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Internal Documents Show That Twitter Is Losing Its Most Active Users

Internal Documents Show That Twitter Is Losing Its Most Active Users
Back in April, billionaire Elon Musk wondered: "Is Twitter dying?" That was just five days before making an offer to purchase the social media platform.
According to internal Twitter research obtained by Reuters, the reality extends far beyond the handful of examples of celebrities ghosting their own accounts. Twitter is struggling to keep its most active users engaged, which is critical to the business, highlighting a challenge faced by Tesla CEO Elon Musk as he approaches a deadline to close his $44 billion deal to buy the company.
These "heavy tweeters" account for less than 10 per cent of all monthly users but generate 90 per cent of all tweets and half of all global revenue.
A Twitter researcher wrote in an internal document titled "Where Did the Tweeters Go?" that heavy tweeters have been in "absolute decline" since the pandemic began.
According to the document, a "heavy tweeter" is someone who logs into Twitter six or seven days a week and tweets three to four times per week.
The study also discovered a shift in interests among Twitter's most active English-speaking users over the last two years, which could make the platform less appealing to advertisers.
According to the report, the most popular topics of interest among English-speaking heavy users are cryptocurrency and "not safe for work" (NSFW) content, which includes nudity and pornography.
At the same time, users' interest in news, sports, and entertainment is dwindling. Tweets about those topics, which have helped Twitter establish itself as the world's "digital town square," as Musk once put it, are also the most appealing to advertisers.
Twitter has refused to say how many of its tweets are in English or how much money it earns from English speakers. However, some analysts believe the demographic is critical to Twitter's business.
According to its investor letter, the platform generated more ad revenue from the United States alone compared to all the other markets combined in the fourth quarter, and most ads in the United States are likely targeting English-speaking users, according to Insider Intelligence analyst Jasmine Enberg.
The Twitter study looked at the number of heavy tweeters in English who showed an interest in a topic based on the accounts they followed, as well as how that number of users changed over the previous two years.
According to the documents, Twitter was motivated to investigate "disturbing" user trends that may have been masked by overall growth in daily active users and better understand the company's most active users' decline. The study made no specific conclusions about why heavy users of the platform are declining.
Asked to comment on the internal documents' findings, a Twitter spokesperson said on Monday: "We regularly conduct research on a wide variety of trends, which evolve based on what’s happening in the world. Our overall audience has continued to grow, reaching 238 million mDAU in Q2 2022," the spokesperson said, using an acronym for monetizable daily active users.
The number of heavy users interested in NSFW and cryptocurrency content grew, the research found.
According to a separate internal slide presentation seen by Reuters, Twitter is one of the few major social media platforms that allows nudity on its service, and the company estimates that adult content accounts for 13 per cent of Twitter. The presentation did not go into detail about how the figure was calculated.
Advertisers usually avoid controversy or nuance for fear of tarnishing their brands. According to Reuters, major advertisers such as Dyson, PBS Kids, and Forbes suspended advertising due to accounts on Twitter soliciting child pornography.
In response to the September story, Twitter stated that it "has zero tolerance for child sexual exploitation" and would devote more resources to combating such content.
According to internal documents, Twitter's most active English-speaking users were also becoming increasingly interested in cryptocurrencies, reaching an all-time high in late 2021. However, interest in the topic has waned since the crypto price crash in June, and the study concluded that cryptocurrencies may not be a growth area in the future.
Current and former Twitter employees interviewed by Reuters expressed concern about Musk's calls for less content moderation and his reported plans to gut the staff, which they believe will exacerbate the deterioration of content quality.

Christopher J. Mitchell

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