Here is the news

Twitter is news

When I first saw that Twitter had changed its App Store classification from social network to news my immediate reaction - no doubt like many others - was that this was an act of desperation. But the more I considered it the more I thought that the change made sense.

First, someone asked on Jelly:

"Why Twitter can't add more users?"

My reply began:

"Non-users just don't understand what it is meant to be/for and Twitter hasn't been able to adequately explain it to them."

Next, Marshall Kirkpatrick tweeted:

"Twitter is news (and social) and you are a news maker (and commentator)"

This triggered a light bulb moment and it all came together with something else I've been suggesting for years: that Twitter users should be presented with news or events and be encouraged to "comment" (tweet) on them just as they would leave a comment on a more traditional news article.

Moments is an ideal vehicle for this.

Not a social network

Twitter has not considered itself a social network for years - Evan Williams described it as an "information network", but, as illustrated by the recent emphasis on live, it is actually a news and current affairs network. We have, after all, been saying that news breaks on Twitter for some considerable time.

Live, real-time, current affairs, news - it all points to an attempt to explain exactly what Twitter is and is for. If Twitter has a user growth problem because people don't understand it, or why they would ever need to use it, then a concerted effort needs to be made to remedy this.

But this cannot be achieved by merely weaving a new narrative, although that is a very important part of the way forward. No, Twitter's story must be backed up with meaningful product changes that reflect that narrative as well as making users realise that they are helping to tell and shape the news.

Change

Ever since Chris Sacca's open letter to Twitter, users (and investors) have been wanting the service made easier to use, to have more widespread appeal, and for the company to have the courage to change. There have been some steps in the right direction, but they have not yet gone far enough - the stalled user growth is evidence this.

Moments, the algorithmic placing of tweets, gifs, having Periscope videos in the feed, they are good ideas and all show potential, yet they are obviously not enough. Moments can be further enhanced by making them more interactive and why can we still not start a Periscope session from directly within the Twitter app?

There are fears that change will alienate the existing core of users. Nonsense! Twitter has already changed significantly and those core users are still here, tweeting like their lives depend on it. Further change does not have to kill the core experience, it can extend it, enhance and supplement it. Moments, for example, is already on its own tab so is free to grow and develop without affecting the main feed.

Denial

Maybe this is it and Twitter doesn't need fixing, maybe it has reached its peak and we are all in denial. Maybe those billion accounts that signed up, cried out in despair and were suddenly silenced show that not enough people are interested in a service such as Twitter.

Maybe changing its App Store category is an act of desperation, a last ditch attempt to sell itself to the masses.

Personally, I'd like to think (hope) that it is a realisation; that the company will have the courage of its convictions and this is the beginning of that new narrative backed by meaningful change.