Yesterday was a big day for Twitter: the social network introduced its long-rumoured algorithmic timeline features, before announcing its latest quarterly financial results.
While the former has conjured up the prospect of pitchfork-wielding users storming the company’s HQ in protest (or, alternatively, just moaning about it endlessly on Twitter), it’s the financials that are more worrying for Twitter’s long-term prospects.
On the algorithms: Twitter is NOT ditching the reverse-chronological timeline entirely, as feared in some quarters. Instead, it’s introducing a feature called “show me the best tweets first’, which people will be able to opt out of.
“When you open Twitter after being away for a while, the tweets you’re most likely to care about will appear at the top of your timeline – still recent and in reverse chronological order,” explained the company. “The rest of the tweets will be displayed right underneath, also in reverse chronological order, as always.”
This could be good news for some musicians on Twitter: the more engaged their fans are in terms of liking and retweeting them, the more likely those tweets will be to appear at the top of the timeline.
But the question remains how many people will be on Twitter to see them in the first place, as the social network’s financials revealed a fall in its active users. Well, sort of.
Twitter’s official monthly active users (MAUs) stayed flat at 320 million in the final quarter of 2015. But excluding “SMS fast followers” – people who access it entirely through text messages – MAUs fell from 307m in Q3 to 305m in Q4.
“We saw a decline in monthly active usage in Q4, but we’ve already seen January monthly actives bounce back to Q3 levels,” promised Twitter, as it revealed that its revenues are actually growing well: up 48% year-on-year to $710m in Q4, including $641m of advertising revenues, of which 86% was mobile.
That said, Twitter is still losing money: $90m in Q4, and $521m for 2015 as a whole. Stalling user growth and more than half a billion dollars of annual losses are just two of the problems on CEO Jack Dorsey’s to-solve list.
In its letter to shareholders, Twitter outlined its priorities for 2016, including making its service more accessible to newcomers; investing in technology to fight harassment and abuse; and encouraging more developers to work with Twitter.
Of more direct interest to Music Ally readers are the promise to double down on live streaming video through the combination of Periscope and Twitter.
“We’re going to invest heavily in these first-screen, connected audience experiences,” said the company, which also promised “better tools” for creators including musicians.