Twitter (TWTR) Is Now In a Fight to Fend Off Snapchat in Instant News - TheStreet

Updated from 10:47 a.m. to add new information in the seventh paragraph.

SAN DIEGO (TheStreet) --


(TWTR) - Get Report

dominance in providing news as it happens is being challenged by Snapchat and other social-media outlets, forcing Twitter to defend its turf.

Twitter appears to be aware of the threat posed by Snapchat, and judging by statements made by finance chief Anthony Noto onTuesday at an investor conference sponsored by Morgan Stanley (MS) - Get Report, the San Francisco-based social-media company is preparing its own counterattack. 

Jim Cramer’s charitable trust Actions Alerts Plus is long Twitter. Read the latest thoughts on the company here.

Noto was adamant that Twitter hosts the world's best and timeliest content of news, photos and videos, even though Snapchat has recently entered the news-distribution business with an offering called Discover.

"We have the best aggregation of real-time content," Noto said in a response to a question about how Twitter views rivals such as Snapchat. 

Noto may be right, but by his own admission, Twitter's treasure trove of tweets isn't packaged in the most digestible of formats. The company, he claims, can and will fix that.

Tweets fly by and don't stick around long enough to provide an adequate synopsis of what's happening beyond the right here and right now. It's a shortcoming that Twitter is scrambling to address as it seeks to appeal to the general public. 

Twitter finished 2014 with a monthly audience of 288 million people, adding four million people during the last three months of the year. The company, however, prefers to talk about its goal to "build largest daily audience in the world," and often touts that its tweets reach hundreds of millions more people who don't have an account.

Twitter has already rolled out a While You Were Away feature that showcases a handful of important missed tweets to users who have been away from the app for at least 12 hours. Still, the company knows that may be insufficient. Noto said the company would slowly shorten the time frame over time to present the feature to more users. Still, Twitter knows that may be insufficient.

"The opportunity we have is to organize (tweets) in a better way.... and bring the best of Twitter to where people want it, when they want it and how they want it," Noto said, attempting to put a positive spin on the situation. Twitter, he said, can handpick and select through algorithms top tweets to produce a best-of selection for users in a type of daily update. "Why don't we have a 'Twitter Daily Edition'?"

That's a good question, one without an answer now.

Without an answer, companies such as Snapchat, which reportedly has a monthly audience of more than 100 million, can invent better ways to program the day's news. And Snapshot has done that.

At the end of January, Snapchat went live with Discover, a hub where more than a dozen of the most recognizable media organizations, including Time Warner's (TWX) CNN, Heart Corp.'s Cosmopolitan magazine and Disney's (DIS) - Get Report ESPN can produce stories on their own terms for an audience they struggle to reach elsewhere: tweens, teens, and millennials.

Discover is analogous to a television network, Troy Young, president of Hearst Magazines' digital-media business, said previously.  "We're a cable channel, so we're programming something daily that's unique to a format and a device," he said. "(Snapchat has) a distribution mechanism that people are using every day."

The way Snapchat users consume content is a powerful one, perhaps even more powerful than broadcast television -- or Twitter. Last year, Snapchat added a feature called Our Story, which consists of a feed of disappearing photos and videos, or snaps, contributed by users at major events, for example, the Sundance Film Festival or the Vanity Fair Oscar party.

Snaps that are a part of these public stories can attract tens of millions of viewers in the 24 hours before they vanish, according to reports. Our Story is distinct from Discover, but the viewership numbers suggest that Snapchat has a captive audience hungry for content.

The difference between Noto's daily-edition vision and Snapchat's Discover (beyond one being an idea and the other being real) is a distinction in programming. Who should be assembling the news? Snapchat is entrusting media companies to do what they do best, while Twitter is relying on its users. But, with Our Story, Snapchat can do that too. 

Twitter, however, stands by its assertion of being home to the best the Internet has to offer. That's the hard part, the company seems to be saying. Packaging the content is the easy part.

"At the end of the Super Bowl, why are other our partners putting out the best tweets of the Super Bowl?," Noto asked rhetorically. "We have that information, and we have it quicker.... and we have greater breadth than anyone else. We should package that and deliver it to our syndicated partners and our own properties."

Noto is so convinced of Twitter's superiority that he couldn't help but take a dig at Snapchat's Our Story feature, which prompts people to contribute to an event feed.

"We don't have to ask anybody for permission to use their content in a curated way," Noto said. "We don't have to give you a pop up when you're at the Super Bowl and say, 'Can we use this photo for our story for the day?' We know you're at the Super Bowl ... we can take all the content from a specific geography that we geofence, push it into our curator, have a team, using a tool that we built, curate that content into a real-time beginning, middle and end in a unique way. But it all starts with the fact that we have the best aggregated, real-time content."

Twitter can produce stories, too, but whether it can produce more users, the point of all of his hypothetical talk, remains to be seen.

For now, Twitter is still a fifth the size of Facebook (FB) - Get Report, smaller than Instagram and not growing as fast as Snapchat.

Snapchat, which is rumored to be raising new financing at up to a $19 billion valuation, isn't disappearing anytime soon, making the fight over who has the content all the more contentious -- or interesting, depending on your point of view.

-- Written by Jennifer Van Grove in San Diego