The surprise resignation of Dick Costolo has almost everyone I know asking “Who, where and when?” — who will take over, where will the company go, and when will all this happen?
Twitter is indicative of a whole new breed of media company. In the “olden days,” a media company created and distributed content, and there were a few really big ones surrounded by any number of upstarts (I wrote about this a few weeks back, in “The Oligopoly Response To Media Fragmentation.”) These days the business has evolved, and some of the biggest media companies in the world are responsible solely for distribution through technology, rather than through the lens of a brand. For example, when NBC, CBS and ABC launched new shows they always did so through their established channels of television. Now three of the most important “media companies” in the world are Google, Facebook and Twitter, none of which actually own the content or the channels. They are technology brands that have established a new way of consuming media, and the audience respects and values them as such.
In this way, Twitter has a unique opportunity to see this executive change as revolutionary, and disrupt its model for business. A change at the helm of the ship means the new CEO will be empowered to be re-inventive. He or she will be able to shake things up, marshaling support for the ideas that can move the needle. I imagine this means Twitter will find some inventive ways to do three things: create a stickier user experience, increase the frequency of contact cross-channel, and properly monetize the business in a way it has not done to date.
The user experience for Twitter is good, but it’s not sticky. It solves a problem, but it doesn’t require me to spend significant time there. It’s much like Google when the search engine started: Twitter’s job is to send you other places. Google challenged itself to solve the same kind of problem, and so now you can actually get weather, driving directions and many other useful utilities directly in Google, rather than having to leave the platform to find your answers. Twitter could go the same route, establishing more insights in the platform so users don’t have to go somewhere else for everything they need.
Twitter is a news platform more than anything else, and an entertainment platform secondarily (at least in my mind). It supplements other activity, so if you build more stickiness into the platform, then you will naturally get more frequency. Facebook learned about this solution, and now a large portion of the time spent on mobile devices is spent on Facebook. Time spent and frequency of exposure are the right problems to solve, and they lead to the third challenge: monetization.
Twitter is going to come up with new and better ways to monetize itself. There’s no debating that fact. It’s only a matter of time, and the next CEO will establish this as one of the key issues to solve.
So the next few weeks are important for Twitter, as it continues to show it has the opportunity in the market to truly be the third leg of the stool in digital media, alongside Google and Facebook. I am betting the company can do it, and whoever takes the reins will be empowered to make it happen. It’s going to be a fun one to watch!