On this episode of Too Embarrassed to Ask, Recode Senior Media Editor Peter Kafka joins Kara Swisher and Lauren Goode to answer questions about Twitter video. In the process, the three get into why live video might not be such a draw, who they follow on Twitter and what the service might evolve into.
You can read some of the highlights from their discussion at that link, or listen to it in the audio player above. Below, we’ve posted a lightly edited complete transcript of their conversation.
Kara Swisher: Hi, I’m Kara Swisher, executive editor of Recode.
Lauren Goode: And I’m Lauren Goode, senior tech editor at The Verge.
And you’re listening to Too Embarrassed to Ask, coming to you from the Vox Media Podcast Network, and I’m in the Vox Media headquarters also. This is the show where we answer all of your embarrassing questions about consumer tech.
LG: It could be anything, like why did Microsoft just make a Surface laptop? Or why is Microsoft making laptops at all? What’s the fate of Uber and Travis Kalanick? What the hell is a fidget spinner and why did Peter Kafka bring one into the studio today?
Peter Kafka: I brought two, Lauren.
LG: Why did he bring two into the studio today? And did Kara take the subway like a real New Yorker or did she take a car service like a fancy lady?
I took a cab. I took a cab because I was late here because I was having lunch at the Soho House with Brooke Hammerling and other people.
LG: See, you had to get it in there that you’re a fancy lady.
Yes, I’m a fancy lady ... And we had a lovely time with all the celebrities there. It was very nice.
LG: That’s fine.
Bet there are no celebrities left at the Soho House.
KS: I don’t care.
KS: All right, thank you. It’s all right.
LG: You have to go to The Wing, Kara. That’s where it’s happening.
KS: I didn’t wear my glasses so it could’ve fallen on top of me and not even known. Anyway. we are here with ... Obviously Peter’s lobbing some nice insults in as usual. But let me just say before we get to the show, we want to make sure you send us your questions about all issues like this. You can find us on Twitter or tweet them to @recode or to myself or to Lauren, with the hashtag tooembarrassed.
LG: And a reminder, we also have an email address. It’s firstname.lastname@example.org and embarrassed has two Rs and two Ss.
KS: Yes they do.
LG: Okay, so you’re in New York, and you’re with Peter Kafka.
KS: I am, indeed. I was here to do a panel with a very stellar group of women. Tammy Haddad, Megan Murphy who is the editor of Businessweek, and Carolyn Ryan who is a top editor at the New York Times, and we talked about a 100 days into the Trump presidency.
Kara, you dropped some names there. You want to pick them up?
KS: No I’m not gonna pick them up, because I want to mention top, powerful women any chance I can just to keep you in line, Peter Kafka. Anyway, it was great. We talked about the first 100 days of the Trump presidency and we had done a similar thing in Munich at the DLD conference, and it was quite lively. It was a very good group of people.
LG: On some level, just dropping all of those wonderful names and then mentioning Trump is just the perfect shock and chaser.
KS: I know, but these women were super smart about where everything’s going.
KS: Big-league ladies.
LG: Big league.
KS: Big league. Big-league ladies. Anyway, so it was good. So here I am. I’m coming to D.C., and then I’ll be back in San Francisco to see you, Lauren.
LG: Well, I’m very excited that Peter is joining us because today on Too Embarrassed to Ask we are going to be podcasting about Twitter video, specifically the company’s live video efforts, which it’s been sort of announcing over the past couple weeks. And I will say that this episode was partly inspired by a question we received from one of our readers. From Ben Wood, who asked a question about Twitter video, and he used the hashtag “notoldiswear,” so we knew it was gonna be a good one. And we’re gonna get to that.
KS: And so we’re thrilled to welcome back to the show Recode Senior Media Editor Peter Kafka.
KS: Kafka who is right here with me in the New York studio. Last time Peter was on, you two talked about Netflix and other streaming services and now we’re talking about Twitter.
Remember our Juicero episode? That was great.
LG: Oh that was really fun. He made a cameo. Oh yes.
I made a cameo.
LG: He came in and we said, “Peter, do you want to ask a question?” And he said, “Why is it Wi-Fi connected?”
And now look at them.
KS: I know.
LG: That was what you asked, and then you asked with other good follow-ups.
KS: Yes. But you know it’s interesting. Jason Del Rey, who we offered the gift of a Juicero, does not want one now. He’s not letting me buy him one, which I promised him.
He can’t afford the juice.
KS: Maybe so.
Got to pay more, Kara.
KS: Anyway, he wanted it, and he doesn’t want it now. So he just wants me to find him speakers for his Code Commerce conference ... Which I was like, “Get the juicer, for goodness sake.”
So we’re gonna talk a lot about Twitter video because it’s been in the news lately for a lot of reasons, so go over the news, Peter, from a couple weeks ago, about Bloomberg’s partnership that was just announced recently.
So the context is, the NewFront would be digital, Upfront. This is the internet’s version of copying TV. TV every spring says, “Here are the new TV shows we’re coming out with next spring. Come pay us for them, advertiser.” The digital version of it is, “Here are shows we’d like to make sometime in the next year, if an advertiser shows up,” so it’s a little different.
So in that context Twitter said — and Twitter’s been saying for a while — “Videos are important for us. Video, video, video.” Last fall they did live video with the NFL. They’ve been doing various live video deals for a while now, and this is literally just a chance for them to put them all in one group. So they led with this idea that they’re gonna make a 24/7 news channel with Bloomberg, plus a bunch of other stuff.
KS: Included in this 24/7 news channel?
No, the Bloomberg channel is gonna be Bloomberg people talking about news. Different than the Bloomberg channel you can already get on cable. And then a bunch of other shows, including people like The Verge.
KS: So tell us why it’s good for Bloomberg and why it’s good for Twitter. I know Bloomberg’s had a hard time getting people to watch its program. I mean, they have a ton of it. They have a ton out of San Francisco.
Bloomberg has a ton of programming. They don’t have a ton of cable carriage deals. So that’s generally a disadvantage for them because they’re not usually getting money for it. The upside is they’ve been very progressive, liberal, forward-thinking about licensing their stuff as broadly as possible. Remember Aereo, the startup that was crushed in the Supreme Court? Bloomberg did a deal with them. Everyone else was suing them. Bloomberg said, “Oh well, we’ll put our programming on Aereo’s.” They put it on YouTube. They’ll put it anywhere they can put it.
KS: So they’re promiscuous at Bloomberg?
Promiscuous, that’s the right word. So they want eyeballs on their stuff. They would like to eventually take on the CNNs of the world or at least the MSNBCs or the CNBCs. Twitter desperately wants video. The big problem for Twitter generally, if we can sort of skip ahead, is the stuff that’s most valuable, the stuff that most people want to see, is on television, and television isn’t gonna give that up anytime soon. So they’re either gonna pay a ton of money for it or create something new.
KS: So you’re not gonna see an NBC deal on Twitter necessarily?
Not for the programming that NBC’s getting paid a lot of money for already.
LG: Because Twitter would have to essentially ... They would either have to outbid other people who are trying to license the content, or they would have to try to find specific types of content that just work really well for Twitter but maybe aren’t as useful as TV.
Yes, that’s a whole other category, like, what works well for Twitter but ...
KS: But we’re gonna go into that ...
But all the stuff that’s expensive and stuff that people want to watch is locked up, basically. So, Twitter ... And by the way, almost everyone who’s trying to get into video, Facebook, including websites like The Verge and all the other fine Vox Media sites have this problem, which is we think people want to watch video. We want to show them video. We either have to make it ourselves or buy it, and we can’t really buy it so we’re gonna have to try to find a way to make it much more cheaply, and get it distributed.
LG: How are the deals structured? How much is Twitter paying Bloomberg for the content? Are they paying them enough to have staffers that can handle all of this 24/7 livestreaming?
I don’t know the financials. Bloomberg has said this is a new field for them. They’re not taking the existing cable channel. One of the secrets of video as it exists right now is it’s not that expensive for someone like Bloomberg, who generally has these people on staff already, to put them in front of a video camera and have them talk. Bloomberg says it’ll be more than just that, but that’s probably gonna be the bulk of it, right? It’s gonna resemble something like CNN but on a cheaper scale.
KS: But why is that good?
I don’t know.
KS: So just putting up crappy video on Twitter? It’s like, “I think we’ll buy your crappy video.”
When they announced it, they said, “Look, this is not just gonna be your standard sort of craptastic video feed. We’re gonna make it social, and there’ll be sort of interactive stuff.” But we don’t know until it exists.
KS: Mm-hmm. What is Twitter hoping for? What is their goal here?
The less-cynical version of it would be they want to provide interesting video that their users would like to see. The more-cynical version is they want a story to tell Wall Street and advertisers, which is, “Everyone wants video. We have video. Live video is the most valuable thing. We have that now. So we’re just like a cable channel, so you should pay us cable channel rates. By the way, the cable guys charge subscribers to watch this stuff. This stuff’s free. It’s even better.”
And they also want Wall Street to believe this story, that they are now not just a place where Donald Trump can say awful things, in text, but you can see video. In addition to seeing Donald Trump’s tweets.
KS: Right. But when you’re thinking of your Twitter, they tried ... They’ve been early to a lot of things. They really have. They were early to the Periscope and Vine and things like that but they never made hay out of it. It’s kind of interesting, other people take advantage of that.
Yeah, Periscope is user live video. To be fair, it’s not clear that anyone has taken advantage of homegrown live video. Turns out that one of the things about making video is that it’s easy to make a video. It’s much harder to make interesting video.
KS: And monetize it.
And ... Leave that alone for a second, just to make something that you would want to watch, and it’s very easy to hold a camera up in front of your face and hit record. But to get someone else to watch it is a difficult trick and that’s why actually there’s a limited number of people who can do this, which is one of the reasons they’re not spending a lot of time talking about Periscope right now. They’re talking about the stuff they’re making with the likes of Bloomberg, or the NFL, or BuzzFeed.
LG: How have their early experiments done? I should disclose, for those who weren’t following, around the time of CES, the annual consumer electronics show, The Verge did a livestreaming show on Twitter with Twitter as a partner. And then The Verge’s Nilay Patel is also going to be involved in some of this live Twitter streaming stuff. I know nothing about that. This is why I’m asking all of these questions to Peter.
So is there evidence, based on Twitter’s experiment so far, that shows people want to watch video this way on Twitter?
So Twitter would say yes. I’ve got their Q1 shareholder letter where they talked about ... I guess this isn’t Q1. They produced 800 hours of livestreaming video. That means they literally just made that much. And they got 45 million unique people to watch that. I asked them what 45 million unique people means. It means people who watch a clip for at least two seconds.
KS: Two seconds.
LG: Two seconds?
And at least 50 percent of that video was actually visible in the time they were watching it.
LG: Where would it have been? Explain that.
Because when you’re streaming the video, you can screen up so if it was ... At least half the screen was on your ... At least half of the video screen was on your phone, and you saw it for at least two seconds, that’s a view.
LG: I have to say, I wonder for people who don’t use Twitter regularly, the way that we do as media nerds, when they start experiencing this Twitter live video and they see this stream of tweets below ... I think there are tweets right now that appear on real live television, as part of a sort of ticker, a lower third, and people sort of get that and understand what it is. Or they see it sort of ... I don’t know. It’s used in promotional ways that probably make sense to most people now.
But I have to imagine that people who aren’t active on Twitter like we are, going to watch live video, that the feed below it could be a little bit confusing. Like, “What are all these hashtags?” And, “Who are these people?”
I think the counter argument would be, “Hey, actually video is much easier for people to understand than @ replies.”
KS: Yes, I watch a lot of video on Twitter.
Yes, and I mean how they’re actually gonna distribute this is a different question, but let me go back to the one you answered a minute ago. I think the best numbers that we can use for comps for Twitter and video are the NFL. Last year they aired 10 NFL games. There were Thursday night games. Not the best games, but they’re still games. And the NFL is the most valuable product on TV, full stop. Twitter got a deal to broadcast this stuff. The broadcast worked really well. I was able to watch them. It streamed really well. You didn’t have to log into Twitter to see it.
LG: Yes, you wrote a nice story there.
They got about 250,000 people watching each one of those games on average. So Twitter says that’s great. The comparison is the TV networks, CBS and NBC, who are broadcasting those same games got about 15 million people. So if you’re Twitter you say, “That’s great.” If you’re in the broader media world, you go, “This is not a giant platform.” And by the way, that’s the single most compelling content you can put on on your platform.
KS: Yes, you can’t get people to watch this.
And it’s not huge. I guess you could counter that by saying, “Well, it’s already on TV. So if you’re gonna watch it, you’re gonna watch it on TV.” What about something that’s unique to Twitter? That’s gonna be their new pitch, is, “This is not available on TV. It’s only available on Twitter.”
KS: Except it could be crap. Right? I mean one of the things ...
It could be crap. And there is a cranky Twitter user’s perspective, which would be me, you and Lauren, I think, saying, “I don’t go to Twitter to watch video. I go to see Donald Trump’s tweets or other stuff like that.”
LG: I love Twitter.
KS: No, that’s not true I ... I do watch a lot of video on Twitter lately.
LG: I do, too.
KS: I watch a lot of clips when people put them up there. Especially if they’re 30-second clips. There was an argument between some anchor and a congresswoman who just was absolutely ...
You mean they took something that was on TV and put it on Twitter?
Yes. There’s that. Yes.
KS: I love that. And I watch those almost all the time. “SNL.” Everything.
Right, there was a lot of, during the last round of Trump hearings. Sally Yates.
KS: Yes, Sally Yates. Yes.
People were watching it, clipping it, putting it up in nearly real time. It was super useful.
KS: Why doesn’t Twitter focus on that?
They don’t own that.
And there might even be a discussion about whether or not that’s legal for that stuff to be up there. I think they’re okay having it up there and I think frankly NBC is happy having it up there as well.
LG: There’s probably a fair use ...
But it’s nothing that they can own, it’s hard to monetize, and they can’t show you an ad in front of a 30-second clip that a user put up.
KS: Right. But useful.
It’s useful, yes. What Twitter ... they’re not quite sure how they’re going to distribute this live video. I think mostly ... On the desktop there’ll be a way to see it on a sort of a scrolling thing on the right side of your page. The reality is, no one cares about desktop. Twitter doesn’t care about desktop. The question is, how are they gonna tell you, when you’re looking at your phone, that there’s something for you to watch? I’ve noticed they’ve got some baseball games running on Friday nights. I’ve noticed a couple times that they’ve just shown me, at the top of the screen. They said, “Hey, there’s baseball. Click here to watch it.”
And I must have done it because I ended up watching a part of a Nationals game that I didn’t care about. I think there also ... Did you know there’s something on Twitter called ...
LG: Yes, I use it. I use it all the time.
LG: That used to be Search, right?
KS: It’s Moments.
So, I’m a professional Twitter user and a semi-professional Twitter write-abouter. And I did not realize it was called Explore until yesterday.
KS: It used to be Moments, right?
It used to be Moments, and it used to be called Search. So I think what their main thought is, you’re gonna go to Explore and they’re gonna tell you about video there and you’ll watch it there.
KS: It’s woefully organized. That’s the problem is another thing you just ... Everything I watch I ... Most of it, unless I’m looking for an “SNL” clip, like I wanted to see the Mika Morning Joe thing because I thought that was funny. And that’s the first ... I didn’t go to the internet for it for sure. I went to Twitter. And it was there.
Yeah, Twitter’s great for a lot of things. It’s great for finding things that the internet’s not going to tell you about or will take hours to tell you about.
LG: Right. But the value proposition for watching clips, on-demand clips, is also different from the infrastructure needed to make livestreaming work. And then the deals behind livestreaming ...
KS: But this is different.
LG: Yes. They’re pushing live, live, live and the idea that ... To me, the whole issue I’ve got with the internet’s interest in live is that one of the great things about the internet is it’s asynchronous and it’s on-demand and I don’t have to watch it live. I don’t have to watch “Game of Thrones” at 9 o’clock on Sunday. I can watch it at 9:30 on HBO Go or whenever I want to watch it.
The broadcasters love live. Advertisers love live. People who are in the business of selling live love live. And then there are a handful of times when it ... When we all want to watch the same thing, at the same time. But almost never. Right? I almost never want to watch something at the exact time it’s on.
KS: Sure. Whenever it’s convenient for the person.
Right. And so the idea that just because it’s live makes it more valuable, which is also sort of the proposition that you’re hearing from Facebook, doesn’t really ring true in the real world.
KS: Yes, they love that term. And many people have tried it. Huffington Post Live. There has been attempts of this all the time.
Just because it’s live doesn’t make it compelling.
KS: I think Lauren was on a live broadcast. Weren’t you, Lauren? On ... internets.
LG: We did internets. Yes, WSJ Live. From around 2008 to I think 2011 or so.
And where did WSJ Live generate most of its views, Lauren?
LG: Well we learned — after we had the control room and the cameras and we turned the newsroom into a live studio and all that stuff, and we were broadcasting live to WSJ.com at least four or five times a day through different programming — that everyone went to watch it on-demand when they felt like it later on. We did get some concurrent views, of course, and there were people that maybe would tune in on their lunch break.
But almost none. ’Cause just the fact ... as compelling a person as Lauren Goode is, the fact that she’s broadcasting live does not mean you want to stop everything and watch her.
LG: You’re so kind.
KS: No. I did all the time but still ...
LG: Yes. Exactly.
KS: So is this part of a bigger acquisition play by Twitter? Why are they doing this? Like you said, the cynical view is they want to look relevant.
Want to look relevant, you want to make noise, and by the way, I don’t fault them for trying this. Why not try it? You could argue, “Look. You guys are being way too timid about this. You’ve got four billion bucks on your balance sheet, in cash. Cash equivalent. Go buy something real. Go make a real splash. Go make a big bet if you’re gonna go out and do this.” When Netflix got into original content they spent $100 million to make an HBO show.
LG: And they’re still spending, yes.
Now they’re spending a ton of money, but the point was they said, “We’re doing this for real. We’re really making a thing that is as good a thing as you can see anywhere else.” And that’s not what Twitter is doing. Twitter is taking little nips and bites, and again because they’re constrained in a lot of ways. You can’t buy NFL rights for the most part. You can’t buy NBA rights for the most part. These are already locked up.
KS: What could they do? What could they ... Like what?
You got me.
LG: Well, they did the breaking two thing. Did you guys watch that last ... Or it wasn’t last Friday night but it was two Friday nights ago?
LG: There was a runner who was trying to do a marathon live in under two hours, and he actually didn’t complete it in under two hours. He was just over two hours. I think it was two hours and 24 seconds but he did break a world record. And it was amazing, and people were watching it live on Twitter. I think it also streamed on Facebook and hashtagging breakingtwo, which was the official hashtag for the event.
It must’ve been about 10:00 or 11:00 pm on a Friday night on the west coast. So it was pretty late. And it was a really cool experience, I have to say. And I knew it was a big marketing thing and Nike was involved.
Do you know who paid for that? Nike owns it. It was a Nike-sponsored event.
LG: It was a Nike event, yes. There were ... I’ve read all about the Nike custom sneakers and everything. But it was kind of this cool communal event, and it was, I think, one of the first times maybe aside from the conventions when I watched live video on Twitter and I thought, “Yeah, this makes sense. I get this.”
I want to be hesitant about saying, “This is the way Twitter works. This is what people consume on Twitter. This is the only way Twitter should work,” because things evolve. I used to feel that only podcasts had to be on-demand, and there was no reason to have a daily news show. New York Times, it turns out, has produced a really good daily news show. It’s got a huge audience for it. So, the medium can evolve, the way people consume the medium can evolve, but right now it doesn’t look like they’re giving me much of a reason to go look at any of the stuff.
And again, it’s possible that I’m not interested in WNBA games. They’re gonna show WNBA games. Maybe there’s a really hardcore WNBA audience that really wants to see that particular game. Doubt it.
KS: All right, but in terms of acquisition, is this to make themselves more attractive for sale?
Sure. What isn’t?
KS: I don’t know.
I mean, they want to have some story to tell an investor, whether it’s a Wall Street or an acquirer, that things are picking up and things are working and they found a new revenue stream and they found a new thing, both to monetize their existing audience and to bring in a new audience. That was the big pitch of the NFL games, by the way, was, “We’re gonna bring in this audience that hasn’t been using Twitter, doesn’t know how to use it.” There was no evidence that that happened last year.
KS: Right. That’s the issue. And of course, we’re gonna ... Just so you know, we’re having ... Who are we having at Code Conference?
KS: And you are going to interview him and discuss these issues, correct?
Don’t miss it. You’ll probably miss it, because you haven’t paid for a ticket.
KS: Yes, explain who the man is.
Anthony Noto is the COO of Twitter. He’s kind of running the company, because Jack Dorsey has two jobs.
KS: He’s the mastermind behind video.
Oh yes, he’s a big push for live video, his last job was at the NFL, he’s got Wall Street connections. So, in theory, he should be the guy who can both position Twitter for a sale and position Twitter as they’re sort of exploring media stuff.
KS: Right, so we’ll see what he has to say. But we’re going to get to readers’ questions, listeners’ questions in a minute, about Twitter video. But first, we’re going to take a quick break for a word from our sponsors. Lauren, what do we say here?
KS: Thank you so much.
LG: Can we have Peter say it? Now that he’s in studio?
KS: Peter, say Ka-ching.
I love sponsors. Sponsor, sponsor, sponsor.
KS: That was a ka-ching moment. I have to tell you, Lauren, that was some ka-ching.
LG: Peter Kafka is an experienced web pro.
KS: Is he? Really? I don’t think he programs a lot.
I learned Basic.
KS: Basic, did you? How nice.
All right. So you’ve been listening to the show, you know how it works. Every week we take tech questions from our readers and listeners, we try to answer everything we can. This week we’re answering your questions about Twitter video. And if you’d like to talk about Facebook video too, Peter, please go ahead. With Recode’s Senior Media Editor Peter Kafka.
First question. Lauren, why don’t you go for it?
LG: Sure, this is the question that inspired this podcast, it’s from Ben Wood, he’s @BnjmnWd, minus the vowels, on Twitter. “What is Twitter video? Is it live? On demand? Is there a video button I don’t see because I’m not in the USA? #notoldiswear.”
This is just the basics. Kind of what we got into earlier. Where is it, what is it, where do you find it?
KS: Yes, give the basics, how you would watch it.
You would watch it ... Twitter helps you watch it on your phone. Twitter needs to figure out how to give it to you. So they don’t really have a good answer for that question, but they’re probably going to expect you to just see it on your Explore button. They may also give you a nudge, like I was talking about, and say, “Watch this baseball game.” They say that they’re not going to ask you to watch the baseball game if you show no interest in sports, if you haven’t followed anyone from the sports world or creative content.
KS: Could they put it when you first open the thing, to see something? But they haven’t ever done that. I never see that.
Sure, they’re trying stuff all the time.
KS: I’ve never seen it and I open that.
Well, to be fair, you probably are not doing a lot of sports on your Twitter.
KS: No, that’s true.
LG: Kara loves sports
So they’re not going to tell you about the latest National’s game.
KS: But something they want ... They might push Bloomberg News to me.
Yes, when that exists.
LG: Yes. Well, they have some Bloomberg content now, right?
KS: Yes, but I’m saying, push it to me.
I’m sure that when they actually launch this 24/7 news channel, they will do some ...
KS: Push it towards us. Okay. So, you just basically watch in front and click on it. The same experience you have on Twitter.
KS: How long will these run?
We have no idea.
KS: No idea. What do you think? What are you guessing?
It depends what it is. If it’s a baseball game, it’s three hours. If it’s a 24/7 news channel, it’s forever.
KS: Two seconds ... Yes, forever. And they just keep going.
Yes, to keep talking.
KS: And people can be screaming at each other essentially, right? Okay. I’m looking forward to that.
All right, the next one is from Jacob Catalano, @jgcatalano. “Will the majority of video be produced especially for Twitter? Or will it be like what they did with the NFL and broadcast what’s on TV?”
This was such a good question, I went and asked Twitter myself.
You know what they said?
They made the shrug emoji.
KS: They don’t know.
Well, it depends, right? So if it’s WNBA, if it’s NFL, it’s someone else’s game ... Actually, even that’s not quite true. If it’s the NFL it’s simulcast. It’s on TV and they’re literally just going to show it to you on Twitter as well.
The WNBA game they’re talking about showing you is not going to be on TV. So that will be new, but I don’t think Twitter’s going to produce it. And then there’s stuff like the Bloomberg channel, which will be new and exclusive for Twitter.
KS: I see. So ... And again. Shrug emoji. Shrug could mean anything.
Yes, that’s the best. That’s pretty much the 2017 emoji.
KS: What’s the craziest idea you’ve heard? Is there any crazy ideas you’ve heard?
The one with Nilay Patel.
KS: Okay, what’s that?
LG: I’m not laughing, he’s my boss.
I don’t know, but Nilay is at The Verge and he’s going to take time and create live content for them, which sounds great.
KS: All right, what would we do if we did it? They didn’t ask us, Peter, but it could be us arguing with each other.
I think we’re an on-demand medium here, Swisher.
KS: Yes, we are. Yes, I would agree. What could we do?
LG: I would disagree with that. I would watch you two live.
Oh, wait. Wait, I’ve got a great idea.
KS: What, we can fidget together?
KS: All right, we’re going to spin it. We’re fidgeting. I don’t understand this.
It’s a fidget spinner.
KS: There you go, we’re fidget spinning together. This would be riveting video that we could make millions from.
If you were a 7-year-old boy, yes.
KS: Yes, exactly.
All right. So, next question. Lauren, go ahead.
LG: Next question is from Alex Hardy. He writes in a lot. Thanks for writing in again, Alex. “How do their live video efforts relate to their flirtation with TV rights? Thursday night football etc.”
Yes, they’re directly synced. They would love to have actual TV rights. They would love to be in TV, and they can’t be in TV yet, but they can nibble around the edges and find stuff that’s either on TV, but ... the NFL are geniuses, by the way. They take a game on Thursday night that they’ve already charged CBS or NBC a gazillion dollars to air, and then they resell it to Twitter.
How great is that? Now they’re reselling it to Amazon. So, the TV guys, they may have a shrinking industry, but they’re not dumb.
KS: They know how to sell something 10 times.
If they can resell something 10 times to internet people, they will do it.
KS: They like to do it and then they insult internet people. It’s one of the favorite things I find they are very good at in Hollywood.
Screw you, pay me.
KS: Exactly. Go ahead, Lauren.
LG: There’s a followup question from Alex that I’d like to get in there too. “Do they have a prayer against Facebook and Instagram?”
No. I mean, on the video front, right, what they are willing to do, which Facebook up until next month has not been willing to do ... Go out and pay for content, go out and acquire content, go out and partner with media folks.
Up until now, Facebook has been saying, “If you guys want to put free content on our site, that’d be great.” And also, “You can’t advertise on it, because we don’t believe in advertising. At least, we don’t believe in pre-roll.” And Twitter for several years have been saying, “No, no, we’ll take your stuff and we’ll figure out a way to monetize it and ads around your stuff, we’ll run those too.” But ultimately it’s a scale play and Facebook’s got a lot more scale.
KS: And Facebook will do that? They’ll pay?
Facebook will pay, Facebook is still trying to figure out the best way for them to do this.
KS: What’s taking them so long?
Internally they say, “Well, we have to build a product.” I think there’s a lot of time spent trying to figure out exactly how the business of this would work. Because again, they don’t really want to run commercials on video. Mark Zuckerberg doesn’t like that, but that’s how TV guys make their money. So they’re a little stuck.
KS: Yes, interesting. They’re also not very content ... Even though they’ve been sucked up into the content debate.
But Facebook really, really is pushing for video. Facebook believes there’s going to be a world where, instead of just going to your Facebook feed and scrolling through, there’s a bunch of video there, that at some point, you go to Facebook because you want to watch video.
And either you go to a special part of the Facebook app to watch video because that’s what you’re interested in or you go to a special Facebook video app. We’ll see. That’s a big change in user behavior.
KS: Absolutely. So, speaking of that. Next question. From Rochelle @Rochelle. “What’s Twitter going to do to prevent the livestreams of suicides and murders like Facebook had problems with?” And by the way, Facebook should have anticipated much more. Much more.
I haven’t asked them. If you’re going to have live feeds, without any kind of ... For stopping it in advance, you’re going to have that.
KS: Right, user generated live feeds.
So Facebook says, “We’re going to hire more people. Once someone starts to kill themselves, hopefully ... Okay, basically once we get reports about this we can take it down.” Those are miserable jobs. And again, to be fair, everyone who has user generated content has a version of this. Live is obviously the most problematic. It’s happening so quickly. But YouTube has been dealing with this forever.
You can automate some of this, but in the end you need some degree of people either looking at the video or people complaining about their video and then looking at those complaints. And again, no one is good about this stuff. Some of it is because, again, these guys really aren’t content focused, and they’re much more comfortable with algorithms and rules and sometimes common sense eludes them.
Like last year when they took down the Pulitzer prize-winning photo of the Vietnamese girl being napalmed. And took it down for a full day. Said, “No, this is the right decision to make. This is Facebook we’re talking about."”
KS: Took them hours to take down the murder stuff.
Yes, yes, and so they really sort of ... They’re just not equipped for this stuff.
KS: And does that ... Let me ask you a more pointed question. I find that to be reprehensible and they’re responsible for it. And they should have anticipated ... I’ve had discussions before and it came up. I said, “Someone’s going to kill themselves,” And they were like, “That’s cynical.” I’m like, “No, that’s human.” And so, you feel like now, they’re suddenly hiring people, do you think that’s a typical thing for these companies to do?
I think if I was going to be armchair psychologist, I think it is difficult for them to anticipate some of the stuff, because it’s illogical. Like, who would kill themselves live?
KS: I would, honestly.
That’s our next episode ... And again, I think they — especially Facebook, especially Google — are very interested in the idea that this is a platform that they don’t control. Twitter used to be that way. Again, Twitter, I think, to their credit, leaned in earlier on and said, “We’re going to have less terrorism on Twitter. We’re going to take down ISIS accounts.”
But it is a difficult, naughty thing, and the flip version of it is, would you rather not have this platform be available to anyone who wants it?
KS: I would rather them do their jobs and responsibly manage it. That’s what I would rather. Yes, but they just pretend they don’t have ... We’ll anyway, I can go on.
That’s a separate broadcast. Maybe we’ll do it onstage.
KS: Yes, it’s like ... Drives me crazy. Anyway, go ahead, Lauren. Next question.
LG: Next question’s from Alan ML, @josealanml on Twitter. “When are The Verge and Recode shows airing on Twitter live #tooembarrassed.” I’m embarrassed to admit, I don’t know. I honestly don’t. I’m not being coy, I don’t know when.
KS: Peter and I are going to live in a pod by ourselves on an island for a year.
It’s going to be an art project.
KS: And we’re going to broadcast it. It’s going to be great.
LG: With your fidget spinners.
LG: You have to figure out how to crack coconuts ...
Let me say something broadly about the shows that Twitter announced a little while ago. Like I said at the beginning of the show, many of those shows will get made, but some of them may not. In the internet, when you announce you’re going to produce some programming, it often means you intend to make it if an advertiser will buy it from you.
KS: And Apple’s is coming, right?
Well Apple, that’s a thing they bought, they made.
KS: Yes, that’s what I mean.
They’re not looking for an advertiser. But when Twitter or Defy Media, or anyone else who holds a NewFront, says, “Here’s our programming ...” (Actually, Defy is gonna get mad.) Generally, what they’re saying is, “We would like to make these shows if you pay us to make them.”
KS: Which one do you love? I’m just curious, of all the ones.
Nilay Patel, obviously.
KS: No, no. But which one besides Nilay ... Which show do you think is good, or what do you think ... Where you, at the NewFront, you go, “Hmm, that’s interesting.”
I went to zero NewFronts this year.
KS: Okay, all right.
LG: Peter Kafka. Peter, when is the Apple show coming? I thought we were suppose to see it by now. This is “The Planet of the Apps.”
There’s two Apple shows. Yes, there’s “The Planet of the Apps,” which is ... I bet it will come around WDC, because that would make sense for them. And there’s also a spinoff of “Carpool Karaoke” from James Corden, that I think was going to come out already. They’ve delayed it, they didn’t say why they’re delaying it.
Sources I’ve talked to say there’s a technical issue with getting translation ready. Because they want this to go out and across the world.
KS: Sure, that makes sense, yes.
LG: Is this going out just on Apple TV and Apple Music? Or is it being distributed to real TV?
No, it’s an Apple Music thingy. They might ... there’s no reason they couldn’t show it on TV eventually. But it’s meant to promote Apple and Apple Music.
KS: Absolutely, yes. All right, last question, via email from Josh, “Okay, why the hell does anyone use Twitter? It’s a goddamn mess and impossible to use and it got Trump elected, so fuck that.” I tried to read that with a lot of feeling.
Kara, you wrote that. That’s not Josh.
LG: No, this is someone named Josh, who’s been writing into the show for at least a couple of months now, just complaining about Twitter.
KS: I love to Twitter. You know I love to Twitter. So I would not say, “Why the hell would someone ...”
Way to contribute to the conversation there, Josh.
KS: I know. Okay, let’s try the first one. “Why the hell does anyone use Twitter?” Peter, first question.
It’s a great way to occupy dead time. It’s like a fidget spinner.
KS: All right. “It’s a goddamn mess and impossible to use.” How do you address that?
No, it’s got 300 million-plus users. You may not like it, but ...
KS: Do you think they could improve the product, Peter? Come on, let’s ...
I love the product. It’s great. Again, 300 million people use it. And that’s the people who are using it every month.
KS: Josh, Peter does not agree with you. It is not a goddamn mess.
Josh, get off our lawn.
KS: And why the hell does anyone ...
And by the way, I think Josh responded to that on Twitter, right?
Is that Josh’s Twitter handle?
KS: No, it’s his email.
Oh, all right. I take it back.
KS: “And it got Trump elected, so fuck that.” What do you think about that?
I do say fuck that. By the way, Jack Dorsey today said that, “Yes, Donald Trump should keep tweeting, because it’s better than him not tweeting.”
LG: Yes, and today being ... we’re mid May right now, and this might air a little bit later this week.
KS: He’s been tweeting a lot this week. He’s been tweeting a lot. It’s interesting to see if he crosses a line, though. You know they’ve got a plan in place for that.
You mean like by firing the head of the FBI.
LG: No, no, no. Some type of terms of service thing.
KS: Service toss. They’re watching him.
LG: Like their policy, yes. I mean, at what point do his tweets actually cross over into ...
There is no point.
KS: No? No point?
He will never be kicked off that platform.
KS: What if he says everybody should get a gun and shoot blanks. Yes, they’ll toss him off. No? All right, Peter. We can have a bet on that one.
Free speech wing of the free speech wing.
KS: No way are they going to let him do that. All right, we’re going to have a bet when that happens.
LG: It’s just going to be like a game of whack-a-mole if that happens. Because he’ll pop up on some other platform and make terrible comments and ...
KS: They get it but suppose he says something violent.
LG: Anyway. Although, someone recently pointed out to me that everything he says on the thing is violent, because it hurts the United States. But here, we’re still around.
And this has been The Donald Trump Hour.
LG: Kara, why do you like Twitter?
KS: Why do I like it? Because I’m a narcissist. I think, probably. It amuses me. I actually ... News discovery. I find all kinds of things I want to read, I find really ... For all the waste of time that it occupies, I also find incredibly clever people. Like, someone was writing about a Trumpster fire the other day, and then there was, just funny stuff. I see funny stuff.
It’s a great newspaper.
KS: Yes, it’s a great newspaper. It’s fun to read, and when you have great stuff, it’s great stuff, and I’ve happened upon stuff I never would’ve read and people I never would’ve encountered. So I like that. I like it a lot.
Hey, Lauren Goode, why do you like Twitter?
LG: Because I’m a narcissist. I do probably check the notifications tab more than any other tab on my ... Well, that and the home feed. But I’m a news hound. I like seeing the news.
KS: And you like to talk to people too, right?
LG: I like chatting with people, it gives people a sense of your personality and what we’re working on as reporters too, and it helps us source sometimes. And sometimes it’s just ... I look at Facebook as like, I don’t know, Facebook is the platform that’s trying to get you to be drunk on a school night and get distracted and not do the stuff you have to do.
And Twitter’s the platform that’s like, “Let’s do interesting things on a weekend.” It’s just, I don’t know, it feeds the brain in a different way than I think other social networks do. And I appreciate that about Twitter.
KS: It was interesting. There was a great thing in the New York Times recently. I think Farhad did it, about what you would eliminate, and then they did a poll of the different services, Amazon and Google and stuff like that. And it was interesting, they didn’t include Twitter in there.
But it would have been hard if you had to pick. It was, I think, Microsoft, Amazon, Google, Facebook and something else, there was one other thing. And you had to rank them, which one you’d get rid of. And so, I wish Twitter had been in there. Because I would not have ... Twitter would have been high on the list.
LG: What would you get rid of first?
I think it has deep, deep appeal to people who use it. It’s perfectly fine and everything’s right.
LG: And again, the company sustains that way, if it’s providing an immense value to it’s current users, who understand how it works and get all the language of it and just basically get it, but it doesn’t ever really grow in the way that Facebook has. Can Twitter sustain? Can it keep just being what it is?
No, not as a public company.
KS: It’s a question you asked Snapchat too, about these earnings.
Right, but you could ... There’s definitely a way that you could have a company that has 300 million hardcore dedicated users. Many of whom are opinion makers and or influencers, whatever, to turn that into something that is a business. It may not be a giant business, may not be a growing business, may have difficulty attracting sort of the best and brightest to want to go to something like a Snapchat, where they think they’re going to see their options go up. But you can make it work. But they are where they are because they’ve gone public. And told and told Wall Street, we’re going to beat Facebook, and they’re not.
KS: Same thing with Snapchat.
Snapchat may have its aim wrong.
KS: Yes, they had the same problem, they had a tough quarter and Peter wrote beautifully about it. Peter and Kurt Wagner wrote great stories.
LG: Who’s your favorite person that you each follow on Twitter?
KS: That’s a good question. Lots of people. Maggie Haberman, I think is ...
LG: Yes, she’s great. Peter, do you have a favorite?
No, I mean, but I love it. I love ... There’s so many interesting people I follow. There’s people who are good at it.
KS: Jon Lovitz is pretty funny.
Jon Lovitz. But anyone funny is ... Or many funny people are funnier on Twitter.
KS: That one guy is funny, what’s his name, Dave ...
LG: The sick of wolves guy is really funny.
There are people who are funny on Twitter and then are not funny in other formats, which is also ...
KS: I also like angry Trump people yelling at me. I enjoy that.
LG: Do you follow the Trump regrets handle? That one’s pretty good.
KS: No, I’ll find it.
LG: It’s all people who just have been tweeting that they voted for Trump, admitting they voted for Trump and why they regret it.
KS: Oh, I’ll try that.
LG: And then Trump regrets just finds them and retweets them, all day long.
KS: Fantastic. All right. Well, that’s good. Anyway. We’ll see what happens with video, and we’ll see where it goes from here, and it will be exciting to talk to Anthony. I can’t wait for Peter to grill him on all these issues.
We’ll have a civil, pleasant, discussion.
KS: Yes, we will. No grilling.
LG: That’ll be so fun.
KS: There will be grilling.
LG: And for people who can’t make it to a Recode conference, they can actually listen to that later on Recode Replay, which is one of our other podcasts. All that stuff is free. You can listen to all the same conversations with these really really smart people for free.
KS: For the low, low price of free. This has been another great episode of Too Embarrassed to Ask ... Peter, stop doing that. Thank you for joining us. He’s just staring at the friggin spinner.
LG: You never answered why you love fidget spinner.
I have two kids.
KS: His children. Yes, two kids. All right. Anyway, thank you for coming Peter.
Thanks for having me, guys.
LG: Yes, thanks Peter.
This article originally appeared on Recode.net.