Another Tough Week for Twitter
When I am fortunate enough to be asked to give presentations about the history of SXSW, I always mention Twitter’s launch at the 2007 event. Clearly, this was a turning point for what we do in March in Austin. The buzz from their success that year paved the way for a large spike in attendance from startups, VCs, and media, as well as assorted individuals and businesses from across the United States and around the world.
Given this context, I am pained as the battering of the Twitter brand continues over the last few weeks . As an example, no less than three stories focusing on the current challenges of this pioneering micro-blogging site appear this morning on ReCode: “Here’s What it Would Take for Twitter to Get Serious About its Harassment Problem,” “What’s the Plan, Twitter?,” and “Why the NFL Won’t Save Twitter.” Not to ignore our friends at TechCrunch, throw in this headline from October 25: “Twitter’s Sales Team is Taking a Hit in Big Upcoming Layoffs.” Even in the Trumpian world of all-media-coverage-is-good-media-coverage, stories like these are not the kind of attention that you want.
These ReCode stories certainly point to the two over-arching problems that Twitter has never effectively solved — a solid revenue model plus a way to cease online the hate speech. Of these two, the hate speech problem is the most pressing, as it scares away both veteran, high-profile users plus additional new signups. And the big slow-down in new signups is a death sentence for most online communities.
Moving forward, the best case scenario is a complete re-boot. Perhaps this re-boot only happens if Twitter is purchased by a much larger, more established player with more leadership to add more users by subtracting more trolls. I hope so. Because as many problems as the service has, it still has so much potential to be one of the most dynamic forces for conversation and engagement on the Internet. Witness how much Twitter added to the three presidential debates over the last month. We need this service — and we need it to be fixed as soon as possible.