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With an Eye on Wall Street, Twitter Starts Selling Twitter Ads Outside of Twitter

First up, Flipboard. Not a coincidence: Twitter hosts an earnings call on Thursday.

Anthony Quintano for Re/code
Peter Kafka covers media and technology, and their intersection, at Vox. Many of his stories can be found in his Kafka on Media newsletter, and he also hosts the Recode Media podcast.

Twitter is rolling out plans for a new revenue stream: Twitter ads that don’t appear on Twitter.

Starting today, the company will start running its core “Promoted Tweet” ad unit on other people’s apps and sites. It’s kicking off with Flipboard, the social news reader app, and also has plans to run the ads on Yahoo Japan.

The idea is a basic one. Advertisers who are already buying ads on Twitter can run the same ads, in the same format, on places outside of Twitter that display Tweets; Twitter will share revenue with the third-party platforms. Here’s an example of a Flipboard ad:

Tease it out, and you end up with Twitter’s version of an ad network, which rival Facebook has already brought to the market.

Twitter is pitching the plan as a way for advertisers to expand their reach beyond Twitter’s core; a blog post announcing the deal says there were 185 billion “Tweet impressions” beyond Twitter’s own site and apps in the third quarter of last year.

Twitter won’t come out and put it this way, but this pitch is also designed with Wall Street in mind. The company has been telling investors, who are worried about its user numbers, that it can make money beyond its monthly active user base of 284 million people*. Now it has a real-life example to show them.

Not a coincidence: Twitter posts its fourth-quarter earnings Thursday afternoon. The ad announcement is one of a flurry of new product rollouts the company has shown off in recent weeks, including a new video feature, a group messaging feature and an “instant timeline” feature meant to help new users.

To beat this into the ground: Twitter told Wall Street that it was going to deliver most of this stuff a few months ago, at its first analyst day presentation.

As the Wall Street Journal reported, Twitter’s ad team previewed its newest plan at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas last month. But Twitter executives have been talking about porting the “promoted Tweet” ad unit outside of Twitter for some time, and that strategy became clearer after it bought mobile ad exchange MoPub in 2013.

For now, this is still closer to a concept than a full-blown product: People familiar with Twitter say that at the start, Twitter’s ad team will be working with advertisers on a case-by-case basis to manually expand Twitter ad buyers to other platforms.

But eventually, they’d like this to be an automated process, so that people who are buying eyeballs on Twitter can click a box and buy eyeballs lots of other places, too.

Related: Twitter ad boss Adam Bain will be onstage at our Code/Media conference Feb. 17 and 18. You can hear from him and 19 other fascinating speakers by grabbing one of our last tickets here.

* That’s Twitter’s last-reported monthly user number, which will go up this week when Twitter reports its Q4 earnings.

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