digital businesses

Twitter gets stung by an errant tweet but investors shouldn't write the company off

Twitter's stock took a tumble last week thanks to some bad PR and lower-than-expected results. But their business strategy is reassuring.

Twitter’s share price took an US$8 billion tumble after their results were leaked early, prior to market closure – ironically through a tweet. The social networking site posted results showing revenue had risen 74% to US$436m but it missed analysts’ expectations of US$456.2m. It has now lowered its 2015 full-year expectations.

 

But other financial indicators of Twitter’s performance are more positive and a closer look at the company’s business model shows investors should not be so spooked. Twitter’s adjusted income of earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation, and amortisation (EBITDA), for example, increased to US$104m, above the previous forecast range of US$89m to US$94m. And the company is employing a strategy that has a mix of building on its core offering, while keeping their service fresh through new innovations.

Keeping users and investors happy

On one level, Twitter’s business model is working. The social media platform is attracting more users than ever before. The number of monthly active users is up and breaking the 300m barrier for the first time. It also informs a large number of media reports. So there is room for optimism, in spite of its latest disappointing revenue figures.

But the company must convince advertisers and investors that its business model can deliver long-term value for them. This is done through a mix of keeping the active number of users high and finding ways to monetise its offering.

To do so, Twitter has a strategy that is in the right direction: strengthening its core offering, reducing barriers to consumption and delivering new apps and services. Advances across these three areas have helped Twitter deliver growth in its revenues and user-base: mobile, international, and ad engagements.

Staying relevant

Twitter is well-positioned to make the most of the growth in mobile users, as they have traditionally focused on the mobile experience. Overall, the number of monthly active users on Twitter has actually risen 18% year-on-year to 302m, compared to 288m in the previous quarter. Mobile users account for approximately 80% of these total monthly active users and international users (non-US) make up around 78% of these. From the 14m new users compared to the previous quarter, 11m were international.

Twitter has brought in a wave of new features as it looks to keep its offering relevant. These include “instant timeline” to speed up the sign-up process for new users, homepages that are accessible for logged-out users, private messaging and video sharing. These have helped Twitter freshen up the overall experience they deliver – and be relevant, particularly in new markets.

Video features highly in their efforts. It reflects the growing popularity of video sharing on rival social media platforms. And the launch of Periscope, its new live-streaming video app, is part of this. Twitter’s CEO, Dick Costolo, said it allows users to transport into interesting people’s lives and that it nicely fits with Twitter’s strategy: to give users the power to create and share ideas instantly, and without barriers.

Capitalising on their innovations

Advertisers are now learning how best to use Twitter’s toolkit more effectively to attract relevant audiences. And this is an area where Twitter has scope for further growth, as the number of advertisers they have on their books (60,000) is much lower than that of Facebook (2m) and Google (8m). Another key question is how appealing is Twitter to advertisers – in other words, not only having more advertisers involved but have them spend increasingly more compared to other social media platforms.

By making its partnerships with other platforms work, Twitter has potential to increase its value to advertisers. The company has entered recent partnerships with Flipboard, Yahoo! Japan, and Google – the latest meaning tweets will be integrated in Google search results. The more tweets come up in results across search platforms, the more Twitter’s relevance will increase, both for users and advertisers.

The partnership with Google could allow both firms to explore a potential takeover deal. And as Twitter’s business model keeps producing new, engaged users, and new innovations, the more it will be attractive to other firms.

New services, acquisitions and partnerships can take time to deliver results. And while they might keep users happy, the question is: are investors willing to give Twitter the time? The latest stock performance might suggest otherwise, but the company’s strategy is one worth investing in.

Meanwhile, Twitter’s management will be under pressure to deliver better results in the next two quarters and possibly consider takeover scenarios. Otherwise investors may start calling – or even tweeting – for a change at the top.

This article was originally published on The Conversation.


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Swara Bhasker: Sharp objects has to be on the radar of every woman who is tired of being “nice”

The actress weighs in on what she loves about the show.

This article has been written by award-winning actor Swara Bhasker.

All women growing up in India, South Asia, or anywhere in the world frankly; will remember in some form or the other that gentle girlhood admonishing, “Nice girls don’t do that.” I kept recalling that gently reasoned reproach as I watched Sharp Objects (you can catch it on Hotstar Premium). Adapted from the author of Gone Girl, Gillian Flynn’s debut novel Sharp Objects has been directed by Jean-Marc Vallée, who has my heart since he gave us Big Little Lies. It stars the multiple-Oscar nominee Amy Adams, who delivers a searing performance as Camille Preaker; and Patricia Clarkson, who is magnetic as the dominating and dark Adora Crellin. As an actress myself, it felt great to watch a show driven by its female performers.

The series is woven around a troubled, alcohol-dependent, self-harming, female journalist Camille (single and in her thirties incidentally) who returns to the small town of her birth and childhood, Wind Gap, Missouri, to report on two similarly gruesome murders of teenage girls. While the series is a murder mystery, it equally delves into the psychology, not just of the principal characters, but also of the town, and thus a culture as a whole.

There is a lot that impresses in Sharp Objects — the manner in which the storytelling gently unwraps a plot that is dark, disturbing and shocking, the stellar and crafty control that Jean-Marc Vallée exercises on his narrative, the cinematography that is fluid and still manages to suggest that something sinister lurks within Wind Gap, the editing which keeps this narrative languid yet sharp and consistently evokes a haunting sensation.

Sharp Objects is also liberating (apart from its positive performance on Bechdel parameters) as content — for female actors and for audiences in giving us female centric and female driven shows that do not bear the burden of providing either role-models or even uplifting messages. 

Instead, it presents a world where women are dangerous and dysfunctional but very real — a world where women are neither pure victims, nor pure aggressors. A world where they occupy the grey areas, complex and contradictory as agents in a power play, in which they control some reigns too.

But to me personally, and perhaps to many young women viewers across the world, what makes Sharp Objects particularly impactful, perhaps almost poignant, is the manner in which it unravels the whole idea, the culture, the entire psychology of that childhood admonishment “Nice girls don’t do that.” Sharp Objects explores the sinister and dark possibilities of what the corollary of that thinking could be.

“Nice girls don’t do that.”

“Who does?”

“Bad girls.”

“So I’m a bad girl.”

“You shouldn’t be a bad girl.”

“Why not?”

“Bad girls get in trouble.”

“What trouble? What happens to bad girls?”

“Bad things.”

“What bad things?”

“Very bad things.”

“How bad?”

“Terrible!!!”

“Like what?”

“Like….”

A point the show makes early on is that both the victims of the introductory brutal murders were not your typically nice girly-girls. Camille, the traumatised protagonist carrying a burden from her past was herself not a nice girl. Amma, her deceptive half-sister manipulates the nice girl act to defy her controlling mother. But perhaps the most incisive critique on the whole ‘Be a nice girl’ culture, in fact the whole ‘nice’ culture — nice folks, nice manners, nice homes, nice towns — comes in the form of Adora’s character and the manner in which beneath the whole veneer of nice, a whole town is complicit in damning secrets and not-so-nice acts. At one point early on in the show, Adora tells her firstborn Camille, with whom she has a strained relationship (to put it mildly), “I just want things to be nice with us but maybe I don’t know how..” Interestingly it is this very notion of ‘nice’ that becomes the most oppressive and deceptive experience of young Camille, and later Amma’s growing years.

This ‘Culture of Nice’ is in fact the pervasive ‘Culture of Silence’ that women all over the world, particularly in India, are all too familiar with. 

It takes different forms, but always towards the same goal — to silence the not-so-nice details of what the experiences; sometimes intimate experiences of women might be. This Culture of Silence is propagated from the child’s earliest experience of being parented by society in general. Amongst the values that girls receive in our early years — apart from those of being obedient, dutiful, respectful, homely — we also receive the twin headed Chimera in the form of shame and guilt.

“Have some shame!”

“Oh for shame!”

“Shameless!”

“Shameful!”

“Ashamed.”

“Do not bring shame upon…”

Different phrases in different languages, but always with the same implication. Shameful things happen to girls who are not nice and that brings ‘shame’ on the family or everyone associated with the girl. And nice folks do not talk about these things. Nice folks go on as if nothing has happened.

It is this culture of silence that women across the world today, are calling out in many different ways. Whether it is the #MeToo movement or a show like Sharp Objects; or on a lighter and happier note, even a film like Veere Di Wedding punctures this culture of silence, quite simply by refusing to be silenced and saying the not-nice things, or depicting the so called ‘unspeakable’ things that could happen to girls. By talking about the unspeakable, you rob it of the power to shame you; you disallow the ‘Culture of Nice’ to erase your experience. You stand up for yourself and you build your own identity.

And this to me is the most liberating aspect of being an actor, and even just a girl at a time when shows like Sharp Objects and Big Little Lies (another great show on Hotstar Premium), and films like Veere Di Wedding and Anaarkali Of Aarah are being made.

The next time I hear someone say, “Nice girls don’t do that!”, I know what I’m going to say — I don’t give a shit about nice. I’m just a girl! And that’s okay!

Swara is a an award winning actor of the Hindi film industry. Her last few films, including Veere Di Wedding, Anaarkali of Aaraah and Nil Battey Sannata have earned her both critical and commercial success. Swara is an occasional writer of articles and opinion pieces. The occasions are frequent :).

Watch the trailer of Sharp Objects here:

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This article was published by the Scroll marketing team with Swara Bhasker on behalf of Hotstar Premium and not by the Scroll editorial team.