Twitter has had plenty of challenges. Convincing media companies to work with it hasn’t been one of them.
So what’s on Katie Jacobs Stanton’s to-do-list, now that she’s Twitter’s new VP of Global Media? Do more, she says: Convince more partners, in more countries, to use Twitter as a distribution platform — while convincing them that Twitter won’t end up competing with them.
A four-year Twitter veteran, Stanton previously ran Twitter’s international strategy from Paris. She was promoted in early July following an executive shakeup that resulted in the departure of COO Ali Rowghani and previous media head Chloe Sladden. Stanton was already handling Twitter partnerships overseas, but her new role means U.S. partnerships now fall onto her plate, too.
Re/code spoke with Stanton about her new role, areas for growth and the possibility of new metrics to measure Twitter’s reach. The interview that follows was edited for length and clarity.
Re/code: From the outside, it looks like the media team’s efforts to sync up with TV networks, celebrities and other media partners has been a success. What would you like to change?
It’s not so much about changing, it’s more about scaling. To your point, what we’ve done really well is we work really closely with traditional media partners to help complement their services. We help them reach their goals of connecting with their fans and having conversations about their shows, about their artists, about their news organizations — what’s important to them. We’re not there to disrupt their business, we’re there to help their business.
The second thing that we’ve done is we’ve hired people from these industries that speak the same language and come from this experience. For example, Andrew Adashek, who leads our TV team in the U.S., came from Mark Burnett Productions. He had a great history there, so he knows what TV partners need and want. In the news industry, we’ve hired Vivian Schiller, who comes from a great background working at NPR and NBC. She understands the needs of publishers and journalists and how to help serve those partners.
You say that your role hasn’t changed dramatically with the new job, but it’s expanded. How do you go about prioritizing partnerships now that you’re looking at things globally?
I think there are two vectors in prioritizing. One is the market. We have a number of key markets, and 77 percent of our users are from outside the United States. So while we are a U.S. company, we need to make sure we’re scaling our efforts globally and concentrating on a lot of the bigger markets where we have [partnership] teams. We’re now in 15 markets outside the U.S.
The second vector is the vertical. We know that some of the core conversations on Twitter are around television and sports and music and news and elections. So we spend a lot of time thinking about those core verticals and how we can make sure Twitter is a powerful complement in those specific areas. As we scale we look at those markets and verticals to help us figure out what’s the best way to invest. Ultimately the goal is to reach every person on the planet.
In which of those pillars — television, sports or music — do you feel like Twitter has the greatest foothold right now?
I guess the two that really stand out are television and sports. Twitter is the ultimate companion to television. When our founders created Twitter they didn’t necessarily create it as a complement or companion to television. What’s happened is that every day our users have been able to transform the service into this second screen experience while watching live TV because Twitter has a lot of those characteristics. It’s live, it’s public, it’s conversational, it’s mobile. Television is something really unique, really powerful about Twitter and we’ve obviously made a big investment in that whole experience.
The second is sports. With the World Cup and the NFL you see more and more people tune into Twitter as they watch their favorite sports moments. They have conversations not [just] during the event, but before the event to talk about what’s going to happen. And then of course there’s the post-game show, and the post-game show happens on Twitter.
Stanton interviewed former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton at Twitter HQ in July.
There’s been some debate and conversation around whether Twitter can really boost ratings or any other metric that matters to TV partners. Do you feel the need to prove your case at all with metrics?
There’s no silver bullet. We are finding that deep engagement on Twitter provides great value for broadcasters. It allows you to monetize your show and it allows you to demonstrate a public service. It allows you to reach audiences through multiple channels.
One of my favorite examples is the Brit Awards in the U.K. You obviously had people in the U.K. watching that show because they could follow that channel, but what Twitter allows that producer [to do] is reach an audience worldwide. So they had people talking about that show at every corner of the planet. Those people didn’t have access to the live stream of that show, but they were able to follow via Twitter.
CEO Dick Costolo has talked about unveiling new metrics at some point to better quantify Twitter’s reach. Is that something your team is involved in?
Yeah. Dick has been very public about this. What’s unique about Twitter is it’s open platform and it’s a widely distributed platform. We have a number of unique visitors that come to Twitter to get breaking news, to hear what people have to say. Joan Rivers died [Thursday] and people were grieving on Twitter and talking about her, but they’re also coming to listen to the voices on Twitter as they pay respect to Joan Rivers. This happens all the time.
There’s also the broader syndication of tweets. News properties of the world embed tweets and cite tweets. That’s really unique.
A lot of people go to Twitter first for news and current events. How do you see Twitter as a distributor of news versus a news source itself? How do you walk that line?
Twitter is the operating system of news. News organizations were the first to really understand the value and the power of Twitter. They joined Twitter not just as a place where they could break news, but as a place where they could source news and confirm news. So we spend a lot of time [with news organizations]. We’ve hired people who have worked in the news industry all around the world. They really understand and speak the same language as news organizations to help them make the most of what’s going on. There are people bearing witness to events all around the world, and Twitter is a powerful platform for anybody to source, to break, to consume or to digest news.
You see it more as a complement than as a competitor?
Absolutely. The relationship is super symbiotic and the way that we work together is really really strong.
You mentioned TV and sports as strengths for Twitter. Where do you want to expand?
One emerging area is fashion. We’re seeing great innovation happening this week at New York Fashion Week, for example. I’m spending a lot of time engaging [fashion brands]. Burberry has probably one of the greatest accounts in the fashion world. We’re seeing lots of great things from J.Crew. We’re seeing our fashion partners understand the value of Twitter not just as a real-time interest network, but a media-forward network where they are able to post photos with filters, videos and Vines.
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