Now that we know Twitter is building a feature to let users share longer tweets, maybe as long as 10,000 characters, that could have big consequences for publishers.
The average Twitter user — many of whom freaked out about the news — will probably never sniff a 10,000 character tweet. But publishers like the New York Times or the Washington Post or the Wall Street Journal could easily take advantage of the new form — or dismiss it as another ploy to take their content.
CEO Jack Dorsey pointed out that expanding the tweet length means regular users won’t need to share images of text to work around the current limit. But more importantly, the move paves the way for Twitter to actually host content on its platform, not just links to content. Expanded tweets will give publishers a chance to run stories directly on Twitter the same way they do now with Facebook’s Instant Articles, Snapchat Discover and Apple News.
Twitter wouldn’t need to convince publishers that it’s a great place for their content — that has already been established by the fact that every publisher I know of has an active Twitter account (if not multiple Twitter accounts). Handing over content to Twitter could increase readership, too. Way more people see publisher tweets than actually click on their links. The benefit for Twitter, of course, is that hosting content keeps users inside of Twitter instead of clicking to venture off to other websites.
Twitter COO and revenue boss Adam Bain, in an interview Tuesday with Re/code’s Peter Kafka, didn’t dismiss the idea. “It’s an interesting way to look at it,” he said. “We certainly have been helping content companies today bring video content closer to consumers.” He mentioned twice that Twitter and publishers are working to generate revenue “together.”
Twitter could certainly benefit from a new revenue stream. The company’s user growth has basically flatlined, which means Twitter needs to come up with ways to make more money from the same pool of people already on the service. Twitter has been able to do this over the past year. Revenue in Q3 jumped almost 58 percent over the previous year despite user growth of just 11 percent. But there’s no doubt the company is looking for other forms of revenue to sustain that trend.
Questions still remain, of course. What might ads tied to hosted content look like? Could Twitter put an ad inside a tweet? Imagine reading a headline in a tweet, expanding that tweet to read an article, and coming across some kind of ad midway through the story or along the right rail.
It seems like a possibility, although Twitter has made no indication it’s thinking along these lines.
Plus, don’t forget that Twitter and Google “teamed up” on a project that felt like it might offer something similar back in September, but that turned out to be more of a Google project without any content actually living on Twitter.
Hosting content is the new “thing to do” for social platforms, and it certainly makes sense for Twitter. Longer tweets may just be step one.
This article originally appeared on Recode.net.