In its latest effort to innovate around its business model of opacity, Twitter officially today unveiled its latest self-invented metric, dubbed “monetizable daily active usage.”
Naturally, this being Twitter, the company decided to retire the more standard Monthy Active User metric during a quarter in which it announced MAUs were actually good, MAUs rose to 330 million in the first quarter of 2019, up from 321 million the previous quarter.
Still, that’s slightly down from one year ago, an indication that Twitter continues to stagnate more than 13 years after its founding. Not to mention remaining a cesspool of bigotry, racism, and misogyny that it can’t seem to fix.
But, first things first. Let’s find some happier metrics!
The company announced last quarter that it would focus on mDAU. And in doing so, it did not even have the courtesy to explain why the “m” would be lower case.
Twitter defines mDAU as “users who logged in or were otherwise authenticated and accessed Twitter on any given day through Twitter.com or Twitter applications that are able to show ads.”
Somewhat amazingly, Twitter also notes: “Additionally, our calculation of mDAU is not based on any standardized industry methodology and is not necessarily calculated in the same manner or comparable to similarly titled measures presented by other companies.”
Yup. That’s ’cause Twitter just made it up. A search of SEC filings the last four years reveals that exactly one company uses this metric: Twitter.
Another fun disclosure about Twitter’s so-called metrics:
While these numbers are based on what we believe to be reasonable estimates for the applicable period of measurement, there are inherent challenges in measuring usage and user engagement across our large user base around the world. Furthermore, our metrics may be impacted by our information quality efforts, which are our overall efforts to reduce malicious activity on the service, inclusive of spam, malicious automation, and fake accounts.
Translation: These metrics represent our best efforts though we can’t be sure they’re right but we’re trying our best but this stuff is hard so ¯\_(ツ)_/¯.
So, Grand Canyon-sized caveats aside, how did this magical mystery metric mDAU pan out?
According to Twitter’s earnings report, mDAUs grew from 120 million to 126 million over the course of 2018, and grew this past quarter to 134 million. Eureka! Growth!
One could note that this also indicates that some portion of those 196 MAUs don’t fall into this more elite, refined mDAU bucket. These are effectively worthless bottom-feeding parasites from a business model-monetization-advertising-value chain point of view.
Rather than getting more people onto Twitter’s platform, which appears to be futile, Twitter’s main mission now is to stick some ads in front of these freeloading riffraff.
Still, growth is growth is growth, disproving that assertion by the Talking Heads that “Facts don’t do want I want them to.” This is 2019 and facts do in fact do what publicly traded companies want them to.
Of course, Twitter has made earnings metric obfuscation something of a specialty.
Back in 2017, the company began emphasizing “daily average usage,” in which it insisted “usage” was synonymous with “users.” It highlighted at the time double-digit percentage growth in this DAU category. But just for yuks, it said it would not release the absolute numbers of DAUs, just percentage increases or decreases.
I pointed out then that this was absurd:
Twitter’s unwillingness to share the underlying number is indefensible. If DAUs are the metric the company wants to be judged by, then the data would seem to be material to investors. Period. Instead, analysts have made a cottage industry out of trying to calculate just how many DAUs Twitter actually has.
So, at least mDAUs come with underlying numbers. Progress of a sort, I suppose. Assuming they’re more or less accurate. But ditching MAUs makes it hard to measure longer-term progress and just serves to point out again and again that Twitter has pretty much maxed out the number of people on planet Earth who want to be on Twitter. Which, perhaps, is the real point.
For now on, mDAUs will be the metric Twitter wants Wall Street to watch. And if Apple can stop reporting the number of its most important product that it sells — well, who is to say what any company is required to tell investors? Let the Olympic Games of Inventing Metrics begin, and may the company with the most lawyers and accountants win.