recovers

Ryan Vlastelica
Tue, February 16, 2021, 3:17 PM·1 min read

(Bloomberg) -- Twitter Inc. shares rose to an intraday record on Tuesday, taking out an all-time high that has stood for nearly its entire life as a public company.

The social-media platform gained 2.9% to close at $73.96. The shares have climbed for 11 straight sessions, their longest winning streak since August, and during the session rose as much as 4.1% to an intraday record of $74.84. The previous peak was reached in December 2013, less than two months after it went public.

The advance is the latest milestone for the company, which has advanced about 37% this year, shrugging off a brief decline that came after it permanently banned Donald Trump in the wake of the riot at the U.S. Capitol.

Like peers Snap Inc. and Pinterest Inc., Twitter has benefitted from a recovery in digital advertising. Earlier this month, it reported fourth-quarter revenue that beat analysts’ projections, though it warned that user growth may slow in 2021, following last year’s pandemic-driven surge.

“Twitter’s 2021 outlook is supported, in our view, by growing user engagement and prospects for increased digital ad spending,” said Mandeep Singh, an analyst at Bloomberg Intelligence.

Despite the recent gains, Wall Street remains mixed on Twitter’s longer-term prospects. According to data compiled by Bloomberg, 12 firms recommend buying the stock, compared with 24 that have a neutral view and five that have a bearish rating. The average price target of nearly $62 is about 17% below the current price.

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