Twitter’s future growth prospects will be predicated on whether it can flourish as a news sharing platform rather than an outright social network, revealed chief executive Jack Dorsey in a wide-ranging interview with WPP boss Sir Martin Sorrell at Dmexco.
The co-founder of the micro-blogging site pointed to “inflection points in our usage” to back his claim, which chimes with Twitter “constantly looking to reinvent what we have”. It’s an attitude some media observers have cited as the reason for Twitter’s identity crisis in recent years which has seen several changes come and go, such as the Twitter #Music service under the tenure of Dorsey’s predecessor Dick Costolo.
Now Dorsey is focusing on Twitter’s ability to “break news faster than any other service”. He said Twitter’s merit over other platforms was a “focus on news” where other entrants like Snapchat, dubbed the "third player" by Sorrell, are focused on social and entertainment.
“We are somewhere in the middle,” Dorsey said. “A lot of people come to Twitter expecting to find what they would with a social network... you are not going to find the same things that you would on a social network. That really sets us apart. This is not a new concept; we carry the world conversation and anyone can participate.
“Our real challenge is making sure we are continuing to give people a reason to download the app and personalise their own news stream, their experience and get in on the conversation.”
Quashing any suggestion that the innate immediacy of the platform compromises the accuracy of the news it hosts, Dorsey said: “I think it gets to accuracy much faster, if you have the ability to immediately correct and be on the record to what is actually true. You can go from speculation to fact very quickly. We have the ability to help get a bunch of opinions really quickly and find that balance; that is the role of a journalist, newspaper and our editorial.”
Aside from simplifying Twitter around news, Dorsey’s priorities lie in live-streaming, which he believes is a “perfect complement to our usage”, and in making conversations “easier and more expressive”. This newfound focus on live sports, which saw it acquire the rights to stream Thursday night NFL games for a rumoured $10m, is part of its attempts to encourage users to sign up and participate.
On a more sober note, Sorrell pressed Dorsey on Twitter’s approach to censorship following Facebook’s controversial censorsing of an image from the Vietnam War. Here, Dorsey admitted that while Twitter’s policy of anti-censorship has “worked well for us for the most part”, it needs to take a stronger stance “to make sure we are minimising abuse”.
“We have seen recently a flare-up in targeted abuse and harassment. It is something we always knew was important but we didn’t put enough engineering and product and design behind, we did not address this comprehensively,” he said.