Layoffs, high profile departures and an organisational restructure—its fair to say that Twitter has had its share of drama over the past couple of months. While critics predict Twitter's demise, Aliza Knox, the company's APAC VP, is emphatic about its success across user numbers and revenue growth.
In an exclusive interview with Campaign Asia-Pacific, Knox outlined what the changes mean for both Twitter and its advertisers. Here’s an edited transcript of the interview:
How are things going?
At the beginning of the year, the team started to work with [Twitter CEO] Jack [Dorsey] on priorities. These include discipline, simplifying product and services and doing a better job of explaining it to people. We have a core group of users and we’re working on broadening that.
One thing has not changed, and that is the Asia-Pacific region continues to be a key growth engine for Twitter. It is our largest and fastest-growing region by users and sales. We had an amazing third quarter and we’re seeing strong user and revenue growth. International revenue contributed just under 40 percent and Asia is growing ahead of the average at 21 percent year-on-year. Japan, Indonesia and now India are among our top five user markets worldwide. Greater China, India and Korea are among our fastest-growing revenue markets globally. Australia is one of the most innovative markets for us. Video formats already account for over half of our revenues in Australia, which represents the future of advertising on our platform.
Recent Twitter headlines:
You’ve had a series of departures, layoffs and a restructure...
We have a few things we could do better. There were several sales teams set up in a model similar to Silicon Valley companies. These multiple touchpoints created problems for agencies and advertisers. We didn’t need as many people.
The other big development is around partnership and business development. There were too many people for a company that requires focus. So we’ve narrowed it down, and our partnerships team will focus on four key areas: entertainment, news, sports and creators. These are the things that really happen in the moment.
Everyone here has contributed to building the bench. Parry (Parminder Singh) and Rishi (Jaitly) built the bench, and we’ll miss them. But we also have strong capable people here. Maya Hari has taken over India and Southeast Asia operations. She has a strong sales background and in-depth knowledge of the product. Her role is smaller than Parry’s but more focused. In Australia, Karen Stocks, MD of Twitter Australia has left and we’ve got Suzy Nicoletti taking over. As for China, we had opened two offices to deal with it—but we had already built the bulk in Singapore. In a world of simplify, it made no sense to have two fully-staffed offices looking at Greater China.
So how many people were affected by the layoffs in Singapore?
Nine percent of our staff worldwide were affected, and that was pretty evenly distributed. It has impacted sales, marketing and business development more. We still have over 100 people in the Singapore office and we are still hiring. This was about role elimination and consolidating operations.
How are clients reacting?
Members of Parry's team are still here. No one singly carries a client relationship. People like Parry and Rishi are working with us during this transition. We're really professionally run, so even the people who are leaving are quite willing to do smooth transitions. It's not acrimonious.
What’s the morale like in the office?
It’s not bad. Any time you have a restructure people are affected—but we have a culture that’s thriving. I’d be sad if we didn’t have somewhat lower morale. Life goes on and we’ve closed some big deals this week. We’re also actively involved in ‘Twitter for Good’ activities and looking at other ways to keep morale up. You do feel a sense of loss but we remind people that revenue is stronger than ever and 91 percent of us are still here.
What are you focusing on now? What are you eliminating?
The biggest thing for us remains Live. We’ve now made two live streaming deals in the region. The first debuted in November—a two hour-long live video stream of the Melbourne Cup. It reached an audience of nearly half that of the day-long digital broadcast from the established broadcaster. We’ve also completed a deal to live stream the NBA. Live is accelerating revenue growth for us and is our single biggest area of focus.
User growth is still an area of concern for many.
We’re growing faster than some companies and slower than others. Our average monthly active users (MAUs) were 317 million for the quarter, up 4 million new users over Q2 and up 3 percent year-on-year. Average daily active usage (DAU) grew 7 percent year-on-year, up 5 percent in Q2. We've now had two consecutive quarters of accelerating audience growth and engagement.
The fact is we’re working on simplifying the product and are focusing on four areas. I expect to see continued user growth. We own the video space and our video usage has more than doubled. We’re the third biggest user base in the world and advertisers can reach 800 million people through Twitter (including logged out users). We had a bang up Q3, and that's a solid foundation to build on.
There’s a report that says that advertisers are spending less with Twitter now. True or false?
It’s not possible because we’re making more money.