Is Twitter a Media or Technology Company?

If it looks like a duck, quacks like a duck and walks like a duck, then it’s a duck — right?

One question many seem to be wondering about Twitter: is this duck a media or technology company?

In a meeting at The New York Times offices in New York, Dick Costolo, the chief executive officer of Twitter, said that Twitter is some variation of both. “I think of the company as a technology company that is in the media business,” Mr. Costolo told a room full of editors and reporters. “Our business is an advertising business, we don’t sell technology.”

Mr. Costolo said the company does not have any reporters or a newsroom, and almost half of its 1,300 employees are engineers, focused on building the technology that runs Twitter and inventing new features for the service.

It is certain that the Twitter bird is evolving into something different than it once was. Lately, the company has been experimenting with media-like products.

Last month Twitter announced a one-stop shop for Nascar fans that corralled Twitter messages from drivers and teams at the Pocono 400 race. The Nascar-branded page that Twitter highlighted in television adswas incredibly visceral, with pictures from inside driver’s cars. Fans could practically smell the fuel from the pit.

Earlier this week Twitter continued this media experiment, announcing a Twitter-branded destination page for the Olympics.

The company’s metamorphosis can also be seen in the way it is restructuring how it works with developers who build products and tools on the Twitter platform using the company’s application programming interface, or A.P.I.

Mr. Costolo said he wanted to migrate away from developers building more external Twitter apps, to a world where developers and companies are building products inside the Twitter platform — a move, he argued, that would create a better experience for users.

“I think of us as a technology company because I think the future of the company is in building on an extensible platform that allows third-party developers and companies to add value to Twitter in a way that is accretive to Twitter and is accretive to our users,” Mr. Costolo said. “I don’t need to be or want to be in the content business.”

Instead of competing in the content business, Twitter is trying to train influential creators to use the service more effectively. For example, Mr. Costolo said, there are Twitter employees who work with celebrities, politicians, athletes and media outlets to hone the best use of the service. “We call them V.I.T.’s internally, Very Important Tweeters. It’s cute; we’re all about being adorable and cute,” he said.

With all of this content from V.I.T.’s and media companies, Twitter has grown as a burgeoning destination for advertisers.

Mr. Costolo noted that, over all, “the engagement rates on ads are great.” Promoted Tweets are seeing greater “percentage points of engagement” compared with traditional Web advertisements that are often only clicked at a rate of a fraction of a percent. Mobile ads are a perfect betrothal as people engage with Twitter more on mobile phones than the desktop, he said.

Yet even with the introduction of ads and content-branded Twitter destinations, Mr. Costolo still sees the company as a communication platform above all else.

“Our vision for the company is simple: Twitter brings you closer,” Mr. Costolo said in conclusion. ”You can say something now and broadcast and everyone around the world sees it immediately.”

Which sure sounds just like a media company to me.



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