Twitter eyeing Apple to help distribute its tweets

Tweets might appear in Spotlight searches on Apple devices, Twitter CEO Dick Costolo said

Twitter's headquarters on Market Street in San Francisco
Twitter's headquarters on Market Street in San Francisco

Soon, when you do a search on your iPhone for someone's contact info, a recent tweet from them might also pop up.

Twitter is working with Apple to incorporate Twitter content and accounts into Apple's Spotlight search feature, Twitter CEO Dick Costolo said during the company's quarterly earnings call on Tuesday. Spotlight search is a feature in Apple's iOS mobile system, and OS X on Macs, that generates results from content stored on the devices and from other content such as Safari Web results and mail from Apple's Mail app.

Tweets might be next on the list.

Costolo did not provide any other details on the status of the talks, beyond saying that such an integration would be geared toward making it easier and quicker to find content on Twitter.

Representatives from Twitter and Apple did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Should such a deal come to fruition, it could help Twitter distribute its content to a wider audience, which would align with the company's larger efforts to attract new users and thus improve Twitter's ability to serve them ads.

Apple's Spotlight search pulls much of its data from Apple-owned products and services, but also from outside sources like Wikipedia and Microsoft's Bing.

Tweets are already appearing in more places outside of Twitter, like in Google's search results. Earlier this year, Twitter struck a new deal with Google to give the search giant access to Twitter's firehose of content, making relevant tweets appear in people's Google search results.

Tweets will start appearing in Google search results next month, Twitter's Costolo said during the call.

Twitter reported on Tuesday it had 302 million users who log in monthly as of the end of last quarter. That's up 18 percent from a year earlier, but still less than a quarter of the size of Facebook.

Twitter's monthly user count is only one piece of how it views its potential user base. The company is also going after people who may not be logged in to Twitter or even have accounts, but who may see Twitter content like tweets elsewhere on the Web or in mobile apps. That's where deals like the one with Google, or conceivably one with Apple, would come into play.

Twitter syndication efforts also include publishing tweets from advertisers in Flipboard, a mobile news app.

Twitter faces challenges in growing its ads business among people who do not hold Twitter accounts. Currently, much of Twitter's ability to deliver targeted ads comes from the data it holds on how people use its site, and it tries to divine what they're interested in through their activities on Twitter.

Twitter failed to meet revenue estimates for the first quarter, and is lowering its expectations for the rest of the year, due to weaker than expected performance of some of its ads products, the company also said Tuesday.

According to its Q1 results, total sales for the period ended March 31 were US$436 million, up 74 percent from the previous year. Analysts, however, were expecting sales of roughly $457 million, according to estimates compiled by Thomson Financial Network.

Twitter still has not managed to turn a profit since it went public in 2013. The company posted a net loss of more than $162 million for the quarter, down nearly 23 percent from the same period last year.

The poorly-performing advertising products were a new feature for small and medium-sized businesses to publish ads, and a new analytics home page for advertisers to track the success of their ads.

"It's still early days for these products, and we have a strong pipeline that we believe will drive increased value for direct response advertisers in the future," CEO Dick Costolo said in a statement.

Twitter expects it revenue for the full year to be between $2.17 billion and $2.27 billion, lower than the $2.3 billion to $2.35 billion it had been predicting for 2015.

In other news this week, Twitter announced its acquisition of TellApart, a leading marketing technology company providing retailers and ecommerce advertisers with cross-device retargeting capabilities. The deal will help propel Twitter's direct response advertising business, the company said in a statement.

"By bringing Twitter and TellApart together, we’ll be able to help performance advertisers reach users wherever they are, whether on desktop or mobile," the company stated.

"TellApart brings deep expertise in performance advertising, driving cost-effective return on investment through dynamic product ads and email marketing for clients like Neiman Marcus, Pottery Barn, Sur la Table and Wayfair. With continued investment and expansion through our global sales teams, we believe we can extend TellApart’s services internationally and to industries beyond retail."

Zach Miners covers social networking, search and general technology news for IDG News Service. Follow Zach on Twitter at @zachminers. Zach's e-mail address is zach_miners@idg.com

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