Twitter Inc.'s Product Team Gets Shaken Up

Source: Twitter

Kevin Weil's job at Twitter just got a bit harder. The senior VP of product lost three execs within a week. Christian Oestlien, VP of product management in charge of growth, announced that he's headed to YouTube. Todd Jackson, who was in charge of Twitter's content and discovery team, is going to Dropbox. And Trevor O'Brien, who oversaw Twitter's mobile apps, is leaving as well.

The departures were all reportedly announced internally ahead of Twitter's earnings, but it's unclear whether they were pushed out by founder and interim CEO Jack Dorsey, or if they left on their own accord. One thing that's clear is that Dorsey is very unhappy with Twitter's existing product, and he wants to make some serious changes.

Dorsey isn't happyDorsey took some time at the top of Twitter's second-quarter earnings call to call out the product team. "Product initiatives we've mentioned in previous earnings calls, like Instant Timelines and logged-out experiences, have not yet had meaningful impact on growing our audience or participation," he said. "This is unacceptable, and we're not happy about it."

This statement runs contrary to what we heard from former CEO Dick Costolo during the first-quarter earnings call. Costolo told analysts, "The results during our experiment [with Instant Timeline] were quite positive in terms of engagement and neutral on retention."

Dorsey's straightforward comments are a breath of fresh air, but they caused the stock to plummet following earnings results that beat expectations. Dorsey has a plan to improve the product and align the team toward the same goal, but he warned investors that the company will take the time to do things right. It's also worth noting that he didn't sound like a person simply filling in as CEO, and Dorsey's name is reportedly on the short list for full-time CEO.

One product Dorsey is happy withThere is one feature that Dorsey is very excited about, however, and that's Project Lightning. "It's been awesome to use these new experiences daily," he said. "And I can't wait for all of you to experience it yourself."

Project Lightning presents a curated feed of images, videos, and tweets to both logged-in and logged-out users, making it easy to access the best content Twitter has to offer. Dorsey believes it will attract more users to Twitter and immediately show off the value of Twitter -- something Instant Timeline has apparently failed to do.

Dorsey is so excited about Project Lightning that Twitter will run its first marketing campaign behind the launch of the new product. CFO Anthony Noto will head up the campaign, which includes digital advertisements across the Web (not just Twitter) and a television campaign starting in 2016. Twitter's never done any marketing before, but management says it needs to close the gap between its 95% brand awareness and 30% market penetration.

Aligning the companyDorsey also spoke during the conference call about aligning the company around its "total audience strategy," implying that some people (perhaps those who left) weren't aligned with this strategy. Future hires will have to buy into Twitter's strategy to increase reach, participation, and the value to people. It's easy to cater toward power users, but that doesn't help grow Twitter's audience.

That's Dorsey's focus going forward -- to reach the mass audience. Noto told investors they shouldn't expect meaningful user growth until Twitter starts penetrating the mass market, which we shouldn't expect in 2015. Getting new people to replace leaders of growth, content discovery, and mobile apps that are aligned with reaching the biggest audience possible should help Dorsey achieve his vision, but now there are three more roles to fill at Twitter, instead of just the one big one. Dorsey certainly seems to be gunning for that big one.

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Adam Levy has no position in any stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool recommends Twitter. The Motley Fool owns shares of Twitter. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

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