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Twitter Earnings: Six Things To Look For—From User Growth to Staff Shrinkage

For better or worse—or a little of both—the news could help clarify Twitter's future.

Twitter Earnings: Six Things To Look For--From User Growth to Staff Shrinkage

On Thursday morning—bright and early at 7 a.m. EDT—Twitter is announcing its financial results for the third quarter, with a conference call an hour later. Even more than usual, the company is toughing out a period of investor discontent and bad press. Here are some of the factors that will be in play as it releases numbers and answers questions:

1. Growth. Investors instinctively compare Twitter to Facebook, which is adding new users at a faster clip despite already having far more of them. Even if Twitter has no hope of getting to a billion-plus members, it'll be an encouraging sign if it manages to boost its 313 million monthly active users by a meaningful enough amount to suggest that it's still capable of attracting newbies.

2. Shrinkage. Bloomberg's Sarah Frier reports that Twitter could cut costs by laying off as many as 300 employees in the immediate future. The company might choose to share such bad news during its conference call.

3. Independence. With potential acquirers such as Disney and Salesforce opting out of bids, the chatter about Twitter being subject to imminent sale has died down. But if the company has actively decided it wants to boldly continue on as an independent entity pursuing its current vision, it might want to say so.

4. Civility. The service's reputation as a haven for trolls, anti-semites, and other undesirables was reportedly a factor in Disney's decision not to pursue an acquisition. Twitter always says it takes the issue seriously and is working on new solutions, but expressions of concern and promises of future fixes are wearing thin.

5. Streaming. Twitter is pouring effort into a new initiative to stream live events—most notably NFL games—in part to lure new users who it's had trouble bonding with in the past. If there's evidence this strategy is working, the company is sure to share it on Thursday.

6. Aftermath. Twitter's stock often takes a bruising after its quarterly announcements, and its low price is one big factor in the persistent rumors involving the company being acquired or going private. If its price dips after Thursday's figures are released, expect more chatter about the company seeking the dreaded "strategic alternatives" than if it manages to hold up.

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