In a recent interview with Fast Company, Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey said that:
"We're not a social network as people think about it. I do think we are a news network, and we're a unique one, because we aggregate all the news media brands into one place, all of the individual voices into one place."
On one hand, that sounds like the sort of rhetoric we've heard before from CEOs - particularly those in charge of a business in trouble - but on the other, Dorsey's statement reveals a significant insight into the platform's change in approach since he came back as CEO last October.
The focus for Twitter has switched from connecting friends and family - the more 'social' elements of a social network - to becoming a constant news feed, a real-time stream of content, tailored to each person's individual needs and interests. The problem with that is that for some time, it's felt like Twitter didn't know what it was, with people torn between where exactly the platform fits in their daily media consumption process.
But that purpose is about to get a lot clearer, with the next phase of Twitter's live content push about to kick into high gear. Again, this has caused some confusion - when Periscope was launched, the emphasis was on giving everyone an opportunity to 'go live', to broadcast their day-to-day life and share their perspective in a whole new way. And much like Twitter more widely, that's still a part of it, but it's not the main part - the main focus is now on providing a platform for live events that will attract a significant audience.
And today Twitter's taken the next steps towards making that new focus more defined, with the introduction of new ways to bring live content direct to your TV screens.
A press release from Twitter earlier today announced that Twitter has launched new apps for Apple TV, Amazon Fire TV, and Microsoft's Xbox One, "which will allow anyone with these devices to consume the best of Twitter".
The announcement is significant for various reasons.
First, these new apps will enable Twitter to reach a huge new potential audience - there are more than 25 million Apple TV units in circulation, almost 10 million Amazon Fire devices in people's homes and more than 20 million Xbox One consoles. And while not everyone will utilize the new Twitter app, that's a significant enough sample size to get people interested if Twitter can showcase why people might want to watch live TV via their offering.
Second, the new apps don't require users to log-in to Twitter.
As noted by recode:
"They won't let you log in to your Twitter account and tweet or "Like" or follow, or even check out your Twitter timeline. But it also means you don't need a Twitter account to watch the NFL streams, or any of the other streams, from your television."
At first blush, that might seem like a negative for Twitter, in that they're not connecting people to the Twitter experience. But it may actually work in their favour - Facebook's on a mission to keep people on Facebook all the time, you log-into other sites using your Facebook credentials, you connect with friends through Messenger, etc. All of these processes help Facebook keep track of their all important user data, which is what makes their ad targeting system so great, so Facebook, which is also pushing their Live content, would likely never agree to a system where you don't have to be directly connected to Facebook to view their content. But that stipulation has likely made it much easier for Twitter to get these new apps through - without the added social layer, connecting each user back to Twitter, the connection process is easier, which will enable more people to consumer Twitter's live-stream content. You just download the app and go.
In this sense, Twitter's relying on the quality of their content to win over new audiences, and is therefore looking to make it as easy as switching a channel for people to tune in. If they can attract more viewers by showcasing how good their live TV offerings are, that'll expand Twitter's audience and exposure, which, in turn, will bring more eyeballs to their streaming content, and thus boost the platform's advertising potential, while also allowing them to expose more users to the benefits of Twitter proper by showing corresponding tweet content on screen.
A screenshot from the Apple TV app
And third, this brings live-stream content to your home TV, which is massive.
Of course, users have been able to do this via the Periscope app for Apple TV for some time, but that app is fairly restricted and isn't able to provide a high-quality viewing experience. Twitter's new app is focussed on bringing the best possible live TV experience direct to users, and getting that content onto TV screens - the key entertainment device that our homes are literally structured around - is a crucial step in getting more people to consume more content via live-stream.
While video consumption is rising on PCs and handheld devices, TV is still the leading provider of home entertainment. Translating their content to the TV is a major move for Twitter - and worth noting, Facebook, too, is looking at ways to do the same thing.
What's more, this comes only a day before Twitter kicks off its new NFL streaming deal.
The time is now for Twitter's next phase.
An early Twitter/Xbox One TV integration
Crossing the Streams
Twitter's putting huge bets on live-streaming, a move that, at times, has seemed questionable. While everyone agrees that live-streaming has huge potential and is a great, new way to connect users, the overall quality of live-stream content has been a concern - go check out Facebook's Live Map, for example, or Periscope's feed and you'll see a lot of stuff, but not a heap of great, engaging content.
This is why we're seeing the focus of live-streaming shift from people broadcasting their lives to broadcasters sharing exclusive content - the technological capacity is there for social platforms to become broadcasters in their own right, to integrate live video content and user interaction in a whole new way, which holds massive appeal for both the platforms and advertisers alike.
This approach perfectly fits Twitter's "news network" re-brand - Twitter's always been a key platform to discuss events as they happen, especially major TV shows and sports. Live-streaming gives them a way to integrate both, and with the addition of an actual TV link-up, Twitter will be able to bring more people to their app, and, ideally, convince them to also contribute to the surrounding Twitter conversation by highlighting relevant tweets during the broadcast.
And if it works, the new approach could change the trajectory of live-streaming more generally - if Twitter can generate more opportunity to showcase all the great live content on their platform, that will bring more viewers to their streams, which, in turn, will generate more opportunity for everyday creators to also tap into that new audience. Just imagine - if Twitter's able to get a heap of people tuning in regularly to their NFL streams, for example, and they can use the opportunity to highlight other, relevant streams coming up that those viewers might want to see, imagine if you were a home broadcaster with your own NFL-themed show and your upcoming stream was highlighted to that captive audience?
In some ways, live-streaming started out in the wrong order - the platforms need to build audience for live first then invite everyday users to tap into that demand with relevant content. In this sense, Twitter's latest moves could be a big step in the right direction.
Will it reinvigorate the platform and bring more users back to Twitter? Will it enable Twitter to transition further towards being a news network, better aligning them with that real-time approach, as opposed to being a social network? We can only wait and see, of course, but today's announcement is significant.
The opportunity is there for Twitter, if they can get it right.
The new Twitter apps are free and are available in select markets around the world, from today. Twitter for Apple TV is available globally via the App Store for Apple TV (4th generation). Twitter on Xbox One will be available in Australia, Brazil, Canada, Mexico, the United Kingdom, and the United States. Twitter for Amazon Fire TV and Fire TV Stick are available in the United States and the United Kingdom. Visit the relevant app stores to access.