It’s fair to come away from these metrics thinking that Twitter is worthless. But that’s an unsophisticated conclusion. The more sophisticated takeaway is that Twitter is worthless for the limited purpose of driving traffic to your website, because Twitter is not a portal for outbound links, but rather a homepage for self-contained pictures and observations. (The irony is that the more journalists consider Twitter a portal, the better Twitter becomes as a home for other people to stay, including other journalists.)
Two weeks ago, John Herrman observed that as readers’ digital attention scatters to Snapchat, Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook, publishers will acknowledge that their websites are anachronisms. It’s hard to say that this is happening today. Most major websites are seeing growing traffic. But there are only so many hours one can look at a screen in a day. More of those hours are going to mobile devices. A growing share of those hours (and their corresponding dollars) are going to communications apps, like Twitter. And, by my calculations here, Twitter is sending less than 2 percent of its overall engagement back to the web. Apps don’t pay my rent. A website does.
In the last month, I’ve created nearly 2 million impressions for Twitter. Whether that is good for my Twitter persona and my pride is a qualitative question whose answer resides outside the bounds of an analytics dashboard. But it is quantitatively not a good deal for The Atlantic. Something I already suspected has now been made crystal clear: 99 percent of my work on Twitter belongs to Twitter.