Twitter is expanding Moments, its media rich, breaking news focused feed, to U.K. users today. The company debuted the feature in the U.S. back in October, and has since also rolled it out in Brazil. So this is not the first international expansion for Moments, but given the size of the U.K. market for Twitter it’s an important next step as it tries to ramp up mainstream interest in its platform.
As with all Twitter’s feature launches and product tweaks in recent times (not least, most recently, a test of a non-chronological timeline), Moments is aimed at widening the appeal of the platform by making it more accessible to average folk — via surfacing newsy content delivered, eye-candy style, in a consistently richer media format — inevitably irritating Twitter loyalists in the process. (Not least by aggressively positioning the Moments tab where it’s hard to avoid.)
Twitter’s value for its current active hardcore is as an alternative to mainstream social media platforms like Facebook. An information hub where users can tune their own expert network of people they may have heard about but don’t necessarily know to surface data of genuine interest to them.
In a digital world lousy with algorithmically controlled platforms recirculating celebrity gossip, baby photos, cat GIFs and/or photos of food, Twitter can feel like an intellectual goldmine. But that’s not the kind of gold Twitter’s shareholders care for, of course. Hence the public company’s continued pursuit of user growth — and the onward march of curated (aka populist) content like Moments.
Writing about the launch in a blog post today, Twitter said:
Twitter is absolutely part of the national conversation in UK across everything from sports to TV to politics to local news and music. Previously you may have felt you could only keep up by following thousands of accounts; with Moments, we do that for you. And while a single Moment is a temporary follow, it’s a great way to find out about fellow users you might not normally connect with. It’s all about making it simpler and easier than ever before to get the very most out of Twitter.
A spokesman for Twitter confirmed it has not released any usage metrics for Moments.
The U.K. debut of Moments has been focused on news today that U.K. astronaut Tim Peake is headed off to the International Space Station. The Moments feed includes a series of photos, video and tweets related to Peake and the Soyuz rocket crew as they head off on their mission.
Other stories appearing in U.K. Moments on its debut day include the Star Wars: Force Awakens premier taking place in Hollywood, and thousands of refugees continuing to arrive on the Greek island of Lesbos. So chalk one up for celebrity/entertainment news, and two for wider world events — although Moments also has dedicated ‘Entertainment’ and ‘Sports’ sections too for those wanting less news in their Moments.
According to the BBC, Twitter has hired a local editorial team to curate breaking news that most matters to Brits. So at least you can say Twitter is retaining an element of human-powered decision making here, within Moments. Albeit the team of in house ex-journos are using algorithmic tools like Dataminr to help them determine which stories to select to ensure maximum populist appeal. (In its Moments curation policy guidelines, Twitter notes: “Our own curators do not act as reporters or creators of original content; instead, they organize and present compelling content that already exists on Twitter in a straightforward, easy-to-consume way.”)
Twitter is also working with U.K. media partners to surface content within Moments, including Buzzfeed UK, VICE, The Sun, Sky News, The Economist, BT Sport, Glamour Magazine and others.
As well as competing with other social networks for users’ eyeballs, Twitter’s Moments has to content with a similar news curation approaches from mobile device makers, including Apple, with its News app — recently expanded to the U.K. with its own set of media partners. Plus, earlier this year, Android OEM Samsung also inked a strategic partnership with European publisher Axel Springer to build aggregated news content for European users of its devices.