Insights is a new weekly series featuring entertainment industry veteran David Bloom. It represents an experiment of sorts in digital-age journalism and audience engagement with a focus on the intersection of entertainment and technology, an area that David has written about and thought about and been part of in various career incarnations for much of the past 25 years. David welcomes your thoughts, perspectives, calumnies, and kudos at firstname.lastname@example.org, or on Twitter @DavidBloom.
This installment of Insights is brought to you by Beachfront RISE.
For quite a while now, tech types have been debating the allegedly imminent decline and fall of Twitter, at least as routinely as the state of venture-capital funding or their stock options. The list of reasons is long: the interface is too complicated; they’re never going to catch Facebook; growth rates are flat; blah blah blah.
All true, but here’s what’s happened to Jack’s Joint of 140 Characters JUST IN THE PAST COUPLE OF WEEKS(!!!):
- “Pharma-bro” Martin Shkreli, who first became an Internet anti-darling for jacking up prices at the AIDS drug company he bought, got himself banned from Twitter for really skeezy behavior directed at super-cool journalist and human Lauren Duca. When Shkreli used Twitter to ask out Duca, whose smart Teen Vogue pieces during the presidential election drove trolls insane, she said she’d “rather eat my own organs.” AWESOME!
I would rather eat my own organs pic.twitter.com/IgeCRZqk8w
— Lauren Duca (@laurenduca) January 5, 2017
- WikiLeaks threw a doxing scare into “Verified” Twitter users when the organization tweeted how it plans to create a dossier of connections and data on each of them, including “family/job/housing/financial” relationships.” Left unspecified is whether that dossier building will extend to the Verified president-elect and his Verifiied autocratic Russian pal, especially given their complicated and potentially very problematic business and family holdings. CREEPY!
- Oh, yeah. The new president guy is addicted to the thing. Donald Trump has nearly 20 million followers, tweets the craziest stuff at 3 AM, wars with celebrities and journalists, blows up international diplomatic niceties, and might blow up even bigger things. Journalists can’t miss his tweets, and neither can the white-supremacist trolls who’ve hovered around the campaign for months. Why aren’t you watching this Very Special Episode of The Apprentice, especially if it wrecks the Republic? SLEEPLESS IN DC!
Meryl Streep, one of the most over-rated actresses in Hollywood, doesn’t know me but attacked last night at the Golden Globes. She is a….. — Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) January 9, 2017
- Trump, who called for changing libel laws so he (and his wife) can sue others more easily, just beat a libel suit against him. A campaign strategist who criticized Trump on TV sued after a string of his tweets attacked her early last year. A New York judge dismissed the suit, ruling that his Twitter statements basically couldn’t be held to rigorous fact-checking standards. The judge acknowledged that, “a candidate’s strategic and almost exclusive use of Twitter to advance his views arguably distinguish this case from those where heated rhetoric…constitute communications that cannot be taken seriously…. These circumstances raise some concern that some may avoid liability by conveying positions in small Twitter parcels….” So, in New York, libel away, as long as you do it in 140 characters or less! DODGED A (LEGAL) BULLET!
- Mexican peso traders are speculating that it would be cheaper to fend off Trump if they just bought Twitter and threatened to shut it, or him, down, instead of spending billions defending the currency. This might just be gallows humor, or actually kinda brilliant. Or both. It’s also a slightly surreal example of what happens when a president bases most of his communications outreach around a single, not-very-expensive (or -stable) social-media platform. FUNNY!
- Peso traders aren’t the only ones navigating the new financial markets in the Trump Twitter era. In fact, there’s already an app that will text you when Trump tweets about one of your stocks. Given the post-Trump-post double-digit price drops that hit Boeing and biotech, this little app looks pretty smart. “When he tweets, the market moves. Our users see this as an investment opportunity and a way for them to manage their portfolio risk,” said Trigger Finance Chief Executive, Rachel Mayer. HANDY!
- Twitter’s big move into streaming live sports and awards shows continues. It just signed a deal to be the exclusive live-video provider for the Professional Golfers Association and posted big numbers for its Golden Globes Red Carpet Pre-Show. BIG SWING!
— Golden Globe Awards (@goldenglobes) January 9, 2017
- Twitter keeps killing off functionality, both inside the company and out. It announced it will phase out the Dashboard function for business users this month while integrating some capabilities into services for everyone. Meanwhile, Twitter also forced Dataminr to stop providing the CIA, Department of Homeland Security, and others with its Twitter feed, because that (publicly available) material could be used for “surveillance.” While the Dataminr case is complicated, Twitter has been shutting down third-party providers and their high-end clients for years in a seemingly suicidal effort to make itself less capable. To my mind, Twitter’s problems began with these repeated decisions to shut down third-party apps that had been its best allies. DOPEY!
So, let’s review. This all happened in the past 10 days or so. Twitter still has 317 million users, but lost $103 million last quarter. Both numbers beat analyst expectations.
I’ve seen estimates that a quarter of Twitter verified users are journalists. Many of the rest are high-profile athletes, musicians, social-media influencers, and brands. Together, their posts make Twitter a mega-meta-media platform, delivering in-the-moment headlines, news stories, behind-the-scenes looks and the occasional pissing match from across the political and cultural spectrum in ways that routinely spike into the broader social conversation. In the Era of Trump’s Twitter, this surely will only increase.
True, the trolls remain a serious problem. Their presence, and Twitter’s seeming inability to corral them, allegedly scared off buyers when the company was on the block this summer. The company still loses money. It’s not clear that part-time CEO Jack Dorsey (he also runs Square) has the answers.
But back in 2014, Princeton researchers estimated 80% of the site’s users would have left by this year, comparing its likely arc to that of infectious disease. But like the persistent illnesses recently afflicting many of my friends, however, this media infection isn’t going away soon.
It’s a big question whether Trump’s 3 AM posts, Dorsey’s revival efforts, the live-streamed entertainment and sports, and the rest will resuscitate and sustain the company. Who cares? For now, Twitter’s million dramas a week are the most entertaining show in social media. FANTASTIC!
This installment of Insights is brought to you by Beachfront RISE, the premier app building company that houses all of your content in one place for any device, and monetizes it automatically with their built in programmatic video advertising platform.