Twitter beat expectations today in its first earnings report since going public in November, earning 2 cents per share on $242.7 million in revenues last quarter. They company had 241 million monthly active users, up only slightly from 232 million the previous quarter. The stock declined more than 10 percent on the news, likely reflecting investors' disappointment with the slowing user growth.
Analysts had expected Twitter to lose 3 cents per share, according to consensus estimates gathered by Mark Mahaney at RBC Capital Markets. They were looking for about $217 million in revenue for the quarter, representing 94 percent growth from the previous year. At the time of its initial public offering in November of 2013, Twitter was on pace to earn roughly $500 million in annual revenue and had booked losses of $69 million for the year.
Twitter CEO Dick Costolo addressed the company's anemic growth in an earnings call. "We are doubling down in 2014 to accelerate the growth of our core user base," he said. Costolo said that recent redesigns have boosted favorites and retweets more than 35 percent, and that direct messaging has increased more than 25 percent. In addition, the company saw a 120 percent increase in search over the previous year, he said.
"We're doubling down in 2014 to accelerate the growth of our core user base."
Costolo laid out a three-pronged plan to increase user growth: improving the experience for new users, particularly on mobile devices; making it easier to have both public and private conversations on Twitter; and inserting more pictures and video into the timeline in an effort to attract more casual users. "We will continue investing to make Twitter a more visually engaging medium across a number of dimensions," Costolo said.
The company will also try ways of letting users browse tweets by topic and relevance in addition to basic chronology, he said. Twitter's Discover tab already shows tweets based on relevance, but Costolo's comments suggest that several more experiments around topics and relevance are forthcoming.
Twitter's stock has soared since debuting Nov. 7th, rising from $26 to as high as $74 in the weeks leading up to today's earnings report. Investors' confidence in the company has been buoyed by the unexpectedly strong performance of Facebook, which now makes more than half its revenue from mobile advertising. Mobile ads are Twitter's core business.
But the company has been dogged by concerns that it will never become a truly mainstream product. Twitter has only about one-fifth as many users as Facebook, and its growth rate has slowed markedly over the past year. That's one reason the company has been continuously redesigning its product, shaking up the core timeline of tweets in an effort to make it more approachable.
Twitter projects it will earn $1.15 billion to $1.2 billion in 2014.