Jack Dorsey: There’s ‘strength’ in Twit­ter’s in­de­pen­dence

Business World - - TECHNOLOGY -

TWIT­TER, INC. Chief Ex­ec­u­tive Of­fi­cer (CEO) Jack Dorsey said there’s “strength” in the so­cial me­dia com­pany re­main­ing in­de­pen­dent, de­flect­ing re­newed spec­u­la­tion that it may again be an ac­qui­si­tion tar­get.

“There’s a lot of strength to our in­de­pen­dence be­cause we can work on ev­ery de­vice, work through ev­ery medium,” Mr. Dorsey said Tues­day at the Goldman Sachs Tech­nol­ogy and In­ter­net Con­fer­ence in San Fran­cisco. “We’re not con­strained by the par­tic­u­lar whims of one plat­form ver­sus an­other.”

Twit­ter shares, which rose 8.1% at Tues­day’s close in New York, jumped on sev­eral trad­ing days last month on takeover spec­u­la­tion. In a Jan­uary note to in­vestors, BTIG an­a­lyst Richard Green­field pre­dicted that Twit­ter will be ac­quired this year, say­ing it has be­come too valu­able to re­main in­de­pen­dent. Re­ports of ac­qui­si­tion talks re­gard­ing the mi­croblog­ging ser­vice first emerged in 2016, with po­ten­tial suit­ors in­clud­ing Walt Dis­ney Co. and Al­pha­bet, Inc.’s Google.

Twit­ter has made sig­nif­i­cant im­prove­ments since those talks fell apart with­out a deal. The com­pany’s shares have more than dou­bled in the past year, driven by stronger fi­nan­cial per­for­mance and changes to the app that are bring­ing users back to the plat­form more fre­quently. Ear­lier this month, San Fran­cisco-based Twit­ter re­ported its first rev­enue growth in four quar­ters and its first real profit.

Amid the pos­i­tive mo­men­tum, Chief Op­er­at­ing Of­fi­cer An­thony Noto an­nounced his de­par­ture, and the com­pany didn’t name a suc­ces­sor, leav­ing in­vestors ques­tion­ing Mr. Dorsey’s abil­ity to jug­gle his role at Twit­ter with the CEO po­si­tion at Square, Inc. At the con­fer­ence, Mr. Dorsey said he man­ages both jobs with the sup­port of strong teams at each com­pany.

“I have got­ten to a much more steady state where I can be less re­ac­tive to things that hap­pen,” Mr. Dorsey said. “I wouldn’t be able to do what I do with­out strength of the teams around me.”

Over the past year, Twit­ter has fo­cused on mak­ing the ser­vice eas­ier to use. Mr. Dorsey ad­mit­ted that many new peo­ple who come to Twit­ter are “dis­ap­pointed” with their ex­pe­ri­ences be­cause they have trou­ble find­ing top­ics they’re in­ter­ested in. To ad­dress this, Mr. Dorsey said Twit­ter is fo­cused on us­ing ar­ti­fi­cial in­tel­li­gence to per­son­al­ize time­lines and iden­tify con­tent that’s rel­e­vant to in­di­vid­ual users. Twit­ter is try­ing to get away from be­ing con­sid­ered a so­cial net­work, Dorsey said, fo­cus­ing on the real- time na­ture of the plat­form that dif­fer­en­ti­ates it from ri­vals.

Bloomberg LP pro­duces TicToc, a global break­ing news net­work for the Twit­ter ser­vice.

De­spite reach­ing prof­itabil­ity and stem­ming sales de­clines, Twit­ter has been be­rated by law­mak­ers and users for be­ing slow to rec­og­nize how Rus­sia-linked ac­counts — in­clud­ing au­to­mated bots — in­flu­enced con­tent on its plat­form around the 2016 US pres­i­den­tial elec­tion. Mr. Dorsey said he’s of­ten asked why Twit­ter didn’t act on the bot prob­lem ear­lier. “Our in­fra­struc­ture wasn’t in place where we could act faster, but now we can,” he said. “It’s also about pri­or­i­tiz­ing.”

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