Twitter asks advertisers to help it live forever during first-ever NewFront
Sit down. Be humble.
Rapper Kendrick Lamar’s latest hit “Humble” blasted in the background. A giant screen wrapping around a circular room showed an iPhone that displayed tweets. This was the beginning of Twitter’s first-ever NewFront, a presentation dedicated to wooing advertisers.
The affair was anything but humble. Earlier in the day, reporters were told there would be 12 announcements for live video streaming deals. When COO/CFO Anthony Noto took the stage he said 15. Later, it became 16.
Twitter, apparently, is the best when it comes to live video.
“We have content that’s relevant to everyone in the world and that’s relevant everyday,” Noto said in a room of more than 350 people. “We can personalize your experience so we can deliver exactly what you want, when you want it.”
Twitter is pitching itself as the new TV, with shows 24/7. It’s not necessarily Hulu, Netflix or HBO. But rather, the technology company is claiming to be the go-to destination for live and what’s happening, just like it always has been, except this time there’s a video component. Instead of watching baseball on television and maybe tweeting about the plays via your smartphone, you can do both, on one screen.
It’s ambitious. Investors and analysts have long disapproved of Twitter’s failure to add a significant amount of users, or at least as many as Facebook. While Facebook boasts nearly 2 billion people, Twitter has just over 300 million. While Facebook is somewhat of a money-making machine, Twitter is unprofitable.
Twitter wants that to change.
On Monday, Twitter announced 16 new video series that are expected to drop on the site in the near future. Participating media publishers and partners include BuzzFeed, the National Football League, and Viacom.
One future series was shared on the day prior: Bloomberg will stream live video news 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Earlier in the day, Bloomberg held its own NewFront, which included participation from Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey and Noto.
Dorsey took the stage with Bloomberg founder Michael Bloomberg, where they shared the inspiration for their companies (Dorsey has two, Bloomberg noted).
“You start with one intention,” Dorsey said. “We started with the intention ‘we’re going to make a service that we wanted to use.'”
Bloomberg‘s show will launch this fall. The pitch to advertisers: Twitter offers the “fastest social network” and Bloomberg claims to be the “most accurate news network.” It’s the #TheNewNews, the presenters said. A still-being-workshopped title is TickTock.
But it isn’t just about Bloomberg, even when it comes to news. Twitter is expanding its relationship with The Verge, running a weekly show focused on gadget reviews. BuzzFeed is creating a morning show called MorningFeed. Cheddar is adding an hour-long Opening Bell show in addition to Closing Bell.
For sports, Twitter is partnering with WNBA, MLBAM, The Player’s Tribune and the PGA Tour. Even though Twitter lost out to Amazon for the digital rights to the National Football League’s Thursday night football, they have a new deal with the NFL.
National Basketball Association Commissioner Adam Silver joined the stage to share why the NBA has been a loyal contributor to Twitter. His remarks echoed what Chief Marketing Officer Leslie Berland pitched to the room at the beginning of the night.
Twitter also inked some music and entertainment partnerships, including agreements with Viacom and LiveNation to stream concerts and live award shows.
“Twitter is a stage, a microphone, a town square, even a moshpit,” Berland said. “This year we decided, a reflection of what we’ve always been. Twitter is what’s happening and what people are talking about right now.”
In the age of fake news and YouTube-gate, concern from advertisers this NewFront season lies primarily with brand safety and with measurement. Twitter didn’t have much to offer in the conversation of brand safety (though Dorsey has been preaching for awhile that abuse is Twitter’s number one priority).
But when it came to measurement, Twitter representatives spoke out about scale, not engagement.
“We deliver TV quality premium video,” said Matt Derella, Twitter’s head of client solutions, “at massive, accelerating scale.”
If Twitter is comparing themselves to television, they are not providing an apples-to-apples comparison to advertisers on measurement. TV ads and engagements are measured via average minute audience, or AMA. Twitter instead pitches unique viewers. A quick note that a view is only three seconds.
So, there’s hesitation from advertisers. Twitter is aware.
“As I talk to clients, CMOs and agencies … digital video strategy, there’s always a little hesitation … a little hesitation about the compromises you may have to make to get scale and quality,” Derella said.
Twitter knows it’s a difficult road ahead. Earlier in the day at Bloomberg HQ, Dorsey said when asked about advice for entrepreneurs, “You need to win hearts and minds so that they believe it as well … It was putting myself in situations that I didn’t love but that I learned from every single time.”
Musicians are often brought in to close out these events with a short show. Instead Dorsey — rather than a rapper or another performer — was the closing act for Twitter’s first-ever NewFront. He began his speech with thanking the room. “You’ve been there for us,” he said to the advertisers.
And Dorsey restated his confidence in Twitter’s future.
“We’re going to be here for 10,000 years. At least 10,000 more years,” Dorsey said.
For Dorsey, it’s been 11 years. As he said while sitting next to Bloomberg earlier in the day, Twitter has become much more than just 140-character tweets about what you’re eating for breakfast or what you’re listening to.
“You do the work and you realize, more and more what it needs to be. If we were to start 11 years ago with what we had today, we would not be here. It’s way too big,” he said.