Twitter’s future is newsletters and podcasts, not tweets

With Revue and a slew of other new products, Twitter is trying hard to move past texting.

Twitter’s future is newsletters and podcasts, not tweets

We started with 140 characters. What now?

Image: Liv Iko/Protocol

Twitter was once a home for 140-character missives about your lunch. Now, it's something like the real-time nerve center of the internet. But as for what Twitter wants to be going forward? It's slightly more complicated.

In just the last few months, Twitter has rolled out Fleets, a Stories-like feature; started testing an audio-only experience called Spaces; and acquired the podcast app Breaker and the video chat app Squad. And on Tuesday, Twitter announced it was acquiring Revue, a newsletter platform. The whole 140-characters thing (which is now 280 characters, by the way) is certainly not Twitter's organizing principle anymore. So what is?

Twitter was always just about speed. The initial 140-character limit that became associated with the platform was a technical limitation — required to fit everything into a text message, then the quickest way to reach people — not a statement about brevity being the soul of anything. Many of the moves Twitter has made over the years have been in service of making Twitter even faster: faster to show users good stuff with algorithms, faster to publish with Fleets, faster to spread information with RTs and quote tweets. Even when Twitter decides not to do something, the reasons usually come back to speed. Take the much-desired edit button: One reason Jack Dorsey has given for not including one is that it "means we'd have to delay sending that tweet out … we'll probably never do it."

Rather than think of Twitter as a social network or a 140-character writing tool, it's helpful to think of Twitter the way Dorsey does. "At its core Twitter is public messaging," he said in 2016. "A simple way to say something, to anyone, that everyone in the world can see instantly."

That tweet came in part in response to a Recode story that claimed Twitter was considering expanding its text limit to 10,000 characters. Dorsey didn't quite acknowledge the plan, but he didn't shoot the report down, either. He also explained why longer-form text might be a powerful part of Twitter. "We've spent a lot of time observing what people are doing on Twitter, and we see them taking screenshots of text and tweeting it," he tweeted (in a Notes app screenshot, of course). "Instead, what if that text … was actually text? Text that could be searched. Text that could be highlighted. That's more utility and power."

Increasingly, Twitter is also thinking about what Twitter looks like outside of its own apps. With Project Bluesky, the company is investigating turning Twitter into a protocol rather than a platform, so the Twitter that users know today would be just one way to tap into the social graph and content flowing through it. And with Revue, Twitter is heading into users' email inboxes. Revue appears to be a good fit at Twitter, actually: Its platform has always focused on curation, making it easy for newsletter writers to grab a bunch of links, add commentary and send it to subscribers. Which sounds an awful lot like Twitter — only longer.

The Revue acquisition, and some of Twitter's other recent moves, also make clear where the company is headed as a business. It's leaning into working with creators, trying to help people build audiences and make money on the platform so that they'll keep spending time there. Twitter is way behind on this front. Twitter is, for most creators, a marketing vehicle, a public way to send fans to the Instagram/Twitch/TikTok/Substacks that make them actual money.

By acquiring a newsletter provider, Twitter brings at least one part of that in-house. "Revue will accelerate our work to help people stay informed about their interests while giving all types of writers a way to monetize their audience," Twitter's Kayvon Beykpour and Mike Park wrote in the blog post announcing the acquisition. The same could soon be true for Breaker with podcasts, and Spaces with audio events. If 280-character Twitter can continue to be a powerful marketing engine, but all that marketing can drive toward Twitter's other, higher-fidelity messaging tools, Twitter stands to be a useful home for lots of creators. And, of course, if creators stay, so do users.

When Dorsey said last year that Twitter was thinking about what a subscription model for Twitter might look like, these are almost certainly the products he was thinking about. "$9.99 a month for the really good tweets" is a tricky line to walk for an ad-based business, and it's not in line with the way Dorsey has always thought about Twitter. (After all, is there anything slower than a paywall?) But paid newsletters, paid podcasts, ticketed Spaces events and all manner of other similar products could add new revenue streams. Twitter could also be trying to make money from creators themselves, too: It has at least run surveys asking how users would feel about paying to upload longer videos, get better analytics, or add custom badges to their profile.

There's no guarantee any of this will work. Twitter's history with integrating new products is spotty, and many creators are still wary of the company after it was so quick to kill Vine. But this is what Twitter wants to be: the internet's universal communication tool, with all the new features that requires.

Fintech

Judge Zia Faruqui is trying to teach you crypto, one ‘SNL’ reference at a time

His decisions on major cryptocurrency cases have quoted "The Big Lebowski," "SNL," and "Dr. Strangelove." That’s because he wants you — yes, you — to read them.

The ways Zia Faruqui (right) has weighed on cases that have come before him can give lawyers clues as to what legal frameworks will pass muster.

Photo: Carolyn Van Houten/The Washington Post via Getty Images

“Cryptocurrency and related software analytics tools are ‘The wave of the future, Dude. One hundred percent electronic.’”

That’s not a quote from "The Big Lebowski" — at least, not directly. It’s a quote from a Washington, D.C., district court memorandum opinion on the role cryptocurrency analytics tools can play in government investigations. The author is Magistrate Judge Zia Faruqui.

Keep Reading Show less
Veronica Irwin

Veronica Irwin (@vronirwin) is a San Francisco-based reporter at Protocol covering fintech. Previously she was at the San Francisco Examiner, covering tech from a hyper-local angle. Before that, her byline was featured in SF Weekly, The Nation, Techworker, Ms. Magazine and The Frisc.

The financial technology transformation is driving competition, creating consumer choice, and shaping the future of finance. Hear from seven fintech leaders who are reshaping the future of finance, and join the inaugural Financial Technology Association Fintech Summit to learn more.

Keep Reading Show less
FTA
The Financial Technology Association (FTA) represents industry leaders shaping the future of finance. We champion the power of technology-centered financial services and advocate for the modernization of financial regulation to support inclusion and responsible innovation.
Enterprise

AWS CEO: The cloud isn’t just about technology

As AWS preps for its annual re:Invent conference, Adam Selipsky talks product strategy, support for hybrid environments, and the value of the cloud in uncertain economic times.

Photo: Noah Berger/Getty Images for Amazon Web Services

AWS is gearing up for re:Invent, its annual cloud computing conference where announcements this year are expected to focus on its end-to-end data strategy and delivering new industry-specific services.

It will be the second re:Invent with CEO Adam Selipsky as leader of the industry’s largest cloud provider after his return last year to AWS from data visualization company Tableau Software.

Keep Reading Show less
Donna Goodison

Donna Goodison (@dgoodison) is Protocol's senior reporter focusing on enterprise infrastructure technology, from the 'Big 3' cloud computing providers to data centers. She previously covered the public cloud at CRN after 15 years as a business reporter for the Boston Herald. Based in Massachusetts, she also has worked as a Boston Globe freelancer, business reporter at the Boston Business Journal and real estate reporter at Banker & Tradesman after toiling at weekly newspapers.

Image: Protocol

We launched Protocol in February 2020 to cover the evolving power center of tech. It is with deep sadness that just under three years later, we are winding down the publication.

As of today, we will not publish any more stories. All of our newsletters, apart from our flagship, Source Code, will no longer be sent. Source Code will be published and sent for the next few weeks, but it will also close down in December.

Keep Reading Show less
Bennett Richardson

Bennett Richardson ( @bennettrich) is the president of Protocol. Prior to joining Protocol in 2019, Bennett was executive director of global strategic partnerships at POLITICO, where he led strategic growth efforts including POLITICO's European expansion in Brussels and POLITICO's creative agency POLITICO Focus during his six years with the company. Prior to POLITICO, Bennett was co-founder and CMO of Hinge, the mobile dating company recently acquired by Match Group. Bennett began his career in digital and social brand marketing working with major brands across tech, energy, and health care at leading marketing and communications agencies including Edelman and GMMB. Bennett is originally from Portland, Maine, and received his bachelor's degree from Colgate University.

Enterprise

Why large enterprises struggle to find suitable platforms for MLops

As companies expand their use of AI beyond running just a few machine learning models, and as larger enterprises go from deploying hundreds of models to thousands and even millions of models, ML practitioners say that they have yet to find what they need from prepackaged MLops systems.

As companies expand their use of AI beyond running just a few machine learning models, ML practitioners say that they have yet to find what they need from prepackaged MLops systems.

Photo: artpartner-images via Getty Images

On any given day, Lily AI runs hundreds of machine learning models using computer vision and natural language processing that are customized for its retail and ecommerce clients to make website product recommendations, forecast demand, and plan merchandising. But this spring when the company was in the market for a machine learning operations platform to manage its expanding model roster, it wasn’t easy to find a suitable off-the-shelf system that could handle such a large number of models in deployment while also meeting other criteria.

Some MLops platforms are not well-suited for maintaining even more than 10 machine learning models when it comes to keeping track of data, navigating their user interfaces, or reporting capabilities, Matthew Nokleby, machine learning manager for Lily AI’s product intelligence team, told Protocol earlier this year. “The duct tape starts to show,” he said.

Keep Reading Show less
Kate Kaye

Kate Kaye is an award-winning multimedia reporter digging deep and telling print, digital and audio stories. She covers AI and data for Protocol. Her reporting on AI and tech ethics issues has been published in OneZero, Fast Company, MIT Technology Review, CityLab, Ad Age and Digiday and heard on NPR. Kate is the creator of RedTailMedia.org and is the author of "Campaign '08: A Turning Point for Digital Media," a book about how the 2008 presidential campaigns used digital media and data.

Latest Stories
Bulletins