Twitter Announces New Feature Focused on Events (Finally)

Rae Sremmurd perform at the Saint Elmo Soundstage at SXSW 2015 in Austin, Tx.
Brock Fetch

Rae Sremmurd perform at the Saint Elmo Soundstage at SXSW 2015 in Austin, Tx.

Project Lightning will be Twitter's effort to organize a sea or tweets into curated channels.

An upcoming Twitter feature, called Project Lightning, will be a one-stop shop for current events and news. A button on the app's home screen will lead to a screen with live events and trending news people are tweeting about. Twitter already offers trending topics. Project Lightning will be a guided tour through the 500 million tweets sent every day.

Project Lightning could be used to find tweets about concerts, festivals, live television programs like the Grammy Awards, and the latest Justin Bieber news. “It’s around anything that’s interesting," Twitter svp of Product Kevin Weil told Buzzfeed, which broke the story. “It could be current events. It could be breaking news. It could be awards shows or sports. But also cultural events and moments -- things around your location and where you are." Twitter said only that Project Lightning will launch later this year.

This isn't the first time the word "curation" has been uttered regarding digital content. A number of digital companies have either added curated content or based an entire business on curation. In the cases of Twitter and Snapchat, which have a history of grassroots, bottom-up social activity, curated content provides an opportunity to attract advertisers and sponsors. For music services like Spotify, curated content is a means to navigate a 30 million-track catalog. Like Beats Music before it, Apple Music is a declaration that human curation bests computer-generated recommendations.

Twitter needs new features like Project Lighting to help acquire new users and grab a larger share of digital advertising dollars. eMarketer expects Twitter to increase its share of the U.S. digital display market to 6.8 percent in 2017 from 3.7 percent last year. But the company's earnings have disappointed, leading some analysts to downgrade the company's stock and driving it to a 52-week low last week. It wasn't a surprise when Twitter replaced CEO Dick Costello with interim CEO, and founder, Jack Dorsey.

"Finally!" exclaims Gretchen Fox of Made to Order, a social strategy and training agency. The sees big potential in creating a new kind of real-time experience around concerts and festivals. Promoters could employ on-site social teams to create "360 experiences" that capture on-stage, backstage and private moments. New artists will gain more exposure, especially during events like SXSW. Advertisers can align themselves with these events and artists. "Why it's taken this long is beyond me."

There has been a strong sense that Twitter is underperforming. Twitter has 302 million monthly users, compared to Facebook's 1.44 billion. It has been slow to roll out new features and improve the user experience. And while it's a global and indispensable service, as Twitter critic Ben Thompson wrote at his blog Stratechery, "awareness of the service has long outstripped its usability."

If successful, Project Lightning could help Twitter replace Facebook as a preferred place to share and discover experiences. Live Analytics found that music fans were more likely to use Facebook to share event pictures and experiences. They were more likely to use Twitter to share plans to attend an upcoming event -- although only 42 percent of people surveyed actually did this for concerts. Things could have changed since this data was collected, however. That social media report is over two years old and was based on a survey from December 2012.


The Biz premium subscriber content has moved to

To simplify subscriber access, we have temporarily disabled the password requirement.