Can Jack Dorsey score a touchdown for Twitter with live sports streaming?

Jack Dorsey

Twitter founder Jack Dorsey was in Australia last week, and while he would’ve been heartened by our enthusiasm for a hashtag, what insights did he provide about the future of the microblogging platform, and especially his quest to further monetise it through means like live sports streaming?

Dorsey returned to the helm of the company he founded in June 2015 replacing Dick Costolo. He was in Australia mainly to spruik payments platform Square, the other company he leads, so his statements about Twitter were kept to a minimum.

But he did give a couple of interesting insights in regard to scale and Twitter’s move into live sports streaming.

Analysts have been worried by Twitter’s performance for the the past couple of years, as the platform has hit a plateau in terms of user numbers (stuck at about 320 million, according to the company) and also in its quest to convert usage and engagement into solid revenue streams.

Dorsey has managed to get things moving on the ad revenue front, with a bigger focus on getting SMEs advertising on the platform.

According to AdWeek:

“Advertisers have been much happier with Twitter’s progression. The company reported a Q4 revenue of $710 million — a year-over-year increase of 48 percent. Overall in 2015, Twitter’s revenues exceeded $2.2 billion. Ad engagement is up 153 percent, showing that users are reacting well to ads — no small feat.

“Another huge announcement for Twitter: the company now has more than 130,000 active advertisers, a 90 percent year-over-year jump.”

Some of the criticisms of Twitter have been that it is failing to grow its user base.

Interestingly, Dorsey has countered this view by saying it’s not size that matters, but what you do with the users you already have, which is possibly a tacit acknowledgement that Twitter’s big user growth days are behind it and it’s time to consolidate and effectively monetize.

As reported in SmartCompany:

“One of the things I think is really powerful about technology right now is that not only does it give you a choice to scale globally and scale big, it also gives you the choice to stay small and … to still have a very global impact,” he said.

“You can sell all around the world and be known all around the world and that’s really powerful.”

One of the avenues Twitter has explored recently is live sports, with the company inking a deal with the NFL to stream American football games on Thursday nights.

Dorsey told the Australian Financial Review the move into live sports streaming is a good fit for Twitter.

“Twitter is 10 years old now, and for 10 years we have seen this massively great experience when people watch a game with Twitter,” Dorsey told the AFR.

“We want to do it everywhere with sports like soccer. Latin American football is really big on Twitter, a lot of the players are on Twitter and we have a lot of fans on Twitter. Every game around the world has pretty heavy tweeting, so we want to make sure we can provide a great experience everywhere.”

The initiative seems to make sense because it taps into an organically driven use; millions of people are already tweeting during major sporting events and it has become a massive part of fan culture and engagement.

The signs were certainly apparent a couple of years ago with the usage and engagement figures Twitter was recording during the 2014 World Cup, with 672 million World Cup-related tweets sent during the month-long tournament.

There are certainly plenty of live sporting events that Twitter can hitch its hashtags to, but will it be enough to satisfy its hungry investors?

This article was first published on SmartCompany.

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Fi Bendall is CEO of The Bendalls Group, a business that leads STRATEGY : ADVOCACY : MOBILE delivering the business acumen to drive effective positive results in a disruptive economy for the C-suite. Fi has recently won a Westpac/AFR 2015 100 Women of Influence award.