The Weekend Mumbo: Threads – Silicon Valley ego at its best

Welcome to the Weekend Mumbo,

And now for the war that nobody asked for: microblogging.

I’ll just lay out a quick rule of thumb for this opinion piece before I continue. This is not about Threads and its features. Plenty of better equipped technology writers have done that well including our own new dep ed Nathan Jolly, a former tech journo himself. Here I’ll focus on the business side of things (essentially the advertising) and try to figure out the answer to the burning question: why the hell would you want to get into this space at all?

Threads Meta social platform

Meta’s Threads platform

Moving on… When Twitter launched in July of 2006, it was all about microblogging. Of course, at the time, platforms like Blogger and MySpace were the big players in social networking. There was no such thing as TikTok or Instagram, and Facebook was only a few years old.

On Thursday morning, many consumers around the world (not Europe – regulatory concerns prevented that) got access to the latest in microblogging platforms, Threads, by Meta. Unsurprisingly, it’s created a serious amount of hype.

In fact, according to Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg, the platform gained 30 million users in its first day.

That has undoubtedly been helped by the fact you can essentially create a Threads account in seconds by allowing Meta to copy your details over from Instagram. But Zuck told the BBC that his ultimate goal was a platform with over one billion users.

“It’ll take some time, but I think there should be a public conversations app with one billion plus people on it,” he said. “Twitter has had the opportunity to do this but hasn’t nailed it. Hopefully we will.”

So let’s explore the last part of the statement quickly. The idea that Twitter hasn’t nailed it. Because I would argue there isn’t much to nail.

Over time, Twitter became somewhat of a social media phenomenon for those that cared. The problem was those that cared generally came in small (in context – because the numbers were still relatively big) professional cohorts.

For example, journalists loved Twitter. It was a great (lazy?) source of gossip and consumer sentiment as well as a solid way to promote their work. PR and comms professionals loved it, because that was where the journalists were. And business leaders, celebrities and politicians loved it because it was a free promotional tool and a lot of the people on the platform were journalists who would amplify their message further.

Microblogging, as it was, was not for everyone. Or even a large portion of everyone.


Twitter useage from Social App Report

From 2010 to 2022, user numbers increased from 40 million to 401 million according to Social App Report. But other social media platforms including Facebook, YouTube, WhatsApp, Instagram, TikTok and WeChat all boasted at least one billion users, if not two or even up to three times that.

And many of them have not been around as long as Twitter has.

It leaves Zuck’s statement about one billion users not as impressive, but as necessary if Threads is to really get a foothold on the social media hierarchy and become a real contributor to Meta’s profit.

Speaking of revenue, the enormous elephant in the room is the business of Twitter. It only became profitable in 2018, where it brought in a net profit of US$1.2 billion. It did better in 2019 bringing in US$1.4 billion. But the rest of the years it has suffered net losses generally in the hundreds of millions.


I’m not a business leader, but I would suggest that those figures don’t make for a good business proposition. The length of time over which those losses were incurred also suggests that this is not just an Elon Musk problem.

While it is easy to accuse the eccentric billionaire of buying the platform as a novelty and then unleashing chaos, under other leaders, including founders Jack Dorsey and Evan Williams, as well as Dick Costolo, the business certainly wasn’t a financial success.

It can’t be argued that the latest moves by Musk, such as limiting free users to viewing just 600 posts per day (what Platformer’s Casey Newton has calculated to be around 20 minutes worth), have drastically limited Twitter’s ability to fight back. It’s been losing the war against itself for a while now.

Threads just gives it the opportunity to lose against an actual competitor.

But Newton argued launching Threads now while Twitter is in disarray has made it possible to become a going concern. “Had Meta launched this app in 2019, it seems safe to say, everyone would have rolled their eyes. Its big new feature is … logging in with Instagram? Come on.”


So why wouldn’t you just roll your eyes now? Twitter has left a small gap in the market, but as I’ve suggested above, that gap seems negligible in terms of the actual business opportunity here.

If Twitter couldn’t make microblogging profitable while that was its only priority as a business, why does Meta think it can when it has so many other priorities as well?

I would assume that the hope for Threads will be less about roaring profit success on its own but to contribute in a small way to the Meta bottom line. In addition, it will shut out other competitors in the market that have tried to capitalise on Twitter continually shooting itself in the foot (think Bluesky – founded by Jack Dorsey no less which has been left dangling in beta phase). And finally, it will also add a feather to the ego cap of Mark Zuckerberg.

As sad as that is, the last point is quite the driving force here.

Let’s not forget that just last month Musk challenged Zuck to a cage fight and the idea has been gaining steady momentum. Silicon Valley ego at its finest.

You can find me on Threads, by the way – @damianfrancis. While I am very wary of its actual business opportunity, I’m certainly going to give it a spin and see what all the hype is about.

Perhaps Threads will become Meta’s gift to social media. Nathan reported on Friday that Threads would not be taking advertising this year as Meta focused solely on the platform itself. A not-for-profit social platform that encourages conversation in an unproblematic way and has over one billion users on it. One can dream.

The rest of the week

Where to start? How about the news that billing figures from international independent research company COMvergence have been thrown into doubt after what Mumbrella understands to be multiple agency complaints. That story was broken by Lauren McNamara, who only recently stepped into the role of reporter. Talk about coming in with a bang.

She also put WPP in the limelight after multiple redundancies were confirmed.

Darcy Song reported that public relations veteran Stuart Gregor sold the rest of his gin brand Four Pillars to Lion for a cool $50 million. It already owned half of the business.

And the Entain creative account is up for pitch, as editor Shannon Molloy reported. But will anyone actually enter the race? I did a small straw poll on LinkedIn the other day. Currently 63% of respondents wouldn’t put their hat in the ring. You still have a few hours to drop your opinion.


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