Skip to main content

Twitter says advertisers stopped spending money in reaction to protests

Twitter says advertisers stopped spending money in reaction to protests


‘US civil unrest’ led to decreased ad spending

Share this story

Illustration by Alex Castro / The Verge

Twitter’s advertising revenue was hit hard by the pandemic, and the company says that the “US civil unrest” in May and June also made matters worse. Advertising revenue declined 15 percent year-over-year in the final three weeks of June, Twitter said, as brands slowed or paused spending entirely. “Demand gradually improved once brands returned after the protests subsided,” Twitter said this morning in its Q2 2020 earnings report.

Brands have been known to block ads from appearing near terms like “Black Lives Matter,” “George Floyd,” and “protest.” At the same time, several huge advertisers including Starbucks, Unilever, and Coca-Cola paused advertising across most social media platforms in June. The advertising pause was initially focused on concerns over hate groups on Facebook, but they expanded to include other platforms at a time when companies may have wished to limit their spending anyway.

Twitter’s bright spot was a record for daily users

With the exception of “late May to mid-June,” Twitter says advertising revenue has been improving since its low point at the very start of the pandemic in March. There was a “gradual, moderate recovery,” Twitter said, but it hasn’t been enough to make up for the steep losses. Twitter’s total revenue fell by 19 percent during its second quarter, once again pushing the company into the red — its second loss in a row after remaining profitable since the end of 2017.

Advertisers have been tightening their budgets as the pandemic forces consumers, particularly in the US, to clamp down on spending. That’s meant fewer ad sales for Twitter, which are its primary source of revenue. Advertising revenue fell 23 percent from the same quarter in 2019.

The problems started last quarter, when the pandemic hit in the final weeks of Twitter’s reporting period. It was enough to wipe out $20 million to $80 million in expected revenue and slash all growth in ad revenue over the prior year. At the time, Twitter declined to estimate how much it might earn in Q2, given the uncertainties of the pandemic.

One bright spot that Twitter is highlighting is user growth. The company grew to 186 million daily users, up from 166 million the prior quarter. It also reflects the largest year-over-year growth (up from 139 million) since Twitter started reporting daily users in 2019 (which it started doing because its prior usage stat, monthly users, kept going down).

To make up for falling ad revenue, Twitter is working on new money-making features. On a call with investors, Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey mentioned subscriptions and commerce as possible opportunities, as well as helping sites managed paywalled access to stories. “You will likely see some tests this year,” Dorsey said.

The pandemic struggles also come as Twitter faces down two other serious threats: fallout from the unprecedented hack earlier this month that saw breaches of top user accounts, and the eyes at activist investor firm Elliott Management, which earlier this year tried to push out Dorsey. Twitter and Elliott eventually came to an agreement on user growth and revenue targets that would keep Dorsey on top, but it’s likely Twitter will miss whatever revenue target was set given the severe impacts of the pandemic.

Today’s Storystream

Feed refreshed 11 minutes ago Striking out

Andrew Webster11 minutes ago
Look at this Thing.

At its Tudum event today, Netflix showed off a new clip from the Tim Burton series Wednesday, which focused on a very important character: the sentient hand known as Thing. The full series starts streaming on November 23rd.

The Verge
Andrew WebsterAn hour ago
Get ready for some Netflix news.

At 1PM ET today Netflix is streaming its second annual Tudum event, where you can expect to hear news about and see trailers from its biggest franchises, including The Witcher and Bridgerton. I’ll be covering the event live alongside my colleague Charles Pulliam-Moore, and you can also watch along at the link below. There will be lots of expected names during the stream, but I have my fingers crossed for a new season of Hemlock Grove.

Andrew Webster1:05 PM UTC
Looking for something to do this weekend?

Why not hang out on the couch playing video games and watching TV. It’s a good time for it, with intriguing recent releases like Return to Monkey Island, Session: Skate Sim, and the Star Wars spinoff Andor. Or you could check out some of the new anime on Netflix, including Thermae Romae Novae (pictured below), which is my personal favorite time-traveling story about bathing.

A screenshot from the Netflix anime Thermae Romae Novae.
Thermae Romae Novae.
Image: Netflix

Welcome to the new Verge

Revolutionizing the media with blog posts

Nilay PatelSep 13
Tom WarrenSep 23
Has the Windows 11 2022 Update made your gaming PC stutter?

Nvidia GPU owners have been complaining of stuttering and poor frame rates with the latest Windows 11 update, but thankfully there’s a fix. Nvidia has identified an issue with its GeForce Experience overlay and the Windows 11 2022 Update (22H2). A fix is available in beta from Nvidia’s website.

External Link
If you’re using crash detection on the iPhone 14, invest in a really good phone mount.

Motorcycle owner Douglas Sonders has a cautionary tale in Jalopnik today about the iPhone 14’s new crash detection feature. He was riding his LiveWire One motorcycle down the West Side Highway at about 60 mph when he hit a bump, causing his iPhone 14 Pro Max to fly off its handlebar mount. Soon after, his girlfriend and parents received text messages that he had been in a horrible accident, causing several hours of panic. The phone even called the police, all because it fell off the handlebars. All thanks to crash detection.

Riding a motorcycle is very dangerous, and the last thing anyone needs is to think their loved one was in a horrible crash when they weren’t. This is obviously an edge case, but it makes me wonder what other sort of false positives we see as more phones adopt this technology.

External Link
Ford is running out of its own Blue Oval badges.

Running out of semiconductors is one thing, but running out of your own iconic nameplates is just downright brutal. The Wall Street Journal reports badge and nameplate shortages are impacting the automaker's popular F-series pickup lineup, delaying deliveries and causing general chaos.

Some executives are even proposing a 3D printing workaround, but they didn’t feel like the substitutes would clear the bar. All in all, it's been a dreadful summer of supply chain setbacks for Ford, leading the company to reorganize its org chart to bring some sort of relief.

Spain’s Transports Urbans de Sabadell has La Bussí.

Once again, the US has fallen behind in transportation — call it the Bussí gap. A hole in our infrastructure, if you will.

External Link
Jay PetersSep 23
Doing more with less (extravagant holiday parties).

Sundar Pichai addressed employees’ questions about Google’s spending changes at an all-hands this week, according to CNBC.

“Maybe you were planning on hiring six more people but maybe you are going to have to do with four and how are you going to make that happen?” Pichai sent a memo to workers in July about a hiring slowdown.

In the all-hands, Google’s head of finance also asked staff to try not to go “over the top” for holiday parties.

External Link
Insiders made the most money off of Helium’s “People’s Network.”

Remember Helium, which was touted by The New York Times in an article entitled “Maybe There’s a Use for Crypto After All?” Not only was the company misleading people about who used it — Salesforce and Lime weren’t using it, despite what Helium said on its site — Helium disproportionately enriched insiders, Forbes reports.

James VincentSep 23
Nvidia’s latest AI model generates endless 3D models.

Need to fill your video game, VR world, or project render with 3D chaff? Nvidia’s latest AI model could help. Trained on 2D images, it can churn out customizable 3D objects ready to import and tweak.

The model seems rudimentary (the renders aren’t amazing quality and seem limited in their variety), but generative AI models like this are only going to improve, speeding up work for all sorts of creative types.