Twitter is a Content Platform So Why is the Content Experience Lacking?

I blog about Twitter almost as much as I tweet because it’s a product, a company and a team that I’m fond of (and in one case, very very fond). Also, their strengths and weaknesses remind me so much of YouTube – expression and communications platform with worldwide base and wide variety of uses, where 99% of content is uninteresting to a given user but their 1% is gold. And most everyone’s 1% is different.

Over the last few months it’s become more fashionable to think of Twitter’s future as one around content – both consumption of and discussion around. If indeed this is true north for casual user growth, there are two opportunities I’d want them to move faster to solve.

1) Twitter Cards: Show Preview for All Content Links

Nothing frustrates casual users like inconsistent experiences. What happens today when I click on a tweet which has a web content link attached? The answer is “it depends” and that’s a problem. Sometimes an article is previewed in a Twitter Card. Sometimes that Twitter Card even has an image. But often there’s no preview at all. The decision is in the hands of the site owner to which the link resolves and even then, they need to implement a Twitter Card, a simple process but still technical hurdle.

Proposal: Twitter should behave like Google News and consistently show a snippet for all web content linked in a tweet. Create an equivalent of robots.txt to support opt out. Maybe also allow publishers to “claim their URL” and customize some additional information within the Card.

Consumers gets a consistent preview experience which makes Twitter a richer place to browse links. Some publisher may complain that they don’t want to be previewed but (a) Google does it and (b) they can opt out. Over time I bet that any publisher clicks which are lost from previews (and I’m dubious about this claim) are replaced by an increase in the amount of time and number of clicks per Twitter user.

Today’s inconsistency – first one has preview, second one has no preview


Google News controls its display


2) Improved Reading Consumption Experience

Twitter needs a reading list/magazine view. I don’t know if it feels more like Flipboard or Pocket but could greatly increase time in app and utility of Twitter. Earlier this week Pocket went down for a few hours. I was amazed how much my enjoyment of Twitter was impacted. Actually sent several Tweets with links to myself via email so I could add them to Pocket later. Rough estimate would be that I Pocket 10-20 articles a day via Twitter. Now I’m surely not average in this regard, but the popularity of these types of apps seems to suggest there’s something waiting to be unlocked. It’s also another place that Twitter could promote content editorially.

Again, publishers might yell a bit because I don’t believe they generally like these sorts of experiences (see TechCrunch’s recent disabling of full feed RSS), but (a) they’re not going to stop using Twitter, (b) Twitter can find ways to make these consumption experiences promotional for the brand by upselling the follow, pulling through an ad unit, etc and (c) the publisher can always switch to partial feed and prevent Twitter from “saving” the full content.

I know it’s easy for me to sit outside of Twitter, playing Monday Morning Quarterback, err Product Manager, but if they’re going to focus on content, these two changes would improve my native app experience.

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