Twitter adds more users, but finds it hard to make money from them

It added six million more "monetizable" users, but profits held firm at $37 million.

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Matt Crossick - PA Images via Getty Images
Matt Crossick - PA Images via Getty Images

In the last three months, Twitter added six million more users, but couldn't manage to sell any more ads to those eyeballs. At least, not in quantities enough to boost its bottom line, with net profit remaining the same as it was in the previous quarter. Then, as now, Twitter made $37 million in profit which, while nothing to sniff at, hints that the company may have a stasis problem.

Twitter no longer counts raw user numbers, but talks about "monetizable daily active users," which earn the site money. That six million bump pushes the tally from 139 million in the summer to 145 million now, of which five million users are based outside the US. The overall split is now 30 million domestic users versus 115 million in the rest of the world. Although that US figure should really be 29,999,999, since it's not likely that Pierre Delecto's account will stick around for long.

On the business side, Twitter saw overall revenues of $824 million, down on the $841 million from the previous quarter. That's despite a 23 percent increase in ad engagements, and a cheaper "cost per engagement" rate. Twitter says that the issue is twofold: a now-fixed error in its ad targeting platform stopped it selling ads, while increased running costs (both for the platform, and staff) ate into its margins.

Twitter also pointed a finger at a "lighter slate of big events and launches in July and August" helping to soften its business. The implication being that 2020, with the Olympics and the UEFA Euro soccer championship, will help reverse those numbers. Although it must be a concern that Twitter is so reliant on events beyond its control to determine its profitability.

Part of that is down to the company's efforts to, as always, improve the "health" of its conversation and increase overall engagement. The changes do seem to be working, with timeline tweaks, event pages and topic follows all keeping people hooked on the site. Twitter is expecting to see a big boost to its bottom line thanks to a deal with NBC for content related to the 2020 Olympic Games.

Twitter regularly talks about how good it is at policing toxic content on its network, and now says that more than half of all tweets taken down were done so automatically. Specifically that these tweets were "taken down without a bystander or first-person report." That's up from 43 percent in the second quarter and 38 percent back in March.

As part of its plan to combat automated misinformation networks, Twitter has been sharing its data on "state-backed information operations." That includes new material from China, Saudi Arabia and the UAE, which have been shared with security researchers and journalists. It neglected to mention, of course, that it recently had its own security issue, using its user's phone numbers to sell ads, without permission. Oops.

Update 3:44PM ET: This post originally stated the next soccer World Cup was slated for 2020, but the next tournament won't happen until 2022. The UEFA Euro championship will take place next year.

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