At a session with financial analysts today, Twitter CEO Dick Costolo finally put a hard number on the size of Twitter's logged-out audience. There are 500 million people who visit Twitter's properties each month but don't sign in, he said; this is a group that Twitter believes it will be able to monetize in the future. To do that, and continue growing, it's planning a raft of new features.
Executives told analysts Twitter would work to improve its direct messaging product. "We have several updates coming that will make it easy to take a public conversation private. The first of these was announced today and will begin rolling out next week: the ability to share and discuss Tweets natively and privately via Direct Messages."
The company showed off a discovery tool that would surface things like "tweets you missed while you were away." It's called Twitter Highlights, and would snap popular tweets that have already passed to the top of a user's timeline. For users who are just arriving to Twitter, the company said its working on an Instant Timeline, that would auto-populate with things to follow based on a users interests.
New video products and stand alone apps in the vein of Vine were also discussed, but not in detail. "Like Vine, we believe there are complimentary applications that can live outside Twitter," said Costolo. Anyone remember Twitter music?
Time and again, however, analysts returned to the issue of tepid user growth and high churn from users who try Twitter but then quit. Costolo has described the company as a series of "geometrically eccentric circles." First there are the company's logged-in users: 284 million per month, as of last count. Next are its logged-out visitors, and finally there is the even wider circle of people who see tweets when they are embedded across the web, published in syndication, or broadcast on television. Add all those up, says Twitter, and its audience is much closer to the size of its competitor, Facebook.
The company also showed off a few graphs, highlighting different growth rates based on different strategies, as it seeks to hit that magic one billion user mark. The data, CFO Anthony Noto cautioned, as "strictly hypothetical."