For Twitter Inc., it’s a question of eyeballs.
With the micro-messaging platform due to report earnings after the close of trading Wednesday, some analyst and investors are saying that Twitter could show a downturn in its most important metric — monthly active users — for the first time in the company’s history.
Citigroup analyst Mark May isn’t in that camp. He said he’s expecting Twitter to have added about a million net users in the fourth quarter. But he says that user data is still discouraging, particularly in the U.S. Information from ComScore and other data providers shows that Internet users, particularly those accessing Twitter on mobile devices, are using the service less frequently and for a shorter amount of time, and fewer new users are flocking there.
User growth — or the lack of it — has been among the gravest concerns for Twitter’s investors. As of Tuesday’ close, its stock is down 14% in February, double the Nasdaq Composite Index’s 7% drop. Twitter’s stock is down 38% so far this year and is trading about 45% below its $26 initial public offering price.
Here’s what Mr. May found looking at recent trends from ComScore and other data providers. Twitter bulls be forewarned: Mr. May calls these charts the ones that you won’t want to see.
The company has already pointed to a slowdown in monthly active user growth. In the third quarter of 2015, monthly active users grew by 8% from the previous year, a sharp drop from a rate of 22% in the third quarter of 2014.
Other signs point to worse-than-expected user metrics, including the exodus of four of Twitter’s top executives in recent weeks.
While some say Chief Executive Jack Dorsey, who took returned to the top position in October, is simply helping the company start fresh, WSJ’s Heard on the Street pointed out late last month that executives typically don’t jump ship if the ship is successfully changing course.
Twitter did not return requests for comment.