Twitter Inc., the social-networking service that delivers 140-character messages, redesigned its site to make it easier to post photos, videos and maps directly on the page, mimicking features available from Facebook Inc.
The company announced deals with 16 partners to let users embed their multimedia content within the site, Twitter said during an event at its San Francisco headquarters. A new two- column design, which rolled out to some users yesterday, can showcase material from Google Inc.’s YouTube and Yahoo! Inc.’s Flickr, along with smaller services like Justin.TV.
By giving marketers a new way to use multimedia in online promotions, the redesign also plays into Twitter’s advertising efforts. In April, the company began selling ads called “promoted tweets,” which let Best Buy Co., Starbucks Corp. and other companies pay to have messages appear at the top of search pages on the site.
“What advertisers on Twitter are looking for is engagement,” Chief Executive Officer Evan Williams said in an interview. “This will improve that out of the box.”
For instance, a movie studio advertising a new film would be able to display a video trailer on Twitter.com, he said.
Twitter’s new site can pull in video feeds from YouTube and photos from Flickr. The additions are aimed at helping the four- year-old company maintain growth as competition in social networking intensifies. Facebook, the industry leader, has offered a format that’s similar to Twitter’s chronological feed, while making it easier to post photos, videos and multimedia.
The new design may duplicate some capabilities offered by the websites and applications that now complement Twitter’s services, irking the programmers that rely on the blogging site for their own growth, said Augie Ray, an analyst at Cambridge, Massachusetts-based Forrester Research Inc.
Twitter is trying to strike a balance between building its own business and helping sustain more than 100,000 websites and apps that use its content. In April, the company acquired Atebits, the maker of a popular Twitter applications for Apple Inc.’s iPhone. That put it in closer competition with some members of its own developer community. Then in May, the company rankled third-party developers by preventing them from placing ads directly above and below tweets.
“Developers have got to know that Twitter wants to control its future,” Ray said. “Having a better user interface is a part of that, and that may cause some conflict.”
Making People Happy
More than three-quarters of Twitter users access the service through its main website, rather than third-party apps, Williams said. Even so, making Twitter more popular will help related businesses, he said.
“Our goal isn’t to convert people from third-party apps to Twitter.com,” Williams said. “Our goal is to make people more happy and engaged Twitter users, and I think chances are, people would probably use more third-party apps if we can get them started using Twitter.”
While the website’s new look wasn’t motivated by advertising, it creates more opportunities for companies to send marketing messages, Williams said. “We’re going to explore using the extra real estate to drive more impressions when it makes sense.”
The advertising program follows years of focusing purely on user growth. Last month, the company hired a new head of revenue, Adam Bain, who formerly led News Corp.’s efforts to make money from MySpace and other online properties.
Twitter made deals in 2009 that put its content into Microsoft Corp. and Google search results. The arrangements were worth about $25 million, enough to make the company profitable last year, people familiar with the matter said at the time.
Twitter has more than 145 million registered users, Williams said in a blog posting earlier this month. The performance of its promoted products has exceeded Twitter’s expectations, he said.
The company said it’s adding 370,000 users on average per day. Traffic to the site has doubled over the past year.
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