Reports of Twitter Music's Death Greatly Exaggerated (From the Magazine)

After a rocky six months as a stand-alone application, Twitter #Music is likely to be folded into Twitter's primary platform, according to several sources familiar with the plans.

The possibility, and its implied uncertainty about the product, led recent reports that Twitter was "strongly considering" killing off the mobile app.

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Sources, however, say that wasn't the case. Instead, Twitter intends to integrate the app into its main feed as one of several topic verticals that the Silicon Valley company intends to build so it can sell more effectively targeted advertising. Other verticals include news, TV and movies. Developing those verticals, sources say, is seen as key to ­Twitter's future growth as the company prepares to raise an estimated $1 billion from an upcoming initial public offering.

Music marketers say a move to combine the two would go a long way to solving one of the biggest problems hampering Twitter #Music's growth.

"It was never fully integrated into the primary product," Epitaph Records VP of digital strategy Jason Feinberg says. "That was the Nos. 1, 2, 3, 4 and 5 problem. It was a stand-alone app that wasn't truly a part of Twitter. It forced people to use Twitter in a way they weren't accustomed to."

Twitter #Music initially launched to great celebrity-hyped fanfare on April 18, propelling the app to the top of the iTunes download charts. But the app quickly fell off the map within a few weeks as the buzz died. As of Oct. 22, the app ranked No. 165 in the free music apps category, according to AppData.

Another initial problem was the lack of breadth in Twitter #Music's recommendations. It served up two sets of recommendations-one based on what was trending on Twitter and another based on software created by Australian startup We Are Hunted that mined the Web to seek out hot new bands favored by music critics but not yet widely known.

"You had a list of very obvious stuff that the masses were engaged with, and another list of indie cool, tastemaker tracks, but nothing in the middle," Feinberg says. "I felt it was missing 60%-70% of the other things people are interested in."

Twitter attempted to address that issue in June by introducing more charts in a wider variety of genres. In September, it also filled a gap in its product team, hiring Bob Moczydlowsky, former senior VP of product marketing at Topspin Media, as head of Twitter #Music. Moczydlowsky, who is widely respected within digital music circles, filled a void created months earlier by the April 24 departure of Kevin Thau, a VP who spearheaded the acquisition of We Are Hunted and who worked to create the initial app.

Among Moczydlowsky's challenges is figuring out how to keep users engaged in the app, which directs listeners away to Spotify or Rdio to listen to full tracks. Otherwise, the app plays a string of random 30-­second clips. That jarring experience is a hurdle faced by numerous music discovery apps that lack the licenses to play full songs.

"The challenges in growing a music app are how quickly listeners can hear the music and how easily they can share it," says Jonathan Sasse, a digital music consultant and former head of marketing for Slacker Music. "The first part, consuming music, gets messed up when people have to jump through hurdles to get to the song they want to hear by having to sign in or switch apps."

Even without full tracks, Twitter has an opportunity to engage with users while still serving artists who want ways to interact with fans, said Corey Denis, a digital music strategist and founder of Not Shocking, a music marketing firm in San Francisco.

“It’s photos, articles, reviews, links to fan fiction,” said Denis.

In other words, it’s media that’s much better suited to the strengths of Twitter’s primary micro-blogging platform.