After losing 40% of its value over the first half of the year, Twitter's (NYSE:TWTR) staging a bit of a comeback. That's largely thanks to a fairly solid earnings release last month, which helped shares regain investor confidence. Beyond the figures, here are some important takeaways from the last conference call.
Twitter's total audience is bigger than its monthly active user base
Investors have been fretting over Twitter's slowing monthly active user growth, but in reality the company's total audience is much larger than its Monthly Active User (MAU) figures would suggest.
Beyond our 271 million monthly active users, there are hundreds of millions of additional unique visitors who come to Twitter every month but don't log in. When you consider the combination of monthly active users and unique visitors, the size of our audience on our owned and operated properties is two to three times that of just our monthly active user base, which we believe ranks us among the top ten largest digitally connected audiences in the world.
CEO Dick Costolo wants to make it clear that Twitter's top priority is always going to be improving the experience for the company's 271 million MAUs, but it still intends to devote attention to its total audience. Ideally it can someday get those users to register and log in.
Monetization is skyrocketing
Even before factoring in MAU growth, Twitter is growing its ad business by improving monetization of existing users. Several of its relevant monetization metrics are putting up triple-digit increases.
Switching to monetization, ad revenue per 1,000 timeline views continues to accelerate, reaching $1.60 in Q2, up 100% year over year, and up 11% sequentially. US ad revenue per 1,000 timeline views reached $3.87, up 79% year over year, and international ad revenue per 1,000 timeline views reached $0.75, up 152% year over year. We continue to see steady improvement in monetization, and we expect those trends to continue. We do not see any structural reason at the levels of monetization for our monthly active users can't reach or exceed that of our industry peers over time.
That comment about industry peers likely refers to Facebook (NASDAQ:FB). The tricky thing about comparing Twitter's monetization with Facebook's is that Twitter uses its proprietary metric based on timeline views, which isn't applicable to Facebook. The only way to compare the two companies is to prorate Twitter's ad revenue per 1,000 timeline views based on timeline views per MAU. When it comes to monetization, Facebook is still ahead.
Video ads are now beginning
Earlier this month, Twitter launched a beta test of video ads. This is an important initiative, as video ads fetch higher prices.
In August we'll launch the beta version of our new promoted video offering, which provides a way for high-quality content producers and brands to easily upload, share, and measure the distribution and effectiveness of their video content on Twitter.
The move comes after Facebook also launched video ads last year. There is a key difference, though: Facebook's video ads play automatically, but without sound (unless the user interacts with the ad, in which case the sound turns on). In contrast, the user must start Twitter's video ads manually, which is when Twitter earns its fee. Advertising customers prefer that pricing structure, since then they're not being charged for playbacks that users aren't engaged with.
A buy button might be coming
In late June, Re/code noted that a "Buy now" button began showing up in tweets, leading to some speculation that Twitter was interested in growing an e-commerce business. That's similar to what Facebook is also doing, recently retiring Gifts in favor of testing a new buy button as well. In response to an analyst question, Costolo confirmed that Twitter is looking into it.
Vis-a-vis the buy button specifically, that's another example of the kinds of explorations we've got Nathan and his team focused on. You will continue to see explorations and other experiments like that.
Costolo didn't offer much detail beyond that, but chances are that Twitter's strategy resembles Facebook's since the two businesses are so alike. For what it's worth, Facebook made it clear on its own conference call that users aren't buying from Facebook -- users are buying from Facebook's clients. That's probably the same extent to which Twitter wishes to play in e-commerce.