Twit­ter aims to be bird of in­for­ma­tion on your shoul­der

The Oklahoman - - RETAIL - BY SELINA WANG

Twit­ter will per­son­al­ize news for users and send them no­ti­fi­ca­tions of events, try­ing to at­tract a big­ger, broader au­di­ence with one of its most com­pre­hen­sive prod­uct up­dates in years.

The changes fol­low sev­eral it­er­a­tions to make the so­cial-me­dia plat­form less cum­ber­some for new users, who may find it hard to de­cide whose opinions to fol­low and how to en­gage in con­ver­sa­tions. Now, Twit­ter will pre­dict rel­e­vant top­ics and send break­ing-news no­ti­fi­ca­tions based on a per­son’s in­ter­ests. It’s over­haul­ing the ex­plore sec­tion of the mo­bile app to show cu­rated con­tent for ma­jor events and sto­ries that are or­ga­nized by top­ics like news, en­ter­tain­ment and sports.

CEO Jack Dorsey “of­ten says we want Twit­ter to be the lit­tle bird on your shoul­der that tells you what you need to know, when you need to know it,” said Keith Coleman, the San Fran­cisco-based com­pany’s vice pres­i­dent of prod­uct. “When some­thing im­por­tant hap­pens on Twit­ter, we want Twit­ter to tap you on the shoul­der and say ‘hey, this is go­ing on and we want you to check it out.’”

For ex­am­ple, with the vol­canic erup­tion in Hawaii, Twit­ter could alert peo­ple with a no­ti­fi­ca­tion that would take them to the most rel­e­vant tweets, pho­tos, and live videos of the news. Cur­rently, to get the most in-depth ex­pe­ri­ence, a user would have had to search for a spe­cific hash­tag that iden­ti­fies the event, fol­low the tweets of Hawai­ian gov­ern­ment of­fi­cials, or search for other ac­counts. Twit­ter wants to make it as easy for some­one to stay con­nected to an event as it is to fol­low an in­di­vid­ual per­son, Coleman said.

Shares rally but user growth slows

Twit­ter shares have ral­lied more than 80 per­cent this year, as in­vestors grow con­fi­dent in the com­pany’s turn­around strat­egy and pace of prod­uct in­no­va­tions. Dorsey has fo­cused on us­ing ar­ti­fi­cial in­tel­li­gence to per­son­al­ize con­tent for peo­ple and im­prove the al­go­rithms to fil­ter out spam and au­to­mated ac­counts called bots. Yet while the changes have en­cour­aged ex­ist­ing users to spend more time on the plat­form orig­i­nally known for its 140-char­ac­ter posts, monthly ac­tive users gained 2.8 per­cent to 336 mil­lion in the first quar­ter com­pared to a year ear­lier — the slow­est pace of growth in two years.

The com­pany is bet­ting that this ma­jor makeover will draw in a more gen­eral au­di­ence, out­side of its power base of jour­nal­ists, politi­cians and en­ter­tain­ers. As part of the ef­fort, Twit­ter will roll out a World Cup ex­pe­ri­ence with in­di­vid­ual pages for each game that will keep track of the score and com­men­tary. The global soc­cer tour­na­ment be­gins Thurs­day in Rus­sia. Ex­ec­u­tives be­lieve these kind of cu­rated ex­pe­ri­ences around big events will en­tice new users to down­load the app.

Dorsey also em­braces Twit­ter’s role as a cu­ra­tor of news and a place to discover “what’s hap­pen­ing now” at a time when so­cial-me­dia com­pa­nies have come un­der fire for fake news and ha­rass­ment. Face­book re­cently ad­justed its news feed al­go­rithm to pri­or­i­tize posts from friends and fam­ily, and it scrapped the trend­ing news fea­ture that was crit­i­cized for anti-con­ser­va­tive bias. Tech­nol­ogy com­pa­nies have tried to po­si­tion them­selves as plat­forms, rather than me­dia pub­lish­ers that are ar­biters of truth.

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