There are a lot of questions surrounding the future of Twitter (NYSE:TWTR). Will user growth ever pick back up? Will ad revenue keep growing without new users? How does its total-audience strategy affect ad sales? Those are just a few off the top of my head.
Twitter CFO Anthony Noto recently sat down at the Barclays Global Technology Brokers Conference to answer a few of those questions. Here are five of the most important takeaways for investors.
1. "We probably tried to do too many things."
When Jack Dorsey returned as CEO, management went through a "retroactive lessons-learned process," Noto said. The biggest problem Twitter had in the recent past is that it didn't have a real focus across all of its divisions.
Going forward, Noto says, "we really want to focus on bigger things to have them be more impactful and making sure we put all of the weight behind them." It seems like a lot of the focus since Dorsey's return has been on the new Moments feature. Management has talked about the impact it believes the product will have on the company's ability to engage users, reengage abandoned users, and draw in new users. It's also the focus of Twitter's first TV ad campaign.
Additionally, Twitter has made changes to the organizational structure to make each division more accountable to the company's priorities.
2. Moments solves the biggest problems people have with Twitter
As mentioned, one of the biggest points of focus at Twitter over the past few months has been Moments. Noto believes that Moments solves the biggest problems people have with Twitter, which explains why it's such a big focus.
"I would think about Moments solving the problem of why should I use Twitter and how should I use Twitter," Noto said. "Those are the No. 1 and No. 2 reasons why ... people ... don't use Twitter."
He added that the next step with Moments is to make it more personal. Right now there's no individualization of the Moments feed, but Twitter could use its user data to surface more relevant content for each user and even include unique content in each individual Moment for each user. (Think "What do my friends and favorite influencers have to say about a certain topic?")
3. There's a tenfold opportunity to increase advertisers
Twitter currently has just 100,000 active advertisers on its platform. While that's a 67% increase from where it was a year ago, it's still well short of Facebook's (NASDAQ:FB) 2.5 million advertisers. Noto sees this as an opportunity to increase its total advertisers on the platform at least 10 times.
Noto says the key to increasing total advertisers requires three things:
- "One, it's about getting feet on the street."
- "Two, it's about opening up self-serve advertising platforms, which we have done."
- "And three, it's about continuing to provide new creative new targeting and new measurement."
While a beefed-up sales team and premium ad options could attract more brand advertisers, it won't necessarily affect the long-tail SMBs that Facebook has dominated. Those companies are most interested in targeting and measurement, two areas Facebook continues to improve and where Twitter has fallen behind significantly. Putting those on the "focus list" could help Twitter compete in 2016.
4. Twitter will start making more money from logged-out users
Twitter has touted its logged-out audience for several quarters now, saying it gets 500 million unique visitors to its website that don't log in. It also gets over 1 billion unique views of tweets from content syndicated around the Web. Earlier this year, the company started advertising to those 500 million visitors. Noto said the company will start to use more targeting tactics to improve the value of that ad inventory.
[W]e are now going to be targeting these users based on context. Where did they come from? Did they do a search on Google or another search engine related to politics, or sports, or the home, and then using that context of the interest to deliver an ad vehicle to them in the logged-out experience?
Collecting and using those data will help unlock a lot of value from those 500 million visitors.
5. Twitter's Audience Platform will grow at the same rate as core advertising
While Twitter's advertising from third parties through its ad network has grown to become 13% of total ad revenue in the most recent quarter, thanks in large part to the acquisition of TellApart, the CFO doesn't see that percentage increasing in the foreseeable future.
"It's an important element to our business, but we want to sell or add inventory first," Noto said. "We want to satisfy the needs of the advertisers, which gives us more dollars." Indeed, a Twitter ad displayed on Twitter naturally provides more value than a Twitter ad seen in a third-party app.
Noto reminded investors that the company is still only one-third of the way toward its long-term goal regarding ad load. He sees that as an important lever for Twitter to pull to keep the value of Twitter's core ad inventory in line with its ad network.