clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Twitter's Costolo and Periscope's Beykpour on Running Companies Under Pressure (Full Video)

At Code, the CEOs of Twitter and Twitter-owned upstart Periscope talked about content ownership and privacy, and the pressure of being a CEO in a volatile industry.

Asa Mathat for Re/code

A lot has changed for Dick Costolo since he appeared onstage at our Code conference late last month.

Last week, the embattled CEO of Twitter announced that he’s stepping down from the company, in a move that shocked employees but wasn’t entirely surprising to those on the outside.

In fact, Re/code co-executive editor Kara Swisher had asked Costolo about his job security onstage just two weeks earlier. His response: “I don’t worry about that at all.”

Costolo was joined by Periscope CEO Kayvon Beykpour during the interview with Swisher and Peter Kafka, which you can watch here in its entirety, or read in the transcript below (it has been edited for clarity).

Watch the whole interview here:

“I think [Periscope] is a terrible medium for piracy, frankly.” — Periscope CEO Kayvon Beykpour

Kara Swisher: I’m very excited to have this pair come out. We booked them at the last minute. We wanted to talk about this issue of livestreaming, and we also wanted to talk to Twitter about what’s going on. They’ve had quite a bit of stuff going on. The Periscope thing has really exploded — Meerkat and all these companies — and we want to know if it’s here to stay. And so the eternal good sport, Dick Costolo, is here with Kayvon of Periscope. Come on out.

Dick Costolo: Five years and one month ago, Peter [Kafka] and I did our first interview, the day we launched our ad products in New York.

Swisher: Oh, really? Wow.

Costolo: Now here we are again.

Peter Kafka: He was much healthier back then.

Costolo: I didn’t have consumption.

Swisher: Because we’re a cliché, we’re going to Periscope part of this.

Kafka: So we’re going to let the audience Periscope as well, instead of forbidding them to Periscope it?

Swisher: (To audience) Periscope away. Do whatever you want. Steal content happily. (Starts Periscoping the interview with her smartphone.) So I’m going to start the broadcast: Here we are onstage, so people can see what it’s like. I hope this doesn’t annoy you, but let’s begin talking about this, because it wasn’t me stealing my own content. We had [CBS CEO] Les Moonves here yesterday talking about this, and he seemed relatively irritated, but trying to hold it in, about what happened with the [Mayweather vs. Pacquiao] fight.

Costolo: I would characterize Les’s reaction as understanding that systems like Periscope are going to surround these events and amplify them in much the same way that fantasy sports amplifies the event itself, and is helpful to the event. And I think Les made that very clear.

Swisher: Yes, he did, but I think initially, from my understanding, he was a little more irritated with the idea, because he’s charging $100. Let’s start with Kayvon. How do you look at this medium and the issues around piracy and things like that? What are you thinking of when you’re creating this medium?

Kayvon Beykpour: Well, I think it’s a terrible medium for piracy, frankly. You see lots of headlines around people watching “Game of Thrones” on Periscope, and I think to myself, “That’s a pretty terrible way to watch ‘Game of Thrones’ for anyone who appreciates good content.” Sure, you can do it. The world is a big place. Sure, people will do it, and we have to have processes and tools in place to do it. Do I think fundamentally it’s going to be an issue that people will want to do? No, because it actually just is a terrible way to watch content. You don’t want to watch someone pointing to their 20-inch TV from 30 feet away. It’s just not a good way to watch the content.

Swisher: And what about the fight and things like this, if people are there? It works pretty well …

Beykpour:It’s good for a live event.

Beykpour: I think it certainly is frictionless to start a broadcast. I think the reason why there was a fascination around the fight was … Periscope was so new, and it was such an unusual event in that it was exclusive, it was expensive, there were some cable network issues. So the complement of all those things made it something that people talked about quite a bit. But, I mean, we see the numbers. The number of DMCA requests we get are just fractions of fractions of a percent of the actual broadcast we have. So I think they make juicier headlines than it is an actual issue in your product.

Asa Mathat for Re/code

“So I sent this tweet out and said, ‘And the winner is Periscope.’” — Twitter CEO Dick Costolo

Kafka: YouTube spent years — a lot of money — building up a content ID system to handle the Digital Millennium Copyright Act to placate copyright owners who were upset about stuff going up on YouTube. Do you imagine that you guys are going to have to do that same kind of effort? And will that even work, since these are livestreams? It’s one thing for stuff that’s been recorded that goes up on YouTube, it’s relatively easy to take down. But something that’s happening live, it seems like it’s a very difficult process.

Beykpour: Our view on this is that we care about the relationships we have with our partners. Some of the best content we’re seeing is from these content creators, these partners themselves. If you talk of the Pacquiao fight, HBO Boxing, the Showtime account, we’re actually Periscoping before the event. And those were some of the best pieces of content we saw surrounding that event, and we felt like it complemented the actual experience …

Kafka: So, just mechanically, is there a way to do it where someone doesn’t have to call in and say, “There was a livestream. It was up two minutes ago.”

Beykpour: I think that there’s a lot of innovation to be had around the whole process of DMCA — the takedown process and the investigation process — and it’s something that we’re excited to work with our partners on. It needs to be different than the tools that exist, and content ID worked in a world where prerecorded content was the thing. And I think in a world where you have pervasive mobile device access and people can start to broadcast, the tool needs to be different, and we’re excited to work with our partners to do that.

Costolo: I think the great news is there are probably no other companies that the networks, the rights holders, the sports leagues, would rather be working with on this kind of thing than us. We’ve been a great partner to them. I’ve invested time personally in those relationships. You heard that from Les yesterday. Adam Bain invested time in those relationships. Anthony Noto comes from the NFL. Katie Stanton works on these things. We’re a technology company. We do a good job of building tools, and we know how to build tools, and we’ll build the tools that we need to build here.

Swisher: Would you feel you’re able to explain that tweet? They took it the wrong way.

Costolo: Just for context for everybody: I paid for the fight, and in Periscope you can get notifications from your friends: “Hey, I want you to watch this broadcast.” And I got asked, “Hey, you should watch Darren Rovell from ESPN walking to his seat in the arena.” And I watched that, and literally — it’s happening again — I had goosebumps, like, watching it in anticipation of the fight. And then there was Manny Pacquiao in his dressing room getting ready. And then there’s HBO Boxing and Showtime, and on and on and on. So I sent this tweet out and said, “And the winner is Periscope.” Everyone who knows me, and any one of our partners knows that was about the beauty of Periscope and everything surrounding the event. In retrospect, would it have been nice to put more context in there? Sure.

Swisher: Yeah, that’s the whole issue with Twitter, I think.

[Audience laughter]

Swisher: So you’re meeting with Les to talk about that?

Costolo: I meet with him regularly, and it sounds like, as of yesterday, I’m buying him lunch.

Swisher: Yes, apparently. And I’m coming, which will be good.

Costolo: Good.

Swisher: It will be fun. What do you think they need to be assured by you that you are protective of their rights? They’re still nervous in many ways of all these …

Costolo: (Interposing) I think they want to see that we understand the issues that they’re concerned about, and that we’re working on them, and that’s exactly what’s happening.

Asa Mathat for Re/code

“When I first saw Periscope … it was instantly, ‘This is going to be a powerful native mobile video content creation platform, and it’s going to be vital to have that kind of content pouring into the Twitter ecosystem.’” — Dick Costolo

Kafka: Dick, why did you buy Periscope even before it launched? What did you see? This is now the second time you’ve bought a video product before it launched. You bought Vine prior to launching it. So why did you buy Periscope? And we can go back to Vine, too.

Costolo:Maybe I can just back up and put this in the context of how we think about innovation. When you think about innovation, I want to have lots of courageous entrepreneurs inside the company, and those people can be people we’ve hired who are already inside the company, and they can be entrepreneurs we see in the world who we just feel are doing bold things and courageous things, and should be a part of Twitter. And when I first saw Periscope, I think it was November of 2014, it was one of those instantly — it was like Vine. It was instantly, “This is going to be a powerful native mobile video content creation platform, and it’s going to be vital to have that kind of content pouring into the Twitter ecosystem.” And Kayvon’s an amazing entrepreneur. I can just tell you, and he can blush about it if he wants — everyone on his team loves working with him, and talks about what an amazing entrepreneur he is.

Kafka: It seems like some of what you’re doing is influenced by the fact that you wanted to buy Instagram and couldn’t buy Instagram. Do you think you’re going to be extra aggressive for the next couple of years trying to buy stuff in the hopes that one of these things blows up and you don’t miss a chance to have the next Instagram?

Costolo: I don’t think it’s about one of these things blows up and you miss the chance. There are all sorts of interesting native mobile content creation platforms. I’m particularly interested in native mobile video content creation platforms. And I want to have a variety of those tools and engines for content creators to use in different and fun ways to enable all sorts of different rich content to pour into Twitter, particularly around moments, whether those moments are planned events or unplanned events or topics or places, etc. Those are going to allow us to curate these moments and experiences, and deliver those to users the moment they come to the platform.

Twitter head of product Kayvon Beykpour Asa Mathat for Recode

“We don’t want to be just a celebrity broadcasting platform. We don’t want to just be a platform for journalism. I think the beauty of Periscope … is that we have this spectrum.” — Kayvon Beykpour

Swisher: When you’re thinking of these things you’re doing, Kayvon, there has been an explosive interest in it, and also in Meerkat. How do you keep it going, because this is something that could be popular for a second and then nobody does, essentially.

Kafka: It seems like it’s died down a little bit already.

Swisher: But how do you keep people interested in the platform? You don’t have a ton of celebrities on it yet, using it the way you use Twitter. And on Vine, you have a whole different thing going on — sort of an indie — lots of creators using it. As I said, my kids watch certain people. But it’s not really a celebrity thing. It’s more unusual creators on that service. How do you keep it from not being a flash-in-the-pan kind of situation?

Beykpour: From our perspective, we’ve seen engagement continue to increase, and it’s been really mind-blowing for us. We ran some numbers earlier this week, and we found that on a daily basis the aggregate amount of time that live Periscopes are watched is about 10 years per day of content. And in aggregate since we launched, which has been just about eight weeks now, we’ve had 380 years’ worth of live broadcasts.

Kafka: How many people are streaming? How many people are watching?

Beykpour: Most of the people are watching. I don’t know what the exact breakdown is, but it follows very similar to the 90/10 rule.

Kafka: But how many overall users do you have right now?

Beykpour: We haven’t released those numbers. And one of the reasons for that is the metric that we think is most telling of how people are using the platform, and whether it’s effective and compelling, is watch time, because it captures how many people are watching and also how much they watch a particular broadcast.

Swisher: But how do you keep it fresh? Because you have to have great content on it.

Beykpour: It’s a great question, and it’s something that, to be honest, we’re still learning.

Swisher: Do you need celebrities?

Beykpour: I think you need a mix. We don’t want to be just one thing. We don’t want to be just a celebrity broadcasting platform. We don’t want to just be a platform for journalism. I think the beauty of Periscope, and what excites us every day, is that we have this spectrum. We have celebrities like Oprah and Ellen broadcasting their lives or their shows, or whatever it might be. We have journalists covering Nepal and Baltimore. We have folks who you wouldn’t have heard of talking about random stuff. You have folks who are just creative that are either playing their instruments or doing creative games through Periscope in an interactive way. Going into launching Periscope, we had our vision of, like, “Man, it would be great to have this cross-section of things.” But we’ve just been blown away by the different use cases that we never would have imagined. I think that’s the key — diversity, and a lot of it. And compelling creators of different kinds.

Swisher: Dick, we’re going to move on to other things in a minute, about you.

Costolo: What is this?

Swisher: You’ll see. I realize I had to put this [smartphone] in my right hand, because I actually interview better with my left hand. How do you keep that fresh, from your perspective? Does it have to be celebrities? Have you put enough resources behind Periscope? Because there were some complaints that it didn’t have Android fast enough.

Costolo: They launched Android with remarkable speed on the heels of being a company of originally five people who just had an IOS development team. So I was delighted with the fact that that rolled out Tuesday. I think one of the ways you do it is through what they’re already doing, highlighting and featuring the kinds of unique content that are on the platform. The British Museum, I think it was, just the other day gave this sort of docent-led tour on Periscope of one of their ancient Egyptian exhibits, and it’s such an immersive experience — you feel like you’re there. And when you show people those things, and highlight them and bubble them to the top, they start to realize all the kinds of things that they can do with the platform. So I think that’s the way you go about that.

Asa Mathat for Re/code

“That’s the magical thing about live. It’s not the fact that it’s live for the sake of being live. It’s that you can affect the experience.” — Dick Costolo

Kafka: It seems like you guys think live just is inherently interesting. But it seems like one of the big advantages of the Internet is you get to watch digital in general. So you get to consume media when you want to. You don’t have to watch “Empire” whenever “Empire” airs on Fox. You can watch it on VOD the next day.

Costolo: I don’t know what the magical thing about it is, but as I mentioned earlier, if you said to me “Here’s a video of Darren Rovell from ESPN walking to his seat at the boxing fight three nights ago,” like, okay. But seeing it in the moment as he walked into the arena, as someone who paid for the fight to watch it on a nice plasma screen, it like got you really excited for what was about to happen. And experiencing that and being immersed in it while it’s happening, and then also being able to sort of direct the producer, if you will, like “Hey, turn the camera to the left …”

Beykpour: That’s the magical thing about live. It’s not the fact that it’s live for the sake of being live. It’s that you can affect the experience. It’s breaking down that third wall. I was just broadcasting backstage, and people were saying, “Show us the stage.” And two seconds later, I point my camera and show the stage. That’s the magic moment. It’s not when you realize there’s this blinking red dot. It’s the fact that you, as a viewer, just made something.

Kafka: Because after a while, you’re going to get tired of watching Darren Rovell walk to his seat, unless he falls down, right?

Costolo: That may be what you were watching it for, right? Someone asked me on Twitter once, “What’s the big deal about Periscope? Ustream and live broadcasting has been around for a while.” And my response was, “Well, those platforms are one to many, and Periscope is one with many,” and I think that’s the magic of it.

Asa Mathat for Re/code

“The board and I are totally in sync about what we need to do.” — Dick Costolo

Swisher: We’re going to move on now.

Costolo: Uh-oh. Here comes the finger.

Swisher: Here comes the finger. (Points finger.) Are you going to have your job by the end of the year?

[Audience laughter]

Costolo: Look, the board and I are totally in sync, and I should say, and the rest of my leadership team …

Swisher: I thought I’d just go straight to …

Costolo: … are totally in sync about what we need to do. We have a very clear strategy that we’ve articulated repeatedly. We’re following that strategy. We’re focused on the road ahead, and we’re executing against it. And that strategy is a total audience strategy. So we have 300 million monthly active users who log in to Twitter every month. The more than half a billion who come every month and don’t log in. So, right there, over 800 million users who come to the platform every month, and then another — as we’ve said publicly — more than 700 million who see tweets in syndication. We have a distribution platform that reaches that size audience. Amplifying that size audience across growing logged in, logged out and syndicated is a massive opportunity, and that’s what we’re executing.

Kafka: You say you’re in sync with the board. Wall Street isn’t in sync with you. Your stock is worth less than when you IPO’d a couple of years ago, a year and a half ago. How do you convince Wall Street that what you’re doing is the right thing?

Costolo: You have to focus on the long term and execute against that long-term strategy, and show them that you’re continuing to execute on exactly what you said you were going to do. And that’s what we’re doing. You also have to make sure you have the right team in place. I don’t think the team has ever been stronger. One of the things I focus on, as a manager, is constantly trying to improve the team.

Kafka: You’ve changed the team a lot since you launched.

Costolo: Well, we made changes when we needed to make changes, and they’re great.

Swisher: Do you think it has given Twitter a sense of too many changes, too much?

Costolo: I don’t think about it that way. I think about having the right people inside the company who are best suited to work together on whatever the next step in the company’s life is. Anthony Noto, bringing him into the company, he’s been amazing. He’s super high-bandwidth. He’s able to do multiple things. And we didn’t just bring him in to be just the CFO and an accountant. And he works so well with the product engineering team and Adam Bain, and Katie Stanton on the media team, that that’s what you look for as a leader — putting the right people in place to execute the strategy.

Kafka: You guys made a flurry of product changes this spring. The Google deal just went live. Are any of those now showing actual lift? Can you say, “Oh, we’ve added this many users. We’ve added this much engagement” because of changes you’ve made to the product this year?

Costolo: Well, I would just point you to those comments I made on our last earnings call about that. I’m focused on continuing to execute and improve that pace of execution. The beauty of improving the pace of execution, which I think we’ve done wonderfully over the course of the last six months, is it gives the team courage to be more bold knowing that those bolder choices will be executed against just as purely and precisely as the recent changes were executed against. And that’s what I’m seeing inside the company. I love that.

Asa Mathat for Re/code

“As a CEO, you have to balance … grit and resilience with self-awareness.” — Dick Costolo

Swisher: Let me get back to the pressure on you as a CEO. You’ve got Chris Sacca blogging something or other over here, who’s a big supporter. You’ve got Wall Street. There seems to be a constant swirl around it. Why is that happening? And what part of that is your fault? And what can you do to fix it?

Costolo: Look, as a CEO, you have to balance, I think, two things. And it doesn’t matter if you’re a public company CEO, startup CEO. You have to balance grit and resilience with self-awareness. If you just have self-awareness and no grit or resilience, you’re going to be over in the corner with your hands over your head. And if you just have grit and resilience but no self-awareness, you’re liable to be delusional and spin the company off its tracks. And I think about that. I think about those kinds of things. I ask myself the question, “Are we doing what we’re going to do next because it’s the right long-term thing for the business, or are we in a reaction as a team or a company to some short-term incremental demands?” And I’m always trying to make sure we’re making the long-term bold choices that best serve the strategy. And that’s all I can do.

Kafka: Is some of this just an effect of the way you positioned the company as you went out to go public, as you talked to banks? I mean, you have 300 million users. You did, what, $1.4 billion in revenue last year. It’s a pretty good-sized company. If you weren’t being compared to Facebook, and if you hadn’t said, “We’re going to be as big as Facebook, we’re going to be a global worldwide company,” wouldn’t you be in a better spot now? You have a very big, highly valuable company.

Costolo: Well, you have certain kinds of metrics you have to report when you file your S-1, and the SEC gives you their comments back. They say, “You have to talk about this.” So there are certain kinds of metrics you have to report. And then as we execute against that total audience strategy, because of the broad reach we have, you also want to make sure you’ve got the capabilities inside the company and the partnerships outside the company, like the Google partnership, that are going to drive that total audience, so you’re not just giving them another different number that you don’t understand how you’re going to innovate against. And I would add to that that the interesting thing about the moment we’re in now is that I think that people believe the strategy, and they buy it, but we have to show them, “Okay, that’s great that you’ve reached over a billion people on and off your site. Help me understand how you’re going to monetize that. Show me how you’re going to monetize that. Help me model, when I create my models for your platform and its growth over the next few years, how we should model that.” And those are things we know, and we need to show them how to do that.

Kafka: But you’ve got a very big core of people who really love the service, who really, really enjoy it. Why not concentrate on maximizing the value of those people? I assume most people in this audience …

Swisher: (Interposing) He’s saying, “Why not be a smaller, better company?”

Costolo: I think you can have your cake and eat it, too. I think we can have our cake and eat it, too. And it’s all about migrating the company from purely a world of being tech-centric, follow-based, reverse-chronologically focused, to a mix of that and expert curated media-centric and relevance-focused content. And by providing that additional kind of content and, in fact, driving new users immediately into those experiences, I think you can have it both ways. I think you can make the core users who’ve loved it from the day it was tech-centric and only 140 characters, to a world in which people who come to the platform for the first time, get it right away.

Swisher: I would be remiss if I didn’t ask: Have you held discussions with other companies to be bought?

Costolo: No. Well, I would say this. We have every intention of being an independent company. And those things you read about in the press are simply rumors, not facts.

Swisher: And in terms of what you need to get, you bought this company [Periscope]. You’re trying to bring innovation in. Do you need to buy more things to bring innovation in, or do you think you have the team in place at Twitter to do that?

Costolo: You want to do both. You want to encourage people inside the company to be bold and courageous, and then show the rest of the company that you reward that kind of behavior and those bold choices, and then you also want to look for courageous entrepreneurs out in the world, like Kayvon; like Valerie Wagoner, who is the CEO of ZipDial, who has just joined us. She is one of the most courageous entrepreneurs I’ve ever had the good fortune to work with; like Josh McFarland from TellApart. So you want to foster all of that internally and bring them in externally when you find them.

Swisher: Again, you didn’t answer my question. Will you be there at the end of the year?

Costolo: Look, I have to focus on my job and what I’ve got ahead of me. I don’t worry about “Am I going to be working here on this date” or “Am I going to be working here on that date.” I focus on my job.

Swisher: And you feel you’re in sync with the board?

Costolo: Well, I don’t feel like I’m in sync with my board. I know I’m in sync with my board. The board and I communicate regularly. One of the things I do is probably over-communicate with them, and we’re thoroughly in sync.

Asa Mathat for Re/code

“You have to put motivations in place to make sure you’re driving diversity candidates in the pipeline.” — Dick Costolo

Swisher: The last question, on diversity. How do you think you’re doing on diversity?

Costolo: I think the entire industry has work to do. And so, when I think about what’s specific to Twitter, there are three things we’re trying to do. One, really focus on the kinds of internal teams and efforts from internal teams that we can use to enhance the work we’re doing to build the pipeline of diversity. Specific to women in engineering? Having women engineering teams, having a leadership group that spends time with women engineering teams, having mentorship programs with some of the women leaders in our engineering organization, doing that. External to the company? Trying to focus more on bringing more diverse candidates into the market. So we work a lot with Girls Who Code. We work a lot with TechWomen.

And finally, I think that you want to start to do things like really think about what are the right set of universities we should be interviewing at and recruiting at, not just the ones we’ve traditionally recruited at, because that’s where everyone else recruits. One of the things you can do is to really make sure the team is always thinking about it. A fascinating observation I made last year was I tried to get everyone to read the book “Thinking, Fast and Slow” by Daniel Kahneman, because I thought it was a great way of getting you to be aware of biases — hidden bias, selection bias, success bias, etc. What you learn is and what the other research I’ve read is that even when people are just aware of those, if there aren’t motivations in place for them to act on it, they kind of just don’t. They go, “I’m aware of this bias,” but then they continue down the path they had before. So you have to put motivations in place to make sure you’re driving diversity candidates in the pipeline.

Kafka: And how does this play out as a product? In my feed, there’s a constant sort of stream of complaints about Twitter’s not a particularly good place to be a high-profile woman or a person of color or a minority. How are you doing with that?

Costolo: I’m completely proud of the team’s work on abuse and harassment on the platform. I made public an email I sent out to the company where we weren’t doing a good job on it. The product innovation, the policy innovation and the combination of the user services team, the policy team, and the user safety product team work, just over the last couple of months, has been extraordinary. I’m delighted with it.

Asa Mathat for Re/code

“There’s a there there.” — Kayvon Beykpour

Swisher: Questions from the audience?

Question: Yeah, Dick, real quick. You guys do great using the feed for news, but Facebook has just launched Instant Articles, and there’s monetization for publishers, there’s no paywall issues. Do you need to respond to that, and what do you think about the Facebook product?

Costolo: Well, I think it’s a fascinating idea. It’s obviously the case in the world of apps that these native rich experiences that you can have in-app are compelling and obviously take less time. And so those are things we think about and we work on in our own app, and we have a number of things under way with content partners to make that a more powerful experience.

Kafka: Do you imagine I’ll be able to consume an entire New York Times article on Twitter?

Costolo: I don’t think that you have to think of it in exactly the same way. I think there are other things you can do to make it a rich native immersive experience that are just as helpful to the content partner.

Question: Just a quick follow-up. How about monetization — just because you’re shooting the publisher referral, and Facebook’s sharing dollars with you.

Costolo: Of course I think we innovated on monetization for content partners within Twitter through our Amplify program that started with video, but there’s no reason that can’t be extended to all sorts of content. So I think we were actually first to market on that.

Swisher: Can I ask Kayvon, where do you see monetization for Periscope?

Beykpour: We don’t see it anytime soon. I mean we think of it as we’re eight weeks in. We’re barely scratching the surface on the things that we want to do to work towards our vision. And if we can build a sustainable product that people love to use and want to use — that there’s a there there.

Swisher: Can you just think of one? Commercials, or what?

Beykpour: I mean we’ve had ideas, but …

Swisher: Give me an idea.

Beykpour: What I will say is I’m not a fan of putting pre-roll ads on live video. I’m not a fan of doing that, because I think one of the charming things about Periscope is you get a notification that something’s live, and you go right into it. I don’t want to see a 30-second app before I do that.

Costolo: I think that’s right. You don’t want to miss the moment. There are all sorts of ways you can think about Vine and Periscope and these creation engines as input to some of these broader experiences across the Twitter ecosystem where you might monetize that content in aggregate.

Swisher: Okay. Michael?

Question: Hi. Mike Isaac from the New York Times. I wonder if you could talk a little bit about Niche, the service you acquired earlier this year, and how you think about creators on other services that are not owned by you, like Instagram or YouTube, and how you guys want to sort of use that service.

Costolo: I love Mike Isaac from the New York Times, by the way. That’s awesome.

Swisher: I know. We call him Charmin Bear still.

Costolo: Thanks for that. Here’s specifically how I think about it. We acquired Niche because it’s my belief that native mobile video content creation is going to spawn this entirely new genre of emerging talent and content creators that will be able to build audience and launch careers purely through native mobile video content. And while I say it’s my belief, I mean I saw it happen on Vine. So it’s my belief because I’ve seen it happen. We already have two of the most powerful native mobile video platforms in Vine and Periscope, and I wanted us to bring an organization into the company that could help us think about working with these content creators across all of these platforms, whether we own them or not, to help them build their careers and grow their audiences, and that’s exactly what the Niche folks are going to help us do.

Question: One of the reasons Facebook has been so successful on mobile is their targeting abilities. How do you guys plan on improving your mobile targeting both for you, and how do you see the industry outside of Facebook improving mobile targeting?

Costolo: Well, I would say — (to Beykpour) you can take any of these you want, by the way.

Beykpour: This one’s all yours.

Costolo: We target in a different manner, obviously, than Facebook does, where they target sort of demographically, if you will, generally speaking. We target more toward the interest graph. The picture of the accounts you follow and engage with paints a very elegant and interesting picture of the kinds of things you might be interested in — goods, services, etc. And that’s been extremely successful for us, as evidenced by the engagement rates we get on our ads. On the direct response side, one of the reasons we acquired TellApart was to add to the DR competencies we have in-house already with Josh McFarland and his great team at TellApart to help us improve measurability on the direct-response side, creative on the direct-response side and, specific to your question, targeting on the direct response side. So we have work to do in all three of those areas on the direct response side, and Josh’s team will help us do that.

Kafka: Dick, part of the pitch for the basic Twitter ad product is that you know a lot about me because you know what I’m doing on Twitter and who I follow. Your push now is to sort of grow the audience that isn’t logged in to Twitter. It seems like when you do that, you remove the special sauce that you have; your ad pitch gets less effective.

Costolo: Not necessarily. When you think about expert curation of content, sort of people who might be experts at understanding what’s going on around some event, whether it be Coachella, whether it be a Ferguson, what have you. As people engage with that content and other kinds of content, irrespective of whether they’re logged in or logged out, you also get that interest graph picture for them.

Asa Mathat for Re/code

“I think Twitter needs to be more bold.” — Kayvon Beykpour

Swisher: Kayvon — question to you, to put you on the spot. What do you think Twitter needs to do to really thrive?

Beykpour: I think Twitter needs to be more bold. I think Dick said it. I think that they need to be ambitious about innovating and not slowing down the pace, but, I think, increasing the pace and being experimental. There’s a culture around experimentation at Twitter that is palpable, that I’ve noticed in the two months that I’ve been there. I don’t know the history as well as Dick does, but I think that that’s probably a new thing, and I like that momentum. And I think that as long as that momentum is expressed both internally as organic growth and development, and externally by being aggressive around being inquisitory with the right companies, I think that’s the right balance of what Twitter needs.

Swisher: And what do you think Twitter needs? What is your biggest focus as CEO?

Costolo: I’ve constantly, constantly, constantly focused with the product team on courage. And in product review and product sync, which we have once a week, we have three 30-minute segments where we review what the team is working on. The question I ask most often and regularly is, “What’s a bolder choice we could be making there?” and “What if you added this constraint to what you’re doing that forced you to be more bold and creative about what you’re doing?” And I’m delighted with the kinds of things I’m seeing show up in that meeting, and that you will very, very soon see show up in the product.

Swisher: Well, it’s a promise. Thank you, Dick.

Kafka: Thanks, guys.

This article originally appeared on

Sign up for the newsletter Today, Explained

Understand the world with a daily explainer plus the most compelling stories of the day.