Coronavirus casts shadow on Twitter ad revenue, but lifts user engagement

Technology

(Reuters) – Twitter Inc TWTR.O on Monday pulled its first-quarter revenue forecast, citing the impact of the coronavirus outbreak on its ad sales, but said the pandemic had boosted user engagement on the microblogging platform.

FILE PHOTO: The Twitter logo is displayed on a screen on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) in New York City, U.S., September 28, 2016. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid/File Photo

The outbreak has made social media services such as Twitter vital for a broader population than usually, as people look to stay abreast of the latest news from authorities and keep in touch with friends virtually.

But many advertisers have pulled marketing budgets to save costs because of the virus-related uncertainty, and others are hesitant to advertise alongside coronavirus discussions for fear of associating their brands with the sensitive topic.

“The COVID-19 impact began in Asia, and as it unfolded into a global pandemic, it has impacted Twitter’s advertising revenue globally more significantly in the last few weeks,” Chief Financial Officer Ned Segal said in a statement.

There are positive signs for the internet giants, though.

Hyundai, Toyota and GM were among automakers who started to run online ads last week directly or indirectly mentioning how they were adjusting practices because of the coronavirus, according to commercials seen by Reuters.

Twitter said total monetisable daily active users (mDAU) jumped 23% to 164 million quarter-to-date, driven by the conversation around COVID-19, as well as ongoing product improvements.

The company said on Monday it expects first-quarter revenue to be down slightly on a year-over-year basis.

It had earlier estimated first-quarter revenue to be between $825 million and $885 million, an 8.6% rise from a year earlier at the midpoint.

Twitter said it also expects to incur an operating loss in the first quarter.

Reporting by Munsif Vengattil in Bengaluru and Paresh Dave in San Franscisco; Editing by Maju Samuel and Sriraj Kalluvila

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