Twitter may get a lot more attention in the media than Snapchat, but it has a lot fewer daily users, at least at first glance.
On Thursday, Donald Trump's favourite social network disclosed for the first time its average number of daily users - 126 million in the fourth quarter. That was up from about 124 million in the third quarter and from about 116 million in the fourth quarter of 2017, it said.
Twitter released the figures as part of its fourth-quarter earnings report. The company's results topped expectations, but its stock fell 10% on the news.
By itself, the disclosure had to please investors, who have long clamored for Twitter to release its daily user count. Previously, the company disclosed only the percent by which DAUs changed on an annual basis. Shareholders also had to be somewhat encouraged that the number continues to grow.
Audience size is of course important to advertisers, who want to know how many people their marketing messages can potentially reach.
However, when compared the daily active user numbers at other social networking companies, Twitter's user count looks pretty anemic.
Take Snapchat. Snap's app has been bashed for the decline of its user base over the last year. But it still had 186 million daily active users in the fourth quarter. That's about 48% larger than Twitter's.
And then there's Facebook. It had 1.5 billion daily users worldwide in the fourth quarter.
In a letter to shareholders, Twitter officials warned they shouldn't stack up its daily user figures next to those of other companies. Twitter's daily user count, which it calls monetisable daily active users (mDAU), includes only those customers to which it can show ads, because they log into its own website or apps, rather than accessing Twitter through a third-party service or app.
By contrast, Twitter officials said, competitors' user metrics often include eyeballs to which they can't show ads.
"We considered changing our disclosure to be comparable to other companies, but our goal was not to disclose the largest daily active user number we could," Twitter officials said in their letter. "We want to align our external stakeholders around one metric that reflects our goal of delivering value to people on Twitter every day and monetising that usage."
But in giving something new to shareholders, Twitter also is taking something away. The company said it will no longer disclose its number of monthly active users after the first quarter of this year.
"MDAU will be the metric we use to show the size of our audience and engagement going forward," officials said in the letter.
While Twitter's daily user count has been edging upward, its monthly user base - which offers a broader look at how many people access the service on a regular, if not daily, basis - has been trending downward. In the fourth quarter, it had 321 monthly active users. That was down from 326 million in the third quarter and 330 million in the fourth quarter of 2017.
Twitter said the decline was due to in part to changes it made to comply with Europe's General Data Privacy Regulation and to its decision to reduce the number of notifications it sent by email to users.
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