When I was listening to Pharrell and Justin Timberlake (assumedly stoned out of their minds) ramble about the meaning of art with Cara Delevigne on Beats 1 over the weekend, I came to the sudden realization that the product that I had been listening to was the future of Twitter.
Apple Music is far from the most intuitive product Apple has pushed out, but the features they’ve finessed that emphasize discovery and live curated content are exactly what Twitter has been missing.
The fact that Twitter needs a new way to approach live content shouldn’t be a surprise, the company has teased Project Lightning, an upcoming feature that heavily emphasizes events, and investors have called for the deconstruction of the timeline as Twitter’s central hub. Project Lightning (or Moments) isn’t enough. What’s Trending wasn’t enough.
What Twitter needs is already sitting at the bottom of the Apple Music app, those tabs (specifically Radio and For You) hold the keys to the kingdom for the next iteration of Twitter.
Make it Live, Really Live
What should be terrifying for Twitter is that what Apple did for music with Beats 1 it could just as easily do for sports or news through dedicated live channels.
One of Twitter’s most important acquisitions to date has been Periscope. The live video streaming service will surely see its importance grow, but if Twitter wants to grow extensively, they need to own the market for user-generated and professionally-curated mobile video content.
Twitter will either die or fully realize its potential as a massive media empire, it doesn’t have other options.
If it wants to maintain relevance and attract new users, Twitter needs to utilize its reach to hire actual journalists and celebrities to curate the news of everything inside a separate tab of its app. A 24/7 feed of multimedia content that is heavily crowd-sourced can make Twitter the up-to-the-nanosecond news source with thought leaders offering commentary to the 140-character snippets that never end.
Beats 1 gives Apple “exclusive personality” from major personalities. This should really be something that Twitter is doing as well, given the devoted, verified presence of such a large swath of pop culture figures on the site. Twitter should be hosting single-page AMAs inside their app and leveraging their celebrity members in a more visible manner. Periscope and Twitter could also work together to birth the live social media talk show and create Twitter celebrities just as Vine has produced its own stars.
Producing a live broadcast channel would be a pretty radical move, but Twitter really needs to grow more experimental and ambitious with producing media content and making it attractive.
Feed My Obsessions
When it comes to feeding me music that I’m already interested in, nothing beats the recommendations from Apple Music’s For You section. With how Apple is able to put its finger on the pulse of music taste based on a few follows, Twitter should be able to balance my hundreds of connections with global topics and and give me an appealing list of trending topics specific to me.
Lightning is about major events, think the Oscars as a whole. BuzzFeed reported that “Twitter anticipates posting seven to ten of these events per day.” But what I want is a separate tab holding a multitude of snapshots that are varied with my interests. I want Twitter to adapt to my cultural obsessions. To do this, Twitter is going to have to forego relying on editor-curated content for this purpose and strengthen their content recommendation engines.
For example: There are going to be millions of tweets about who won Best Picture at the Oscars, but if I follow Jessica Chastain extensively and retweeted a certain designer’s new collection three months ago then I want to see a dedicated story on if she’s wearing the dress from that collection and then a series of tweets from verified gossip hounds and my friends on whether they think she pulled off the look.
Chris Sacca, a notable Twitter investor, wrote a piece detailing his vision for Twitter and how it shouldn’t necessarily confine its various missions to a single app (think a separate NBA Twitter app). But what I want is for Twitter’s central app to know my separate interests and cater to them intelligently. If it knows I have a deep love for the Warriors and follow all of the team’s players and coaching staff, then it should know that when there’s an important game on, that’s all I want to see in this tab.
Twitter needs to grow smarter, they have my evolving interests from every follow and retweet I make. For You hosts playlists of oldies and new tunes alike that fit into my evolving tastes based on me just following a few artists. If Twitter can better capitalize on my distinct interests and curate how I process the latest happenings accordingly, I’m only going to grow more engaged with the app.
Twitter is in a pretty crazy position right now. The revolution-enabling microblogging platform just hasn’t been all that revolutionary in terms of its own product, and user growth and confidence from wall street have slowed as a result.
With a new CEO in the works and a mandate from Wall Street to get its act together and grow its user base, this is the time for Twitter to take risks.
Following Apple Music’s models of curated and recommended content could be a key for Twitter’s future success. With it Twitter might be able to soar to new heights and become a truly revolutionary media company.
Or, who knows, maybe Apple could just buy Twitter.