Twitter’s future in India is all about mobile video

  • Pranav Dixit
  • Updated: Dec 02, 2015 13:43 IST
Twitter’s Rishi Jaitly says that the company is excited about the growth of mobile video. At the Twitter Video Summit in Mumbai in on December 2, the company will educate publishers about using its suite of video tools more effectively. (Twitter)

You know who’s betting big on online video? Everyone. YouTube, the granddaddy of all video platforms, generates billions of views every single day. Facebook, which started experimenting with putting videos in users’ news feeds early last year, now generates 8 billion daily views.

Twitter, well, Twitter’s betting big on video too. The company now allows publishers to make money off clips they upload to Twitter by placing YouTube-style 6-second pre-roll ads, and has a suite of video products aimed at both casual users and brands. Vine, which allows users to publish 6-second looping videos now sees more than 1.5 billion loops a day; and on Periscope, Twitter’s live-streaming app that launched in March, people watch more than 40 years of video each day. In fact, says a Twitter spokesperson, video consumption across Twitter has grown 150 times in the last 12 months, although the company did not share the number of videos viewed on the platform.

This explosive growth is in sync with the current trends in online videos, especially on mobile. According to Adobe’s Digital Index, mobile video is expected to grow 13 times between now and 2019. In fact, mobile video currently represents 36% of the total mobile data traffic today in India, is expected to grow to 66% in the next four year thanks to high-speed 4G networks, says a report from analysis firm eMarketer.

To educate Indian publishers about using video effectively on its platform, Twitter has organised a Twitter Video Summit on December 2 in Mumbai. “We are the only platform that’s live and public at the same time,” said Rishi Jaitly, Twitter’s Asia-Pacific and Middle East Vice President of Media. “The objective of the Summit is to have experts from Twitter’s global team talk about native video on Twitter, Vine, Periscope and other premium tools that we offer to our publishing partners.”

In an exclusive interview with Hindustan Times, Jaitly spoke about why Twitter is excited about the future of online video -- and how Twitter is trying to influence it.

Are you surprised at the growth in online video in India?

I am not. I used to work with Google before and was a part of the YouTube India launch team, and one of the things we learnt early on was that visual media performs exceedingly well in India.

Twitter has become essential to Indian mass media in the last few years. Everyone from the Prime Minister to comedy startups is using it. The question we are now asking is: how do we move from being relevant in the mass media to the momentum we’re seeing in new media and emerging users discovering the internet for the first time? I think video, and its ability to scale quickly and resonate and transcend language issues is central to our story going forward.

Are regular people using your video tools like Periscope? Or it is just brands and news organisations?

They are. I went on Periscope the other day and saw someone from Goa on a motorbike, and they were Periscoping their bike ride!

Right. I think there are two kinds of live-streamers. The big brands with their big events. And the small, casual creators who are just looking for an audience. Who’s more important to you and how do balance both their needs?

They’re both important to us. But I think in India, most media automatically tends to organise itself around self-evident content genres like cricket, movies, politics, and more. The question that we need to ask ourselves is that how do we handle the edge cases who use live-streaming? We have started focusing more on these cases where people are using our video products like Vine and Periscope in non-traditional content genres.

Could you be more specific?

So there’s a restaurant in Lower Parel [in Bombay] called Bombay Canteen, and this one time, one of the chefs there Periscoped a recipe. That’s a non-traditional use of live-streaming on a social network. What we’re now doing is moving away from how people are already using mobile video and concentrating on non-traditional content genres like chefs and education and NGOs and travel to help people in these areas understand how they can use mobile video better.

Let’s talk about metrics. Facebook focuses on the number of videos viewed. YouTube looks at engagement time among other things. What’s the most important metric for videos on Twitter?

We have a range of video products -- from a 30-second clip that anyone can post, to a 6-second Vine loop, to an interactive Periscope live-stream. So we look at different metrics for each of these. But above all, I think Twitter is three things: live, public and conversational. Tweets travel. Periscopes travel. Vines travel. Both on Twitter and off Twitter, because you can embed everything all over the web. So the two metrics that come to mind are virality and engagement with our content.

But those metrics apply to all content on Twitter, not just video.

That’s right. I think above all, it’s the velocity of content that is important to us.

What are you doing to enable brands to use video more effectively on Twitter?

I think we were all surprised at the way the Indian market used mobile video, so now we will organise a strategy around it. I think step one is evangelism -- we need to educate brands on using our video tools better. Step two is making sure that the most strategic publishers [like news channels and websites] become premium users of our tools. Is there a way a news website can stitch together stories using Twitter videos? Can a channel integrate Periscopes into its broadcasts? The final step is getting our most mature partners to think about monetising all this video content.

Is it harder to monetise live video compared to regular videos?

We are not content creators, so I would ask that to the brands.

So Twitter’s a video platform now?

We are, but we’re fundamentally different from other video platforms. We were born on mobile and so our content format remains rather short-form as a result; and our consumption is largely live and public. So our position with respect to live video is rather exciting for us.

How do you push video in a bandwidth-deficient country like India?

We recognised a year and a half ago that we have to keep in mind the realities of India’s complex mobile network and also its complex handset ecosystem. So yes, the performance of our products has improved, and we are optimising for latency and slow 2.5G networks. So yes, we have taken a whole lot of steps within Twitter to optimise video.

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