Twitter still doesn't make money, which is a problem when you're a publicly traded company. Part of the social network's financial ascendance could be the pitch it's making to TV networks: we will bring you (and your advertisers) valuable eyeballs. What if that's just not true?
According to a new Financial Times report, a top figure at NBCUniversal says the Twitter Effect is a bust—so far at least:
NBCU had expected social media to have a dominating effect on viewership for the Games. However, during the 18-day period of coverage, just 19 per cent of Olympic viewers posted about the games on social media, the broadcaster found. [NBCUniversal's head of research Alan] Wurtzel said that a show's ratings are more likely to drive activity on social media rather than vice versa.
"A lot of people want to show that they are on the cutting edge. One of the things that is on the cutting edge is social media," Mr Wurtzel said. "Why wouldn't I want to say to you, 'We have a potent new way in which we can drive ratings?'
But "it just isn't true", he added. "I am saying the emperor wears no clothes. It is what it is. These are the numbers."
It's easy to mistake (or intentionally swap) cause and effect when it comes to Twitter. The company sprinted to trumpet The Great Many-Headed Ellen Selfie as a giant digital coup, when it was just old media flexing its old muscles. Similarly, there's every reason to believe Twitter owes TV networks the gratitude, not the other way around—how many times have you absentmindedly tweeted while staring at your big screen, as opposed to times you've found the nearest TV because of a tweet you read?