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The President Tweets While Twitter Burns, but Don't Overlook the Bright Spots

By Published on .

Power-tweeter
Power-tweeter Credit: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg
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On Wednesday, the president of the United States used Twitter to issue military directives. The next day, Twitter reported a surprise drop in monthly U.S. users.

Anyone who thought Trump's tweet-storming and high profile trolling would help the platform grow is apparently going to have to reconsider: It seems that the politics and news that fuel much of the conversation on Twitter may also be driving some people away.

"There is a Trump effect," said one agency executive, who spoke on condition of anonymity because of close ties to Twitter's ad team. "People flocked to the platform because of him, and they are abandoning the platform because of him."

Twitter's quarterly results on Thursday revealed that worldwide monthly active users hadn't grown from the 328 million it had a quarter before. In the United States, monthly users actually declined slightly to 68 million from 70 million. Ad revenue fell 8%.

As the company struggles to hook more users, it is also focusing on serving its most hardcore fans, the ones that come daily.

They were a bright spot in the earnings report, as a matter of fact, increasing 12% according to Twitter, although it declined to provide more details.

Twitter has been taking measures to contain harassment on the messaging service, where many users have been scared off by anonymous attacks.

"People are reporting significantly less abuse on Twitter today than they were six months ago," CEO Jack Dorsey said. "We take action on 10 times the abusive accounts daily compared to this time last year."

The irony, of course, is that the Tweeter-in-Chief is one of the bigger bullies on the platform. His Twitter decree to ban transgendered soldiers from the military was met with widespread rebuke from the tech community -- including Dorsey himself

Still, signs of harassment are down overall, with fewer people getting "blocked," Dorsey said. Twitter has been quicker to ban bad actors and to give people the tools to avoid content they don't want. It's also investing in machine learning to curate timelines for people so they see the messages most relevant to them.

Maybe the stall-out in monthly users is getting too much attention.

Monthly active users are a "less meaningful number" than daily users, according to Rich Greenfield, analyst at BTIG. "Twitter's got some pretty substantial growth in engagement that it's not getting credit for with advertisers," Greenfield said.

The fact is, Twitter is a niche platform, or at least not the all-encompassing one that Facebook has become with 1.3 billion daily users.

Another bright spot for Twitter is its push into video. Bloomberg is introducing an always-on news channel to the platform in the coming months. Twitter is also working on a 24/7 sports channel.

Twitter said it struck about 32 upfront deals with brands like Bud Light, Intel, HP and Wendy's for advertising in its video.

There are 1,200 hours of video streaming on Twitter quarterly, double the amount from last quarter.

"Video will help Twitter," said Tal Chalozin, CTO of video tech company Innovid. "The Bloomberg deal is great and Twitter should have videos playing if people are searching what's happening. It's a place to get very quickly updated on any issue."