For for the first time in several years, we can say without irony that Twitter appears to have a slight wind at its back. A little more than two years after Jack Dorsey returned as CEO, investors seem mildly content with progress and willing to give the company a second look.
Riding this mini-momentum, the company will today launch a new experiment to leverage its growth in live video, a segment that has arguably been one of its biggest recent successes amid a host of struggles. Starting at 8 a.m. on the East Coast, Bloomberg begins broadcasting TicToc, a 24/7 news channel that exists solely on Twitter.
The landing page for TicToc marries a video livestream with a curated Twitter stream. In essence, it combines the second-screen experience many have hacked together over the years as they watch big events like the Super Bowl or the Oscars. Live TV viewing has long been one of Twitter’s most popular use cases, and over the past year the company has sought to integrate that experience into its platform.
It’s another example of Twitter being a bit pokey when it comes to product development and instead following its users’ lead — a tradition that began with the hashtag and continued on down to longer tweets.
Still, better late than never, right? And as Dorsey and Twitter have sought to make the case for a turnaround, live video viewing on the platform has garnered some of the most consistently positive metrics.
During its third quarter earnings report in October, the company noted that one year after the decision to focus on livestreaming premium content, it streamed more than 830 events in the three months ending in September. Twitter claimed it was seeing “significant interest from new content partners and advertisers” regarding livestreaming on its platform.
In fact, the company announced 30 livestreaming partnerships that quarter, and it cited a strong reception to its livestreaming products at advertising industry events. The use of Periscope also continues to grow nicely. In addition,Twitter has called video its “largest ad format,” though it didn’t break out specific revenues.
TicToc goes a step further. The Bloomberg channel includes live video and reported segments from its journalists. In the adjacent stream, Bloomberg says it will include “breaking news content from consumers, curated and verified by Bloomberg editors with a real-time distillation of the related conversation on Twitter.”
“We’re seeing a shift in the media landscape today: More content companies are partnering with platforms to create hybrid businesses that better serve consumers and society. With TicToc by Bloomberg, we’re fusing the best of Bloomberg and Twitter to build a fast and credible modern news experience,” said Bloomberg Media CEO Justin B. Smith, in a statement. “The launch of this new network further reinforces our strategy of driving innovation through exciting new products and services that touch a broad audience around the world.”
One of the benefits, and potentially interesting experiments, will be to see how having that curated experience impacts users’ interest and attention. For hard-core users, Twitter’s charm is its unruly, unfiltered flow. But for many people, the general Twitter feed has degenerated over the years and now remains susceptible to things like harassment, bullying, and violent content. Having a news organization weed that out while providing verified content could certainly limit issues around fake news and propaganda.
“Twitter is where people go for breaking news, and now our global audience can turn to TicToc by Bloomberg at any time to see what’s happening in the world, no matter where they are,” said Anthony Noto, Twitter COO, in a statement. “Combining the journalistic integrity of Bloomberg with the speed and global availability of Twitter makes this a collaboration we are really excited about.”
Overall, though, the big issue will come back to monetization, a topic Twitter has struggled with pretty much forever. Bloomberg says it already has several high-profile sponsors who have created “branded native content and unique integrations woven into the video programming, created by Bloomberg in partnership with each sponsor.”
The companies haven’t explained how revenues will be split, so it may take several quarters before such ventures become significant enough for Twitter to disclose many details. But even as usage has increased over the past year, Twitter hasn’t been able to yet turn that into more ad dollars.
If the Bloomberg channel can at least demonstrate that new products can drive new revenue, Twitter may at last be on the path of convincing investors and users that it has at least found a way to be sustainable over the long-term.
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