By Adam Fraser
Twitter has delivered its Q4 results, as always eagerly awaited and much analysed.
The key user trends are creeping up but overall the best you can probably say is that they have at least arrested their decline. Far too early to call a turnaround for a business that has never made a profit, The stock market remained unimpressed. The business has substantial cash in the bank but at some point needs to work out how to turn a profit.
If you want to dive into all of the detail, you can check the financials, investor presentation, shareholder letter and investor conference call. If you want the key highlights here are 10 key takeaways:
- Monthly active user (MAU) numbers grew slightly to 319m from v 317m last quarter (up 0.8%) and 306m a year ago (4.6% growth); the steady growth is encouraging but the pace remains insignificant compared to other social networks – Facebook continues to grow in the tens of millions while Twitter crawls in single digits
- 21% of Twitter’s MAUs (67m) are based in the USA; user numbers in the USA are broadly flat with the user growth coming internationally
- Attempts to drive greater engagement and more regular usage on the platform are working, with Daily Active Users growing at 11% on prior year v 7% last quarter and 5% in Q2
- Mobile MAUs were 83% of users, indicating Twitter sits in between Facebook ( 90%+ mobile users) and LinkedIn (approx 60% mobile users) for mobile penetration; note mobile products drove 89% of total ad revenue
- Revenue at $717m was 16% up on the prior quarter of US$616m and 1% higher than a year ago; ad revenue actually declined on a year ago, with data licensing income increasing
- The breakdown of revenue for the quarter was broadly consistent with recent periods, with 89% of revenue coming from advertising and 11% coming from data licensing/other (the ‘big data’ aspect has huge potential for Twitter). Video ads are the most popular and effective form of ads on the platform
- Tweet impressions and time spent on Twitter remained strong, each increasing by double digits on a year-over-year basis in the fourth quarter.
- Twitter made a loss of US$167m for the quarter but also discloses “adjusted EBITDA which showed a profit of US$215m after adjusting for stock based compensation, depreciation and amortisation Twitter ended the quarter with US$3.8bn in cash.
- In the fourth quarter, Twitter streamed more than 600 hours of live premium video from content partners across roughly 400 events, attracting 31 million unique viewers in its first full quarter of operations. Of these hours, 52% were sports, 38% were news and politics, and 10% were entertainment.
- The key strategic areas of focus in 2017 were identified as product changes to make Twitter safer, investing in core use case and product areas such as live streaming video, among others, simplifying and differentiating revenue products to drive sustainable long-term revenue growth and focusing on making progress toward GAAP profitability.
“2016 was a transformative year as we reset and focused on why people use Twitter: it’s the fastest way to see what’s happening and what everyone’s talking about,” said Jack Dorsey, Twitter’s CEO.
There is no question Jack as CEO has had a positive impact on the Twitter business. The shareholder letter shows a greater willingness towards transparency and the strategic focus is undoubtedly tighter. But Twitter was asleep at the wheel for some time as newer platforms such as Instagram and Snapchat stole its thunder. It still seems to be a great business utility seeking a sustainable commercial business model, and remains vulnerable to takeover at current stock market pricing.