Sometimes your initial product or idea is so great that it handicaps you. And, according to Ben Thompson of Stratechery, that’s exactly what happened to Twitter:
“The initial concept was so good, and so perfectly fit such a large market, that they never needed to go through the process of achieving product market fit. It just happened.
The problem, though, was that by skipping over the wrenching process of finding a market, Twitter still has no idea what their market actually is, and how they might expand it.”
Nowhere is this more apparent than its “live” strategy
A year ago, Twitter wrote a letter to shareholders about becoming “the first screen for everything that’s happening now,” instead of a complementary “second screen.”
And that’s exactly what they did — forming partnerships with the NBA, the NFL, and Bloomberg to serve tweets and live programming side-by-side.
So what’s the problem? According to Thompson, it’s that this strategy is “the worst sort of product thinking: simply doing what was done before, but digitally.”
Compare this approach to that of Netflix and Amazon…
And Twitter’s lack of product vision becomes even more apparent. While it tries to do what old media (TV) does, these other guys are building products that are uniquely enabled by the internet.
“[It’s] a pattern you see repeatedly from the successful tech companies,” said Thompson. “These companies are evolving in a way that takes ever more advantage of the internet’s unique capabilities.”
Netflix commoditized time, making its entire catalog available 24/7. Linear TV can’t do that. Amazon commoditized product distribution, creating a store with unlimited shelves and unbeatable prices. Brick and mortar can’t do that.
So, what would better product thinking look like for Twitter?
On Sunday night, the Oscars delivered one of the most jaw-dropping live TV moments in history. And what made it so special in the moment was not just seeing it live (anyone can watch the replay), it was the incredible reaction on Twitter.
But where’s that reaction now? It’s lost. And that’s a huge missed opportunity for a company that wants to “own live.”
Thompson’s suggestion: “Imagine a Twitter app that let’s you replay your Twitter stream from any particular moment in time. Miss the Oscars gaffe? Not only can you watch the video, you can read the reactions as they happen, from the people you actually care enough to follow.”