Following yet another quarter of sluggish user growth, Twitter has changed how its flagship mobile application is categorized on Apple’s iTunes App Store. Instead of competing against Facebook, Instagram, Messenger, WhatsApp, Pinterest, and others in the crowded “Social networking” category, where Twitter had previously ranked in the top 10, the company has moved its app to the “News” category, where it’s now #1.
The change has a two-fold effect. For starters, Twitter has been consistently ranked as a #5 application in Social Networking over the past several months – which is certainly nothing to be glum about – but ranking as the #1 app in a category could be better in terms of App Store visibility.
As users set up new iPhones for the first time by visiting various app categories, they’re likely to take a number one ranked application into heightened consideration.
More importantly, becoming a number one ranked app could potentially impact Twitter’s “Overall” ranking, which would give it better visibility in the App Store’s top “Free” apps chart where Twitter is #28.
The move also puts Twitter’s app in front of a different sort of audience – those who are looking for easier ways to keep up with news on their mobile device, rather than those who want to use another social network. That could also boost downloads…or at least Twitter hopes.
The company has not commented publicly on the change at this time, nor has it made a similar move on Google Play. As of the time of writing, the Twitter app on Google Play continues to rank in the “Social” category.
It’s worth pointing out that non-traditional news applications do well on the App Store’s “News” category, often even topping those from mainstream publishers like The WSJ, NY Times, NPR, and others.
For example, Reddit’s newly launched iOS application is currently number two in News, just behind Twitter. Flipboard’s social magazine app is #13. And the category is easy for newcomers to break into with a good ranking, as well – just see the new CNN Politics app (#3) or theSkimm’s first native mobile effort (#5), for instance.
Twitter’s switch comes at a time when the company’s user growth has effectively flatlined. Although it grew a bit to reach 310 million monthly active users this past quarter, that’s barely an increase from the 305 million in Q4 2015.
Meanwhile, none of its prior efforts to revamp its product have seemingly paid off, including changes to how tweets are sorted in users’ timelines, the addition of polls, changing “favorites” to “likes,” or even the launch of a new product called “Moments,” which attempts to summarize the best of Twitter in a separate tab.
This latter feature may be the most relevant with regard to Twitter’s new App Store category, as its focus is on curating the news that breaks on Twitter in an easy-to-follow format.
According to third-party app intelligence firm Sensor Tower, Twitter made its category switch yesterday. The firm says Twitter should easily maintain its top ranking ahead of Reddit and CNN for the time being, while before it had been behind Messenger, Facebook and others in the Social Networking category.
That being said, it will take some time to see if this change in strategy will actually affect Twitter’s Overall ranking. For now, it has not. That implies, at least in this brief period of time, Twitter’s downloads have stayed the same despite the switch.