Twitter Adds Links Within Moments Content to Ease Publisher Concerns
In October last year, Twitter launched 'Moments', its attempt to make Twitter and its vast network of real-time news and information more accessible to new users. As has been well-documented, acquiring new users has been cause for major concern at the micro-blog giant - as per its most recent earnings report, Twitter has only added around 40m new users in the last two years. Compare that to Facebook, which added 46 million users in the last quarter alone, or Instagram, where the user count has jumped by 200 million in that same time frame, and you can get a sense of the depth of the issue.
Lack of growth is the biggest challenge Twitter currently faces, and through Moments, Twitter's hoping to stimulate interest in the platform and get more people using the app - they even launched their first ever TV ad campaign for the new product.
And while the jury's still out on how much Moments adds to the Twitter experience, and will subsequently be able to produce in terms of increased Twitter interaction as a result, there has been one other significant concern raised about the new offering, one which is also being amplified by Facebook's Instant Articles and other initiatives which aim to boost social network engagement via the content provided by third party publishers, yet don't actually offer commensurate return for the publishers themselves.
Josh Constine of TechCrunch explained this concern most concisely:
"Previously, the platforms were willing to pass people on to a publisher's website where they could show ads, promote their other posts, and forge a relationship worthy of a subscription fee or frequent repeat visits. But now, the platforms want to absorb the Internet, becoming the destination - a sit-down restaurant, not a take-out counter."
This issue is most significant with Facebook's Instant Articles - through IA, publishers upload their content direct to Facebook, rather than linking people back to their own sites. This means their content loads faster and can utilize Facebook's more attractive and mobile-friendly presentation features, but it also limits that publisher's opportunities to show ads and develop direct relationships with their audiences as those readers never actually have to visit their owned properties. Facebook's been working to ease these concerns, lifting restrictions on the amount of ads publishers can display on Instant content and providing new e-mail sign-up forms to help publishers build connections with their readers via IA - but Twitter, through Moments, is also contributing to this new trend of closing in audience on the back of content provided by outside sources.
You see, when content appears inside of Moments, all links from the source tweets are stripped out.
For example, here's a tweet from within a Moment looking at Madonna's announcement that she's playing an upcoming show in Australia.
That seems like an incomplete tweet, right? Surely The Daily Mail would have some story attached, something on which you can click through to get the full context. As it turns, there is an attached article - here's the originating tweet.
As you can see, if I was to only scroll through the topic in Moments, I wouldn't necessarily have any idea that there was a referral link, that the publisher of that original tweet was actually connecting their audience back to their own site. In order to find that out, I'd have to follow a multi-step process to get to the source content.
This is obviously a significant concern for publishers - many of whom Twitter's relying on to make Moments work - and now, Twitter has responded, announcing, via their official Twitter blog, that tweets included within Moments will include direct links to the originating content within the Moments screen.
As per Twitter:
"You can tap a link to a news article, blog, recipe, and more - directly from a Moment. When you're done browsing, simply click out and jump back into the Moment where you've left off."
So rather than connecting you through to the tweet, users will now be sent on to the actual article, which they can then read, close, and be returned to their place within the Moments flow. This is good way to keep users engaged in Moments, providing additional context around each event, while also alleviating publisher concerns that potential site traffic is being walled in and their links never seen by Moments users.
While it's a relatively small update within the app itself, it's significant in its implications and in signaling Twitter's intent to work more collaboratively with content providers. The big concern for publishers is, obviously, losing their traffic, with social apps becoming more protective of their audiences as they seek to keep them on platform for longer and longer, all the time. If initiatives like IA and Moments lead to less referral traffic, that puts more pressure on publishers to find audience elsewhere (if they can), while also giving them less incentive to use and promote their social feeds as a result. As such, it makes sense that the platforms would be working to deliver better, more collaborative outcomes - though the fact that such concerns weren't considered in the original iterations of these new tools does raise some concern as to where the platforms might be headed.
And while it does add a little more clutter to the clean presentation of Moments content, the addition of links will likely be welcomed as an improvement to the overall product. Now you can do more with Moments, explore topics in more depth with a single click.
Whether that leads to more user engagement remains to be seen, but no doubt, the market will be watching on with great interest.
Follow Andrew Hutchinson on Twitter