Twitter’s New COO Talks User Growth, the NFL and the Company’s NewFronts Debut

Plus, how the military and Wall Street helped prepare Anthony Noto for a job in tech

Anthony Noto also has banking and branding experience. Ellian Raffoul
Headshot of Marty Swant

Adweek: How have your past roles in advertising, finance and the military shaped your approach to Twitter?
Anthony Noto: I think Twitter is the culmination of a series of experiences that have built the foundation of what’s required to be an executive at Twitter. I was in the military as a communications officer, where I first learned about asynchronous transfer mode, IP-based technology. From there, I went to Kraft as a brand manager, so I was on the advertiser side. I had to evaluate distribution channels like the internet, but also advertising vehicles like television and print and radio and outdoor as well as digital, and optimize for marketing mix and return on investment. After that I was on Wall Street, primarily [focusing on] the emergence of the internet as a commercial industry. Then I spent time at the NFL [as CFO] working with content partners, and then as a banker working with media and technology companies.

Why is Twitter doing a NewFronts presentation for the first time this year?
A year ago, we had premium content partnerships and highlights, in-progress clips of events as they unfolded as well as preplanned events. We’ve extended that to a much broader array of content, so over 250 premium content partners are in our marketplace for advertisers to do pre-roll video. In addition to that, we now have our premium livestream content business. We’ll have 800 hours of programming in this first quarter of 2017—up from 500 hours in the fourth quarter [of 2016], which was our first quarter of live programming. In a year, we’ve gone from having just one video product that was customizable to having a self-service premium, scaleable video content offering in addition to a mid-roll live offering.

What does Twitter losing out to Amazon on a second year of streaming NFL Thursday Night Football mean for its livestreaming business?
We took the approach of leveraging nationally and globally recognized content to build awareness of underserved content. And so the NFL, MLB, PGA … we’re using those to build awareness that Twitter does have live video. The NFL was a great launch partner, but it was just one part of a broader strategy to have a great selection. We still have a relationship with the NFL and [our partnership still includes] live components.

Where do you plan to expand live programming this year?
First, we’re going international. We’ve had our first events in the U.K. and Japan and they’ve been incredibly successful, and we’ve had our first events in Australia as well as in Germany—also successful. Second, between 50 and 55 percent of our content has been sports. News and politics was next, and the rest has been entertainment, so we want to increase the amount of entertainment on the platform as well as esports and news. We want the mix to be more even.

The company has continued to struggle with user growth. Does the user base have to grow?
We’ve used a very specific strategy with growing our audience. We’ve accelerated from 3 percent growth to 5 percent to 7 percent to 11 percent, and when we report first quarter earnings [this Wednesday], we can give additional detail there. That growth has been driven by product changes and specifically to instantly give our consumers the answer to the question of what’s happening in the world.

You’ve been exploring ideas for possible paid subscription options, etc. What’s your plan for that?
There is a lot of activity that takes place on Twitter where we’re not directly driving revenue today. So we want to investigate those areas of high usage to see if there are different ways to drive revenue. Our ad technology MoPub is a major resource [along with monetizing data]. TweetDeck is another asset that has a very passionate user base that’s highly engaged and there’s an opportunity to give even more value to them and explore different ways to monetize that.

Current gig
COO and CFO, Twitter
Previous gig
CFO, Twitter
Age 48

This story first appeared in the April 24, 2017, issue of Adweek magazine. Click here to subscribe.

@martyswant Marty Swant is a former technology staff writer for Adweek.