I love the Stratechery blog and accompanying podcast, Exponent.fm. Lately (well actually for years) Ben Thompson has been critical of Twitter and it’s future.
I count myself as a former lover of Twitter’s product, but today can hardly be bothered to check it; that’s a bad [albeit anecdotal] sign. To save time reiterating all that Ben said, here’s a nice catchup from this week: How Facebook Squashed Twitter
A common debate I’ve read is who should buy Twitter. This is of course under the assumption that a Twitter that can’t grow would still be valuable to anyone. The two likely buyers are also the two internet advertising technology giants: Facebook and Google.
Ben makes plenty of good points why neither of these companies would buy Twitter, and ultimately it comes down to that there’s no added utility for either of these buyers. Google introduced real-time ad buying and knows a tremendous about us based on our search intent (among other factors), and Facebook has spent the last three years kicking ass in mobile and developing an interest graph of their own.
For the sake of this post, let’s assume Twitter is up for sale.
Who would buy them?
The purchaser should be deeply involved in both the media space and advertising. I think Verizon (my current employer) makes sense in both these regards, but there’s no obvious way for them to grow or even sustain the existing user base.
In my 30 minutes of pondering this question on my commute, I think Amazon is potentially perfect.
Amazon the tech company
I don’t know many people that still consider Twitter an engineering powerhouse. Amazon, on the other hand, is synonymous with cloud computing and is constantly wowing developers with new services.
Twitter’s existing developer tools fit very well within this organization, and if I had to bet, Twitter is probably built on AWS. Combining the engineering efforts would lead to immense cost savings, and diversify Twitter’s value by contributing to AWS revenue streams.
Amazon the advertising company
Twitter bought MoPub for a lot of money. Their ad units aren’t overly engaging (IMO), and I think they’re limited in both proving ROI, as well as providing scale for advertisers. Amazon, however, is a MASSIVE ad tech company, and actually handles an enormous amount of programmatic bidding for other e-commerce giants like Target.
Under the guidance of Amazon, Twitter could do away with ad sales and rely solely on developing interest and intent of their users. Amazon could use this data to extend their already huge ad budgets, targeting users across thousands of sites and apps (like Facebook), and tightly measuring ROI of these social impressions.
Amazon the content company
Many people directly correlate Amazon with e-commerce, and Amazon certainly sells and delivers a ton of physical goods. They also produce and distribute a ton of digital content. Twitter does a fairly good job of producing information voluming around content.
Amazon Studios has produced award winning TV shows, and Amazon Video delivers a mix of original and licensed content to an ever-growing number of Prime subscribers. Twitch (did you forget about them) is the king of live video, and might be the king of realtime chat in these videos. Amazon has physical devices for content distribution in both the Kindle and Fire devices and is constantly iterating on products for authors and screenwriters to independently create and distribute their content.
It’s not directly owned by Amazon Inc, but the Washington Post (owned by Jeff Bezos) has demonstrated amazing growth by integrating with 3rd-party platforms like Facebook Instant Articles and is provided free of charge to Prime subscribers.
Ultimately Twitter is a distribution platform, that could use some love in engineering, advertising, and product. Amazon has some of the best engineering talent, an almost unparalleled product inventory to market and a lot of content to distribute. The cooperation on product would help accelerate the utility of the product quickly and potentially save the service.
The future of Amazon is not in devices, but rather in distribution, both physical and digital. They’ve shown that their strategy is around providing ever more and more utility to Prime subscribers by bundling utilities and discounts. Could Twitter not provide a pipeline for future Prime subscribers?