Twitter CEO Dick Costolo shrugs off media baron tag, talks comedy

  • N Madhavan, Hindustan Times, New Delhi
  • Updated: Mar 24, 2015 23:30 IST

He is the world’s newest media baron — and in a way among its biggest. He doesn’t think he is one. But Dick Costolo’s words and actions seem to suggest otherwise.

“Twitter is a platform and will always be a platform which will grow and grow,” the CEO of the microblogging site told Hindustan Times after meeting Prime Minister Narendra Modi, whose election success last year was aided by tweets on the platform where US President Barack Obama rubs shoulders with a host of global leaders and spiritual heads like the Dalai Lama.

But, asked if he was anything like Rupert Murdoch, the balding, bespectacled 51-year-old responds with a resounding “No.”

That may be modesty. Born only in 2006, Twitter now has 284 million active users worldwide with everyone from sportspersons and Hollywood/Bollywood stars to journalists and scientists reaching out to followers through Twitter, the way anchors and columnists would reach out to viewers and readers in old media.

There’s more coming. Twitter last January acquired Periscope, a live video streaming app that enables live broadcasts. Costolo said Twitter was “public, realtime and conversational” and live broadcasts would mark its future.

“It is going to change the landscape in fascinating ways,” he said.

Twitter is also organising content by topic, curating information of interest through software algorithms like it is doing for the current cricket world cup. Costolo said this may also be done manually – signaling that it does what news editors do worldwide.

Asked about the Islamic State using Twitter for its extremist propaganda, Costolo, whose job includes tackling and curbing abuse of his site, said it was “both against the law and our policy”.

There is another kind of annoyance he deals with – and likes. Costolo was a performer with the Annoyance Theater in Chicago, something akin to the popular “Whose Line Is It Anyway” show on the BBC. “It was an improvisation theatre. We would just make up lines and do comedy,” he said.

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