Twitter makes money for first time ever, but problems remain

Twitter on Feb. 8, 2018 reported its first-ever quarterly profit, delivering a boost to shares of the social network which has been lagging for years against fast-growing rivals. (File Photo/AFP)
Updated 08 February 2018
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Twitter makes money for first time ever, but problems remain

NEW YORK: Twitter made money for the first time in its nearly 12-year history, a milestone that satisfied investors in the short term but might not resolve the company’s broader problems any time soon.
The company is still struggling to get people to sign up, despite the attention President Donald Trump’s no-holds barred tweets have drawn to the service. One problem: Anyone can read tweets without signing up. As a result, Twitter’s user base pales compared with Facebook and the Facebook-owned Instagram.
And that means fewer advertising opportunities.
Beyond that, Twitter has been dealing with policing hate speech and abusive comments, fake accounts and attempts by Russian agents to spread misinformation. Every time Twitter tries to respond to a problem, it’s either not good enough, or some other problem emerges.
“They are playing whack-a-mole with these problems,” said Michael Connor, whose Open Mic group helps investors push tech companies to address privacy, abuse and other issues. “They say they have the problem under control, but they don’t know what the problem is exactly.”
Add to that a revolving door of executives, including an influential chief operating officer leaving after Thursday’s earnings report.
Twitter said it had an average of 330 million monthly active users in the final three months of last year, unchanged from the previous quarter and below Wall Street’s estimate of 333 million. By contrast, Facebook has 2.2 billion and Instagram has more than 800 million.
Twitter hadn’t turned a profit until now because — competing with Facebook, Google and others for digital ad dollars — it didn’t attract enough advertising revenue to make up for its expenses. But it’s been cutting costs and focusing on new revenue streams, such as live video.
In some good news, the company grew revenue by 2 percent to $732 million in the final three months of 2017. That’s above the $687 million that analysts polled by FactSet were expecting. Its net income — a first — was $91 million, or 12 cents per share. Adjusted earnings were 19 cents, above analysts’ expectations of 14 cents.
After the results came out, the company’s stock jumped more than 17 percent in morning trading to $31.64, its highest level since 2015.
The quarter “was a breath of fresh air for investors that have patiently awaited for this turnaround story to manifest after years of pain,” said Daniel Ives, head of technology research at GBH Insights.
Nonetheless, Twitter has big challenges ahead. Connor said that while investors don’t want to micromanage Twitter, they at least want the company “to show that there is a level of management and governance on the senior level in place willing to address these issues.”
While Twitter is well-known, it remains difficult to use, making it difficult for the company to explain to people why they need it. Twitter also has an “image problem,” Wedbush analyst Michael Pachter said in a recent research note, “as it has been slow to act on harassment and other hostile behavior.”
The company has enacted a slew of new policies, and Pachter says this renewed focus should help. But enforcing them will be a bigger hurdle .
Connor’s group recently helped two large Twitter and Facebook shareholders file resolutions asking the companies to take more responsibility for fake news, abuse and hate speech. The companies have not formally responded, though Twitter has introduced a slew of new measures to weed out abusive account and has said that it “cares deeply” about misinformation and its harmful effect on civic discourse.
Then there’s the issue of automated accounts made to look like real people. In the days after a New York Times report on the “shadowy global marketplace” of brands and celebrities buying fake retweets and followers, prominent Twitter users collectively lost more than a million followers, suggesting that Twitter either didn’t know or didn’t act until the expose.
Fake accounts aren’t a new problem. Last June, Twitter said it has been “doubling down” on its efforts to weed out such accounts by “expanding our team and resources, and building new tools and processes.” It estimates that less than 5 percent of monthly active users are fake. But the Times referenced a report saying it could be as high as 15 percent.
One chief problem: more fake accounts keep popping up, and those behind them are getting smarter, so Twitter’s countermeasures haven’t made much of a dent.
Forrester Research analyst Erna Alfred Liousas said that while rival social networks such as Facebook deal with fake accounts, too, it may be “more elevated for Twitter” because there has been so much focus on its monthly user numbers. Anything that could jeopardize advertisers’ ability to see how many people they will reach, she said, “is going to cause concern.”
Another concern: last month Chief Operating Officer Anthony Noto announced his resignation from the company following Thursday’s earnings report. Noto, who was also finance chief until last July, has served an influential and important role at the company and had led its venture into live video. Twitter said it is not replacing Noto, and instead will split his duties between executives.
“Now (that) he’s gone, who’s running the company?” Pachter said.
Technically, that’s CEO Jack Dorsey. But Dorsey splits his time as head of payments company Square.
Twitter has “less than Jack’s undivided attention,” Pachter said, adding that nonetheless Dorsey runs the company with a “benevolent autocracy” that leaves little room for innovation.
By contrast, Pachter said Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg “is not afraid if they alter his baby, his invention, to make it better,” even if in the end Zuckerberg may be the final arbiter.
Twitter declined to comment. But Dorsey said at a conference late last year that it’s “not about the amount of time I spend at one thing but how I spend the time and what we’re focused on.”


Multinational media delegation amazed by technologies and enormity of King Abdul Aziz Airport

Updated 15 August 2018
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Multinational media delegation amazed by technologies and enormity of King Abdul Aziz Airport

  • Local, Arab and foreign media channels and international news agencies are showing a big interest in covering the services provided by the Kingdom for its pilgrims
  • The delegation’s visit aimed to check the services and modern technologies as well as the services provided for pilgrims from their arrival until their departure after performing Hajj

JEDDAH: A multinational media delegation visited King Abdul Aziz International Airport in Jeddah on Tuesday to learn more about the services the state is providing for its guests, both pilgrims and travelers.
The delegation kicked off their visit with a tour around the new hall (hall 1), where they were received by Assistant Director-General of the airport Abed Al-Mohsen Al-Sheikh and a number of officials.
The delegation checked the modern services, equipment and techniques available at the new airport and were amazed by the technologies provided for travelers as well as the enormity of the airport, which reflects the Kingdom’s efforts in supporting the civil aviation industry.
The delegation continued their visit with a tour in the processing areas of arrival and departure and listened to an explanation about the airport’s great capacities and modern technologies adopted for the service of travelers.
The delegation also visited the Hajj halls at the airport and checked the new services provided for pilgrims in all the halls that receive tens of thousands of pilgrims every day heading to the holy sites to perform Hajj.
The tour also covered Hall 11, allocated to the Interior Ministry’s initiative “Makkah Road,” where the delegation listened to an explanation by the Commander of the Hajj Passports Force Col. Suleiman bin Mohammed Al-Yusuf about the services hall 11 offers pilgrims, to facilitate and optimize their Hajj experience. The delegation then moved to the Hajj and Umrah Ministry’s platform allocated to welcome pilgrims this year.
At the end of the tour, the delegation praised the airport’s development and speed in completing traveling procedures in a record time, noting King Salman and the crown prince’s great efforts to serve pilgrims and provide the best services and care.
For his part, Turki Al-Thieb, director-general of the public relations and information at the airport, said the delegation included a big number of international media representatives from Arab and European countries as well as West Asia and Africa.
The delegation’s visit aimed to check the services and modern technologies as well as the services provided for pilgrims from their arrival until their departure after performing Hajj, within a comprehensive system of services provided by more than 27 governmental and non-governmental bodies and supervised by the Civil Aviation Authority, represented by the airport’s administration.
Al-Thieb said the delegationэs members looked over the services provided at the Hajj halls for pilgrims and the speed of completing Hajj procedures in less than 20 minutes. These services are carried out under the directive of King Salman and his crown prince to serve pilgrims from the moment they arrive to perform Hajj until the moment they head back to their countries safe and sound.
Local, Arab and foreign media channels and international news agencies are showing a big interest in covering the services provided by the Kingdom for its pilgrims at King Abdul Aziz International Airport, where more than 344 permits have been issued so far, allowing local and international media in the Hajj halls.