What’s the plan, Twitter?


CEO Jack Dorsey needs more than numbers to impress Wall Street tomorrow.

By the time the West Coast rolls out of bed on Thursday morning, we’ll know whether or not Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey has a plan.

Maybe a plan toward profitability? Or a plan regarding management, including his own role running Twitter? Or at least a plan outlining Twitter’s potential future as a stand-alone entity?

When the company reports its Q3 earnings Thursday morning, the numbers themselves — even if they’re great, which no one expects — won’t be enough to assuage investor concerns around the company’s cloudier-than-usual future.

If Twitter is going to walk away from earnings with any positive momentum, the company needs to supply more than what amounts to in-line quarterly revenue growth. It needs to explain how it plans to climb out of the deep hole it currently calls home.

Which brings us back to the plan.

A few weeks ago, Twitter stock was up big on the idea that some larger tech or media company like Google or Disney or Salesforce would swoop in and buy up all of Twitter’s problems. That no longer looks likely — feel free to ignore blog posts from anonymous people until instructed otherwise — and now it’s up to Dorsey and Twitter’s management to convince investors they can turn Twitter around on their own.

That process will likely include cost cuts. Bloomberg reported Monday that Twitter could announce company-wide layoffs as soon as this week, and our sources are bracing for the same. It’s a move that could save Twitter $50 million to $100 million per year, according to SunTrust analyst Bob Peck.

Twitter has also considered selling off other non-core parts of its business, like mobile developer product Fabric or video app Vine.

Twitter’s plan also likely includes more livestreaming deals, though few truly believe that its foray into TV-like live video streaming will impact Twitter’s user or revenue growth anytime soon.

By last count, Twitter had 313 million monthly active users and has been struggling to grow quarter over quarter. Its most prominent video streams are totaling a few million viewers apiece, but most of those viewers are already Twitter users. The others don’t need to sign up for a Twitter account to watch, which means it’s unlikely streaming will jump-start things the way Twitter needs.

Then there’s Dorsey, who is also still running Square, which means he has two jobs, both of which are supposedly full-time. Given Twitter’s state, you can expect investors will start asking when the company’s CEO position will get 100 percent of its CEO’s attention.

It’s time for Dorsey to deliver something tangible to those who bought into his plea for patience almost exactly 15 months ago.

“We will take the necessary time to build a service people love to use every single day, and we realize it will take some time to show the results we all want to see,” he said last July. “A greater clarity of our purpose, our objectives, and putting the people that use Twitter first drive the urgency we now feel.”

It’s hard to see that urgency from the outside, and the results have not yet materialized. Twitter stock is down 44 percent since that afternoon, and with the exception of Twitter’s livestreaming efforts, it’s not clear what new products users or investors should be excited about.

On Thursday, analysts are looking for earnings of $0.09 per share on revenue of $605 million, a little over 6 percent growth over the same quarter last year. Both Stifel’s Scott Devitt and RBC Capital’s Mark Mahaney expect Twitter to add three million new users, the same number of new users it added in Q3 of 2015.

Reminder: The company already missed revenue targets the past two quarters and lowered its Q3 guidance back in July. Investors are already bracing for a crummy Q4, too, which is typically the biggest quarter of the year for advertiser-fueled businesses.

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