Sunday, October 11, 2015

"Twitter...has the potential to be the best newspaper in the world"

From stratechery:

Twitter’s Moment

It’s Always Darkest Before the Dawn

I try to save the most over-used of clichés for special moments, and that’s exactly what this week feels like for Twitter. You may disagree, of course — Wall Street does, having driven the stock down yesterday to just a dollar above its IPO price (and 38% down from its first day close) — but that’s why the cliché works: things may seem dark, but I’m optimistic that the horizon has just the slightest glimmer of light.

Long time readers know that while I love and value the product, I’m no Twitter fanboy. The company’s user retention issues were apparent well before the IPO, and the company had a clear product problem that, ultimately and correctly, cost CEO Dick Costolo his job. Tack on a messy — and thus, unsurprising — CEO search that culminated in a part-time CEO in direct contradiction to the Board of Director’s public statements to the contrary,
and no wonder the stock has been down-and-to-the-right, with all of the problems (especially around retention) that that entails. Again, this was predictable.

I think, though, it’s time for a new prediction: that the summer of 2015 will be seen as the low point for Twitter, and that this week in particular will mark the start of something new and valuable. Crucially, the reasons why are directly related to why I was bearish for so long: the product, the CEO, and the stock.

The Build-up
It was a bit disconcerting when, during the conference call to announce the appointment of Jack Dorsey as CEO, Lead Independent Director Peter Currie, Dorsey, and newly promoted COO Adam Bain brought up Project Lightning, an internal project that was bizarrely revealed to BuzzFeed by Costolo just days before his departure; at the time it was hard to see the pre-announcement as anything other than a last ditch attempt to save his job, and one wondered if the mentions on the conference call had a similar motivation: give Wall Street something, anything, to hold onto, even if jacking up expectations would hurt the new product when it launched.
Well, the product launched…and it’s fantastic. Moreover, it’s not only that it’s fantastic from a product perspective — actually, there is a lot to nitpick — but that it is fantastic from a strategic perspective.

The Product
Moments has three components:
  • When you first tap the Moments tab at the bottom of the Twitter app
you’re dropped into the ‘Today’ view that lists a mishmash of stories that, well, happened today.
    Touch any of the stories to get a curated list of tweets that tell the story in question through videos, images, and sometimes just text. It’s a really great experience, and I found the sports stories with their combination of highlights and tweeted reactions particularly enjoyable
  • For any Moment in progress, you can tap a button to add tweets about that Moment to your main timeline. Crucially, though, those tweets only persist for the duration of the event in question; the ‘Unfollow’, which is the most essential action when it comes to building a Twitter feed you actually read, is done for you
  • Finally, in what was probably the biggest surprise in the product, there is a carousel at the top leading to more focused categories:
Each of these categories includes not only ‘News’ or ‘Entertainment’ Moments that just happened, but also more timeless content, particularly in ‘Fun.’ Look carefully at those category titles, though — they sure look familiar:
That’s right, Twitter just reinvented the newspaper. It’s not just any newspaper 
though — it has the potential to be the best newspaper in the world.
The Strategy 
This newspaper angle touches on the strategic aspect of Moments. The demise of newspapers is the most obvious example of Aggregation Theory and what happens when distribution becomes free.....MUCH MORE