Twitter Talks Google Deal, Says User Growth Trend Already Turned Around This Year

Chris CrumBusiness

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Twitter reported its Q4 and fiscal year 2014 financial results on Thursday, with 97% year-over-year revenue growth for the quarter at $479 million. Ad revenue per thousand timeline views reached $2.37 in the quarter, which was up 60% year-over-year. The company managed to impress with its business, but continued to disappoint in the user growth department, which is an area the company has been heavily criticized over since going public.

Average Monthly Active Users (MAUs) were 288 million for the fourth quarter, which was an increase of 20% year-over-year. The company noted that this reflects a loss of about 4 million net Monthly Active Users in the quarter due to changes in third party integrations (specifically iOS 8). Users grew at a rate of just 1.4 for the quarter compared to 4.8% the prior quarter. Average Mobile MAUs were 80% of total MAUs. Timeline views reached 182 billion for the quarter (up 23% year-over-year). Twitter sees 6,000 tweets per minute every day, according to the company.

All in all, Twitter added 4 million users during the quarter and 47 million throughout 2014. CEO Dick Costolo said on the earnings call that user numbers the company saw in January of this year indicate its MAU trend has already been turned around. He indicated that new Twitter features like native video, group messaging, and Instant Timeline (which populates the timelines of new users) should contribute to an upward trend. He also mentioned the company's recent acquisition of ZipDial, which he said it will use to bring more content (like key moments and commentary from the Cricket World Cup) to a much larger audience on Twitter.

Twitter is also doing a lot to build its developer ecosystem, as Costolo also brought up. This should lead to new apps and services that can contribute to user growth. Last fall, the company unveiled its new Fabric developer kits and Digits sign-in. This year, the company has already embarked on a developer tour called Flock, which will see the company helping developers build apps.

Costolo said during the Q&A portion of Twitter's earnings conference call that he could confirm that Twitter has entered into an agreement with Google, but declined to elaborate on any more details about it. In the past, the two companies have worked together to show tweets in real time in Google's search results. From the sound of it this is what's going to happen again, though it remains to be seen if it will function the same way. Either way, it's going to get tweets in front of people more often, and that can't hurt user growth.

During the call, Costolo was asked why a Google deal didn't make sense any longer when the two companies grew apart a few years ago, and why it makes more sense now. His answer (via Seeking Alpha) was as follows:

We've obviously had a relationship with Google over the course of the years with all the bunch of the executives here and a bunch of the executives there obviously know each other quite well.

I would say that the way we think about the Google deal now without again -- without going into any of the details distinct from the kind of relationship we had in the past is that we've got the opportunity now to drive a lot of attention to an aggregate eye balls if you will to these logged out experiences, topics and events that we plan on delivering on the front page of Twitter. And that's one of the reasons this makes a lot more sense for us now.

He also made clear that we won't see a launch from the deal for several months.

As one analyst mentioned, the Google deal should have an impact on Twitter's revenue in terms of licensing, but the company declined to discuss that for the time being.

Regarding the iOS 8 changes that impacted Twitter's user base, CFO Anthony Noto said:

So we said we lost four million monthly active users due to the iOS8 integration. One million of those monthly active users were Twitter owned and operated monthly active users and three million were on Safari, what we call Auto point MAU’s and we lost those.

We don’t expect to get the three million Autopoint MAU’s in Safari back and that’s a non-Twitter owned and operated Autopoint MAU. The one million that number was actually higher at a different point in the quarter when we were able to bring it back down to just one.

Costolo added:

We obviously have a great relationship with Apple. I've talked about that at length over the course of the last two years. On the second part of what Anthony talked about there, there was unforeseen bug in the release of iOS8 as it relates to the specific Twitter integration into iOS that’s why it was particular to us. Once we understood the issue, we move just quickly as we could on multiple fronts to minimize its impact, but it wasn’t -- it wasn’t a one size fits off fix, which is why you've seen some of the complexity that we talked about here in brining those users back. The problem was a complex and affected different users differently.

The Wall Street Journal reports that while hitting a record low, Twitter's user growth fell below Facebook's for the first time. According to Re/code, Twitter has revoked access to user growth numbers from its employees.

Image via Twitter

Chris Crum

Chris Crum has been a part of the WebProNews team and the iEntry Network of B2B Publications since 2003. Follow Chris on Twitter, on StumbleUpon, on Pinterest and/or on Google: +Chris Crum.