The New Twitter.com Is a "Consumption Environment." Translation: Twitter Is a (Reluctant) Media Company.
Twitter’s new Web site has lots of cool features and gizmos. But they’re all supposed to do one thing in particular: They’re meant to encourage you to spend more time on Twitter.com, where the company can show you some ads.
The Twitter folks don’t exactly present it that way, of course. I talked to CEO Evan Williams and COO Dick Costolo earlier today, and they both repeated the mantra that the new Twitter is supposed to reflect the fact that Twitter is a “consumption environment,” where it’s just fine to read (or watch videos or look at pictures) instead of write.
In Williams’s words: “We’re trying to get people to understand that they don’t have to tweet if they want to get value out of Twitter.”
Which is another way of saying that Twitter is a media company: It gives you cool stuff to look at, you pay attention to what it shows you, and it rents out some of your attention to advertisers.
And that’s the real parallel with Facebook here. Not that both have inline video in the timeline or other design similarities, but that both companies started out trying to avoid the advertising business, and that both of them have ended up embracing them.
Nothing wrong with that, of course!
Speaking of which, how are Twitter’s new ad products coming along? Just great, says Costolo, who told me about engagement rates that pushed into the “double digits” for some of the company’s “Promoted Tweets” – and single digits for most of them. Which is way, way higher than traditional Web ads.
And Costolo says Twitter’s “Promoted Trends” product has been able to “boost the conversation” around given Twitter topics by as much as 600 percent.
The informal feedback I’ve heard is that advertisers are quite comfortable with Promoted Trends, since they function much like conventional display ads. But less so with the Promoted Tweets, which are sort of like Google’s AdWords but not really–unlike Google (GOOG), Twitter has very little idea of what’s on your mind.
But we’ll see: Costolo says Twitter will start pushing out the paid tweet ads more aggressively in the next few months.
Here’s a brief chat I had with Costolo before Twitter’s press event this afternoon, where we talk about the new site’s new features, the company’s ad plans and the inevitable “what will TweetDeck think of this” questions. Apologies once again for the horrendous video, but at least this time I have an excuse. I managed to lose my Flipcam en route to Twitter’s headquarters, so this one was shot with the BlackBerry Tour’s limited camera: