Can ‘Project Lightning’ Give Twitter a Fresh Jolt?

Can ‘Project Lightning’ Give Twitter a Fresh Jolt?

The Twitter logo is displayed on a screen on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) in New York City, U.S., September 28, 2016. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid/File Photo
Brendan McDermid
By Millie Dent

The ubiquitous blue bird associated with Twitter (TWTR) has been incessantly chirping out new announcements this month as the social media phenom tries to pick itself back up after being slammed for weak earnings growth and the underperformance of its stock.

Projections from data firm eMarketer call for the Twitter monthly user base to grow at a measly 14.1 percent this year, compared with more than 30 percent growth two years ago, according to Reuters.

While the news last week that CEO Dick Costolo was relinquishing the corner office was not a shock since he has offered to resign in the past, the appointment of co-founder and former chief executive Jack Dorsey as provisional CEO caused a stir in the business and tech worlds. Not only is Dorsey the CEO of his own mobile payments startup, Square, but he was reportedly removed from his role as CEO of Twitter in 2008.

The shakeup caused a brief spike in the company’s shares, but the stock is now back to where it had been before the announcement — and if it’s going to climb higher, investors may to need to see some other changes, too.

That’s where the slew of product announcements comes in. The latest, revealed yesterday on Buzzfeed, is called Project Lightning. Essentially, if there’s a hot topic that people are tweeting about — either prescheduled events, breaking news or ongoing events — Twitter has created an easy way for users to view the most popular and relevant tweets, images and videos, without having to sift through every tedious comment and retweet. Twitter will have a team of editors select the tweets they think will be most popular on the stories they see as the biggest of the moment.

The goal is to make Twitter easier to use and more engaging for an audience that isn’t necessarily interested in actively tweeting. (Twitter’s stock jumped more than 4 percent Friday in response to the new product announcement, its best day in months.) Similarly, Twitter is trying to bring down other obstacles to using its service. The same day the news was released about Costolo, Twitter also announced the removal of the 140-character limit on the direct messages feature. Getting rid of the limit is a step by the company to keep up with rival social networks and messaging apps, like Facebook and WhatsApp. 

Related: Instagram Takes Steps to Open Platform to Advertisers

At the same time it tries to draw in users, Twitter executives know they must do more to attract advertisers. Six ad executives surveyed recently by Reuters said they spend more money on rival platforms because they have more users, better data to target consumers and create more effective ad content. To combat that perception, Twitter this week announced a push to bring in advertisers by rolling out video ads that will automatically play in a user’s timeline. Though initially muted, if a user clicks on the video it will switch to full-screen mode with sound. Advertisers will only be charged when a user has watched at least three seconds of the video on a full screen.

Both Facebook and Instagram offer an almost identical ad feature.

Chart of the Day: Long Way to Go on Coronavirus Testing

Healthcare workers with ChristianaCare test people with symptoms of the coronavirus in a drive-thru in the parking lot of Chase
Jennifer Corbett
By The Fiscal Times Staff

The White House on Friday unveiled plans for a new effort to ramp up testing for Covid-19, which experts say is an essential part of limiting the spread of the virus. This chart from Vox gives a sense of just how far the U.S. has to go to catch up to other countries that are dealing with the pandemic, including South Korea, the leading virus screener with 3,692 tests per million people. The U.S., by comparison, has done about 23 tests per million people as of March 12.

After Spending $2 Billion, Air Force Bails Out on Planned Upgrades of B-2 Bombers

The B-2 Spirit stealth bomber flies over the Missouri Sky after taking off from the Whiteman Air For..
© Hyungwon Kang / Reuters
By The Fiscal Times Staff

The Air Force has scrapped a planned upgrade of its B-2 stealth bomber fleet — even after spending $2 billion on the effort — because defense contractor Northrup Grumman didn’t have the necessary software expertise to complete the project on time and on budget, Bloomberg’s Anthony Capaccio reports, citing the Pentagon’s chief weapons buyer.

Ellen Lord, the undersecretary of defense for acquisition and sustainment, told reporters that the nearly $2 billion that had already been spent on the program wasn’t wasted because “we are still going to get upgraded electronic displays.”

Big Hurdle for Sanders’ Plan to Cancel Student Debt

Chip East / REUTERS
By The Fiscal Times Staff

Bernie Sanders wants to eliminate $1.6 trillion in student debt, to be paid for by a tax on financial transactions, but doing so won’t be easy, says Josh Mitchell of The Wall Street Journal.  

The main problem for Sanders is that most Americans don’t support the plan, with 57% of respondents in a poll last fall saying they oppose the idea of canceling all student debt. And the politics are particularly thorny for Sanders as he prepares for a likely general election run, Mitchell says: “Among the strongest opponents are groups Democrats hope to peel away from President Trump: Rust Belt voters, independents, whites, men and voters in rural areas.”

Number of the Day: $7 Million

NY mayor cites climate stance in endorsing Obama
By The Fiscal Times Staff

That’s how much Michael Bloomberg is spending per day in his pursuit of the Democratic presidential nomination, according to new monthly filings with the Federal Election Commission. “In January alone, Bloomberg dropped more than $220 million on his free-spending presidential campaign,” The Hill says. “That breaks down to about $7.1 million a day, $300,000 an hour or $5,000 per minute.”