It’s been a busy week for Twitter. Between announcing its new logo (it’s a blue bird! Only… facing a slightly different direction!) and breaking its 400 million tweets-per-day barrier, there’s also been some real news about the real-time social network. According to Twitter CEO Dick Costolo, Twitter’s mobile ad revenue surpassed that of its desktop ads, a huge coup for the company. Unlocking the secret to mobile ad profit is what every app wants – and needs.
“We’re born of mobile,” Costolo said at The Economist event yesterday. “We have an ad platform that already is inherently suited to mobile, even though we launched our platform on the Web and only started running ads on mobile recently.”
Twitter’s ad platform hasn’t been without controversy. Insiders have said it’s struggling, and that Twitter is pulling cheap shots to try and rake in revenue – including packaging Verified Account statuses in ad placement sales (and being pretty shady about it). And late last year, there were reports that estimates for the self-serve platform’s profits had been reduced because it was taking so long to roll out. But this doesn’t line up with the numbers released again and again — in fact, Twitter “expects to generate at least $1 billion in sales in 2014.” Of course, this information came from “two people with knowledge of the matter,” and given the high-praise factor, those two people probably have some stake in Twitter’s success.
And then there’s another little rumor that re-emerged this week. Apparently, Google is re-eyeing acquiring Twitter. According to Business Insider, a Twitter source said the door is still open for Google to scoop the company up, and Google has admitted it regrets missing the opportunity to do last year when it was a serious possibility (Twitter allegedly turned down Google’s $10 billion offer, for the record).
There are two different reasons why this could all be resurfacing. One: Facebook’s poor IPO performance has scared Twitter into getting while the getting’s good and avoiding a similar fate. Or two: Twitter is trying to drive interest by adding some fuel to the “Google wants to buy us!” flame.
Despite the fact the CEO Costolo has sold a company to Google (Feedburner in 2007), it all seems too strategic to be real. Google just bought Meebo, which will likely be folded into the Google+ team, and Twitter still has room to grow – especially if it’s truly found the secret sauce to engaging users with mobile ads. A proven mobile record would give a company going public strong legs to stand on — Facebook’s S-1 filings were all about improving its mobile reach, and admitting that this hasn’t been done yet. If Twitter thinks it can nail that down as a private company, then it won’t be looking to sell anytime soon.
One thing is for certain: Twitter makes Facebook look like an open book. Even pre-IPO, we all had a decent idea of what was and wasn’t working over at Facebook. Twitter is more profit-model-focused than product-model-focused, and money is inherently a card you play closer to the chest. Which is why were always due for more surprises with the company, and why despite all the encouraging announcements about its revenue stream, the skeptics remain.