The latest on this front is a new ad campaign for Spaces – which I’m not sure really sells the option as it would hope.
Twitter Spaces are real live audio convos you can join from your couch. or the dog park. or the bathtub. wherever you are, really. pic.twitter.com/1r2VihRSwn
— Spaces (@TwitterSpaces) May 18, 2022
As you can see, Twitter’s trying to showcase the value of Spaces and audio discussion in the app. And certainly, the Spaces topics that it highlights here are fairly dominant – tap over to the Spaces tab right now and you’ll find any number of Spaces on NFTs, ‘shower thoughts’ and the like.
The problem is, that’s also part of the reason why Spaces isn’t catching on, because most of these discussions are fairly niche, and Twitter’s algorithm is still not great at highlighting the most valuable and interesting discussions to each individual user.
Which, of course, is hard to do. With the discussions happening live, they essentially can’t be moderated and categorized ahead of time – though Twitter has added topic tags to help in this respect.
But a bigger challenge could be that Twitter doesn’t want to recommend Spaces that could be problematic. If you were to go to the Spaces tab and find a top Space that Twitter had highlighted, and that Spaced ended up being, say, a disguised chat about QAnon, the backlash could be significant.
This is just one of the many challenges of live-stream content, which was once again underlined earlier this week when a Twitch user streamed himself on a shooting spree in Buffalo.
Facebook found the same with its live map feature, which it eventually shut down – when you’re promoting live-stream content, you’re also running the risk that you’ll be promoting harmful material as well, which, again, is an unavoidable element of the live experience.
Though in Twitter’s case, I suspect its algorithms are just not great at showing you the most relevant stuff, at any given time.
Despite its broad social graph, and insights into user interests, Twitter’s never been great at personalization, something that TikTok has got down to a tee, with its ever-evolving ‘For You’ algorithm that sucks you into a vortex of topical, relevant content, faster than you even realize. Hours fly by as you flick through TikTok clips, and that compulsive viewing experience is why it’s become so popular, and is now leading the next wave of social connection, with all other apps playing catch-up.
Twitter, again, has never been great at this. It was never able to integrate top Vine clips into Twitter, for example, while its focus on live-streaming, via Periscope, eventually faded because it couldn’t boost engagement.
Spaces, unfortunately, seems to suffer from the same affliction, and unless Twitter can make that Spaces tab more compelling, by highlighting the best, most personally relevant, most valuable in-progress streams at any given time, I don’t see it becoming a key companion piece for the common Twitter experience.
Still, as a reader recently pointed out to me, many users are seeing benefit from Spaces, and there is indeed value in the option. But unless it sees wider adoption, I don’t see how Twitter itself will glean significantly value from supporting live audio into the future.
Maybe another one for Elon to sort out when he takes the reigns of the app.