MONEY tech stocks

Twitter Jumps on Strong Earnings. Trouble Is, It’s Still Not Profitable.

Person using Twitter on iPhone
James Davies—Alamy

The social media company blew past expectations—using an unofficial measure of profits. Based on generally accepted accounting principles, Twitter is still in the red.

When you get used to receiving complicated messages in a short amount of space — in, say, 140 characters — you grow accustomed to overlooking key details.

That was evident late Tuesday, when investors reacted to Twitter’s earnings announcement by sending shares of the social media company soaring more than 30% in after-hours trading.

TWTR Price Chart

TWTR Price data by YCharts

Investors pounced on some better-than-expected results found high up in Twitter’s earnings release. This included the fact that revenues in the second quarter jumped 124% to $312 million, and that the company earned $0.02 a share, slightly stronger than what analysts had been expecting.

Nevermind that those profits were based on an adjusted, alternative method of measuring earnings that critics have come to criticize. Using generally accepted accounting principles (GAAP), Twitter TWITTER INC. TWTR -2.3457% actually lost $145 million in the quarter, or $0.24 a share.

What’s more, Wall Street analysts tallied by Zacks.com still expect Twitter — based on GAAP standards — to lose $0.98 a share in 2014 and another $0.87 a share in 2015. So it’s probably premature to regard the second-quarter results as a breakthrough for the profitless company.

User Growth Rebounds

To be fair, there were promising developments in the second quarter. Twitter reported that so-called timeline views, which are the company’s equivalent of page views, hit a record 173 billion in the quarter.

This was an important point, as timeline views in the prior quarter fell short of the company’s peak performance in 2013, despite the fact that there are more Twitter users than ever.

In the second quarter, the Twitter’s so-called average monthly active users (MAUs) rose an impressive 24%. Active users who use mobile surged even more, by 29% in the past year to 211 million.

By comparison, timeline views grew a relatively modest 15%, which means the company still needs to work on converting Twitter account holders into truly active users.

This morning, three research firms changed their rating on Twitter stock in the wake of the company’s earnings results. Bank of America upgraded its recommendation on the stock to a “buy”. UBS upgraded its rating to a “neutral”. And Pivotal Research downgraded the shares to a “sell” as Thursday evening’s surge pushed the stock above analysts’ target price.

That pretty much sums up the still-cloudy picture at Twitter.

TIME Earnings

Twitter Shocks Wall Street With Big Growth in Revenue, Users

Twitter Goes Public On The New York Stock Exchange
(L-R) Twitter CEO Dick Costolo, Twitter co-founder Jack Dorsey, Twitter co-founder Evan Williams and Twitter co-founder Biz Stone applaud as Twitter rings the opening bell at the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) while also celebrating the company's IPO on November 7, 2013 in New York City. Andrew Burton—Getty Images

Stock shoots up 25% in after-hours trading

Updated July 29 at 6:18 p.m.

Twitter shares leapt more than 25 percent in after-hours trading Tuesday following stellar results in the company’s latest quarterly earnings report.

The social network posted greater-than-expected growth in both revenue and monthly active users during the second quarter. Twitter added 16 million monthly active users to bring its total to 271 million, the biggest period of user growth since the first quarter of 2013. Revenue for the quarter was $312 million, blowing past analysts’ estimates of $283 million. Adjusted earnings for the company were 2 cents per share, beating expectations of a 1 cent per share loss. Overall, the company posted a net loss of $145 million for the quarter when including stock-based compensation expenses and other line items.

Pundits have been writing Twitter’s eulogy for months as its user growth slowed in the last year and the company has regularly posted losses. But the latest report shows that Twitter’s plan to make its platform more user-friendly may be paying off. Features such as a more Facebook-like profile pages and a mute button that lets users remove certain users’ tweets from their timelines are aimed at making Twitter novices feel less overwhelmed by the deluge of messages.

The World Cup, which became the most tweeted-about sporting event in Twitter history, was also likely a big boost for the social network during the quarter. Twitter organized conversations around individual matches, featured real-time score updates and attached countries’ flags to hashtags representing each team. “We made progress on multiple fronts across the business and our financial performance was truly exceptional,” CEO Dick Costolo said in a conference call with investors.

A negative point for the quarter were timeline views. At 640 per monthly active user, they were down 7% year-over-year. In the U.S., views are also down from the first quarter. Twitter regularly attributes these drops to changes in its interface that make it easier for users to see interesting tweets without scrolling through a deluge of messages. Also, some of the content on Twitter’s specially curated World Cup pages didn’t count toward the metric.

As Twitter works to differentiate itself from Facebook in the eyes of investors, Costolo spent a lot of time discussing the audiences Twitter serves outside of its monthly users. He said the total number of people who visit Twitter each month is two to three times its official user base when including those who don’t log in. He also touted what we called syndicated viewers, people who see tweets while reading news sites or watching television broadcasts.

Eventually, the company hopes to monetize these less dedicated users somehow, though Costolo said for now the company is just focused on improving the user experience of Twitter’s many casual visitors. He also wouldn’t rule out the idea of a version of the timeline that selected tweets based on an algorithm, like Facebook’s News Feed, rather than showing them in chronological order. “We’re not ruling any any kinds of changes that we might deliver in the product in service to bridging that gap to signing up for Twitter and receiving that value,” he said.

Challenges still remain for Twitter, which won’t have another World Cup to goose its metrics for another four years. But the company reversed some ominous trends this quarter and proved it can take advantage of global events tailor-made for the Web’s water cooler.

TIME psychology

What People Learn About You From Your Selfies

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Woman looking at reflection Vintage Images—www.jupiterimages.com

The pictures you post online could affect the way people treat you in person

According to new research, there are scientific reasons why you judged that girl who posted a selfie on Instagram last night.

It’s no secret that people make snap judgments about each other, but the study, conducted by researchers in the Department of Psychology at the University of York, was able to accurately predict what those judgments would be based on facial measurements such as “eye height” and “eyebrow width.”

Previous studies have shown that first impressions often fall into three categories: approachability, dominance, and attractiveness. The researchers at the University of York took 1,000 photographs from the Internet, analyzed the facial features of the subjects (who were all Caucasian), and studied how people reacted to each photograph. They were then able to develop a statistical model that predicted what the viewer’s impression of the face would be based on the measured facial features.

The findings of this study help illuminate the importance of these impressions in an age of social media, in which pictures of faces proliferate and people meet, talk, and even date online. According to the researchers‘ report, curating the perfect photo for these websites isn’t as trivial as it seems. “Some of the features that are associated with first impressions are linked to changeable properties of the face or setting that are specific to a given image,” they wrote. “So things like expression, pose, camera position, lighting can all in principle contribute alongside the structure of our faces themselves.”

Perhaps the most surprising finding was that snap judgments based on a photo could shape the way we respond to a person even after we’ve met them in person. The researchers explain it this way in the introduction to their report: “Although first impressions are formed rapidly to faces, they are by no means fleeting in their consequences. Instead… facial appearance can affect behavior, changing the way we interpret social encounters and influencing their outcomes.”

Less surprisingly, the research showed that “masculine” faces, determined by factors such as cheekbone structure, eyebrow height and skin texture, were seen as dominant, whereas more feminine faces were perceived as more attractive and youthful.

But the researchers also found that the shape and size of a person’s mouth directly affected his or her perceived approachability, and that larger eyes tend to predict higher levels of attractiveness.

So it’s time to stop making fun of people who obsess over choosing their profile picture. Richard Vernon, a PhD student who worked on the study, said, “Showing that even supposedly arbitrary features in a face can influence people’s perceptions suggests that careful choice of a photo could make (or break) others’ first impressions of you.”

TIME Social Media

These Are Twitter’s Biggest Secrets

Twitter Releases Diversity Report
The exterior of the Twitter headquarters on February 5, 2014 in San Francisco, California. Justin Sullivan—Getty Images

What makes us follow, fave, share and—most importantly—keep coming back

When I choose someone new to follow, when I compose a new tweet, when I share and favorite an update, I seldom think about the why. My following sessions would probably seem haphazard to an outsider, and my favoriting technique comes and goes from one strategy to another.

Even so, the way I use Twitter is far less random than I thought. There is science and psychology behind the way we all tweet.

Researchers have discovered trends in the way that we perform every major action on Twitter—favoriting, updating, sharing, and following. And there’s even an interesting bit of psychology behind what makes Twitter so attractive in the first place. Here’s a look at the psychology of Twitter: what makes us follow, favorite, share and keep coming back for more.

Why we love Twitter so much: Rats, levers and psychology

I’ve hit more than my fair share of Twitter wormholes—minutes that turn to hours as I find more and more tweets to read and share. Does that sound familiar to you, too?

I figured there was a psychological reason behind the draw of Twitter. After digging around, sure enough, I came across a perfect explanation of this phenomenon, courtesy of Dr. Marion Underwood, a clinical psychologist at the University of Texas.

The type of reinforcement schedule that is the most reinforcing is what’s called an intermittent schedule.

So, you have a rat pushing a lever and he gets rewarded, but not in a predictable way. Many times, that animal pushes that lever and nothing comes, but every once in a while, it gets a great treat. So the rat keeps pressing and pressing and pressing even though there’s not much reinforcement coming because every once in a while, it’s just great.

This hit home for me. Twitter offers these intermittent rewards that keep us coming back. Maybe you’ll check Twitter once and have a notification that someone retweeted you. That’s enough to keep you coming back a handful more times, even if nothing new and rewarding has occurred. We keep pushing the lever, hoping for something great.

The concept makes complete sense for those who wind up checking Twitter multiple times each day (same goes for email, too).

And just as there is psychology behind why we love Twitter so much, there’s science and data behind the many different ways we interact with one another. Here are three of the most interesting studies I’ve come across.

Why we follow: The 15 factors that affect follower growth

What spurs us to follow someone on Twitter? Researchers at Georgia Tech and Michigan combined to study the factors involved in following.

Their study looked at more than 500 Twitter users and a half-million of their tweets and analyzed follower count over a 15-month period—one of the longest timeframes you’ll see in a Twitter study.

The research team worked from a basis of follower growth factors that were made up of variables from social science, linguistics, computer-mediated communication, and network theory. In other words, if there is any reason why someone would follow someone else on Twitter, this study accounted for it.

The factors they came up with boiled down to three categories: social behaviors, message content, and social network structure. Here are the individual factors for each, starting with social behaviors:

  • Tweet volume
  • Burstiness – tweets per hour
  • Interactions – replies, mentions, and favorites
  • Broadcast communication – the ratio of tweets with no @-mention
  • Trustworthiness of the profile – How well is the bio filled out? Is there a URL in the profile? Is there a location listed?

The individual factors for message content:

  • Positive/negative sentiment
  • Informational content – ratio of tweets containing either a URL, RT, MT, HT, or “via”
  • Meformer content – ratio of tweets containing self-referencing pronouns like “I,” “me,” “we,” and “us”
  • Topic focus
  • Retweets – how often your content gets retweeted
  • Hashtag usage
  • TReDIX – Tweet Reading Difficulty Index (based on the frequency of real English words longer than 6 letters)

The individual factors in social network structure:

  • Reciprocity – The number of people you follow who also follow you
  • Attention-status ratio – Total followers compared to total following
  • Network overlap – How similar are the people you follow to those a follower follows

Knowing what’s behind each of these factors, how would you rate them in terms of importance? Which factor helps gain the most followers?

The winner is network overlap.

 

Follower growth stats
Buffer

In the chart above, you’ll see that the effect on follower growth spills to both sides of the x-axis. So not only can you see that network overlap, retweetable content, and a good bio have positive effects on gaining followers, you might also notice that broadcast communication (e.g. tweets with no @-mention), negativity, and hashtags drive follower growth down.

Takeaway: The PsyBlog has a nice recap of the findings from this study, summarizing points of emphasis from the research data. If you want to grow your followers, try these tips:

  1. Avoid negative sentiments
  2. Inform, don’t meform
  3. Boost social proof
  4. Stay on topic
  5. Write well and avoid hashtag abuse
  6. Switch from broadcast to direct tweets

Why we share: A guide to penning the most shareable tweet

I’m sure we’d all love to know what makes for a perfect tweet. Cornell researchers were interested, too.

They conducted a study that examined more than 1.7 million tweet pairs, comparing the differences in language between the two tweets and assigning value based on which style of tweet gains more retweets. Their conclusion:

Helpful wording heuristics include adding more information, making one’slanguage aligned with both community norms and with one’s prior messages, and mimicking news headlines.

If you were looking for an exact formula of a perfect tweet, the researchers didn’t find one. They did, however, offer a large number of best practices to go along with their conclusion above.

  • It helps to ask people to share
  • Informativeness helps
  • Sound like your community
  • Imitate headlines
  • Refer to other people but not to your audience (“he” and “she” rather than “you”)
  • Generality helps (“a” and “an” rather than “the”)
  • The easier to read, the better

Perhaps best of all, the research team put together a tool based on their findings that can help you perfect your posts. Enter two similar tweets into the Retweeted More tool, and you’ll get an algorithmic answer about which is better.

(Ready for some practice? See how you fare against the algorithm by taking this25-question test–see if you can pick the tweets that got shared more.)

Takeaway: Take inspiration from headlines and from your past successful tweets (your Buffer analytics can help with this) to write a tweet that is optimized for sharing. Try out the Retweeted More tool to test different versions.

(If you’re curious what we’ve found works best for retweets, check out the recap from our Twitter webinar.)

Why we favorite: Reaction & function

A study published by the Association for the Advancement of Artificial Intelligence sought to put our myriad favoriting methods into categories. They quizzed a group of more than 600 Twitter users by asking two questions:

  1. Explain why you tend to favorite tweets.
  2. Explain the reasons for your most recent favorited tweet.

They received more than 331 answers to these questions and placed each answer into one or more categories. Here’s the full taxonomy of categories they used to classify favorites.

AAAI
AAAI

 

 

What’s interesting about the way these 331 answers fell is that there came about two distinct use cases for favorites. The research found that people favorite a tweet for one of two reasons:

  • Reaction/response
  • Function/purpose

The psychology here is quite interesting. Reactions and responses occur directly due to the content of the tweet or the author of the tweet. We favorite what we like. We favorite our friends and family (and, if I’m being honest, celebrities). When we favorite for utility, we’re seeking to fulfill a goal or a purpose. We favorite to bookmark. We favorite to communicate.

(If you’ve ever favorited something you agree with, your favorite would fall into the function/purpose category. According to the study’s authors, favoriting as agreeing is intended for the author; liking for the person doing the favoriting.)

Takeaway: Classifying favorites is nothing new; we all seem to have a method of favoriting tweets. The research shows, at least, that our method isn’t necessarily unique to us. For every user who favorites their friends, there’s a user who’s favoriting for bookmarks.

Do these insights ring true to you?

Psychology shows us how Twitter can be so addicting: We crave a great experience each time we pull the Twitter lever, and it keeps us coming back for more.

Research and data reveal a bit into the way that we use Twitter. We follow based on our network, we retweet based on tried-and-true formulas, and we favorite for reaction or function.

Kevan is a content crafter at Buffer, the super simple social media management tool. His social media and productivity tips have appeared in Fast Company and Lifehacker, and he’s always on the lookout for a good headline pun. Connect with him on Twitter .

TIME Television

“This Show Is Insane!” And That Means It’s Working.

Sharknado 2: The Second One - 2014
Sharknado 2: Is TV jumping the shark, or are sharks jumping the TV? Syfy

Crazy with a chance of sharknadoes: changes in the TV business and social media mean that insanity is a good ratings strategy.

People are getting their heads smashed. A witch is nursing a newborn frog from a nipple on her thigh. And [sniffs the air] why, I do believe I smell a sharknado a-blowin’ in!

If you’ve been noticing more absolutely cuckoo plot devices, premises and twists on your TV, you’re not alone: it’s a deliberate programming and business strategy. In my print column for TIME this week (subscription required), I preview next week’s debut of Sharknado 2 on Syfy, looking at how it’s become increasingly important for TV networks to create viral “events” like this one that play well on social media. The reason? The more “HOLY CRAP!!!” a show creates on the second screen, the more urgent it becomes that you watch it live or as soon as possible–in other words, that you watch within the time frame that advertisers will still pay networks for:

Just as a tornado erupts from converging hot and cold air masses, the Sharknado is a perfect storm formed from two opposing media trends colliding. The first is that technology threatens TV ratings and revenue: when people record shows and watch them long after they air, networks don’t make money off the ads. (People now watch two hours more video a week than in 2011, Nielsen says–but about 10% less of it is live TV.) The second is that technology can help traditional TV, by driving viewers to watch certain buzzy shows live: if your friends are burning up Twitter about Scandal, you want to OMG along in real time.

This means that networks are increasingly interested in creating “events,” like Sharknado or NBC’s live Sound of Music, that people will want to watch as they air. When you tweet about Sharknado, you’re not just a viewer–you’re a marketer.

And in this week’s New York Times magazine, the always-sharp Tara Ariano detects the rise of what she calls “bonkers TV”–shows like WGN’s Salem (of the aforementioned frog scene), American Horror Story, Scandal and more, which are not just TV series but WTF-generation machines, constructed to deliver jaw-dropping moments that create online freakouts and and compel audiences to watch live, in the company of the social-media Greek chorus:

DVRs made recording shows easy for even technophobes; so easy that some of us might have forgotten where and when they were shown (making the concept of “airing” increasingly archaic). We also lost the discipline of paying attention to a show while it’s on, because we could now pop back eight seconds if we missed a piece of dialogue or pause it to go to the kitchen. You know how irritating it is to watch TV in a hotel room? We used to live like that all the time.

Our ability to focus on a TV broadcast has been further chipped away by the rise of Twitter, even as the industry has embraced it. Last year, Nielsen created a TV-ratings metric based on Twitter. Seemingly overnight, more and more networks urged us to tweet about their shows, suggesting hashtags in the lower corner of the screen. But there’s an obvious problem: If we’re all watching our shows not when they’re on but whenever we feel like it, we’re not really talking to one another about them. How can any TV show triumph over the convenience of the DVR and get the greatest possible number of us to tweet about it all at once?

Bonkers TV’s solution: Make every night like the Oscars.

It’s yet another example of the push-pull of change in the TV business. The same audience fragmentation that threatens the established business model of TV makes it possible for shows to survive with tinier audiences than ever. And the same diversity of outlets and mediums that allows TV to become more adventurous and intelligent also pushes it to get more outrageous, to attract scarce and fleeting attention.

In many ways TV is smarter than ever and in many ways it’s more ludicrous than ever–often at the same time. The near future of TV is full of promise. But it’s also one that encourages programmers to live every week like it’s Sharknado week.

 

TIME Earnings

Facebook Stock Hits All-Time High After Strong Earnings Report

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg speaks during an event at Facebook headquarters on April 4, 2013 in Menlo Park, California
Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg speaks during an event at Facebook headquarters on April 4, 2013 in Menlo Park, California Justin Sullivan—Getty Images

Mobile ads made up 62% of Facebook's $2.7 billion in ad revenue

Updated July 23 at 5:53 p.m.

Facebook stock climbed to an all-time high as it once again sailed past Wall Street’s expectations in its second quarterly earnings report of the year. The social network pulled in $2.9 billion in revenue for the quarter, beating analysts’ estimates of $2.8 billion. The company generated a profit of $791 million. Earnings minus some line items were 42 cents per share, blowing past estimates of 32 cents per share. Facebook shares were priced above $74 in after-hours trading.

Facebook now has 1.32 billion monthly active users, an increase of about 40 million from the previous quarter. Mobile usage continues to grow, with the social network now having 1.07 billion monthly active users on mobile devices, up from 1.01 billion in the previous quarter.

With increased mobile usage, mobile advertising continues to make up a bigger share of Facebook’s revenue pie. Mobile ads accounted for 62 percent of the company’s $2.7 billion in ad revenue for the quarter, up from a 59 percent share in the previous quarter and a 41 percent share during the same period last year. It’s a stark turnaround from Facebook’s early days as a public company, when the social network’s stock tanked on fears that it couldn’t convert its growing desktop business to mobile.

During a conference call with investors, Facebook touted its popularity as a public platform. Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg said 350 million Facebook users made 3 billion interactions related to the World Cup during the event, and the World Cup Final was the most-talked-about Facebook event in Facebook history. Facebook also just launched a new app specifically for celebrities with public pages last week. “Public content will continue to be a growing focus for us over the coming months,” CEO Mark Zuckerberg said.

While Facebook’s revenue has been ramping up quickly, Zuckerberg again emphasized that investors shouldn’t expect significant monetization from newer apps and acquisitions such as Messenger, WhatsApp and Instagram in the near future. He compared their current businesses development to where Facebook was in 2006, two years after it launched.

It’s not yet clear whether Facebook’s latest controversy, in which the company experimented with people’s News Feeds without their knowledge to alter their moods for a scientific study, will have a substantial effect on usage of the social network. The mood study was only widely publicized at the very end of the fiscal quarter.

 

MONEY freebies

Free Jamocha Shakes at Arby’s on Wednesday

Arby's restaurant sign, Central Florida.
Arby's restaurant sign, Central Florida. Ian Dagnall—Alamy

The fast food chain Arby's is turning 50, and it's celebrating by giving out free shakes

In honor of its 50th anniversary, Arby’s is giving out free Jamocha shakes on Wednesday, July 23. All customers have to do for a free frosty 310-calorie beverage is follow that link, enter a name, and print out a coupon good for a complimentary 12 oz. shake at participating Arby’s restaurants.

The shake is listed on Arby’s low-priced Snack ‘n Save menu, and depending on the location, it might cost as little as $1.09 usually. But a freebie’s a freebie.

The shake giveaway is one of several periodically offered to Arby’s customers. The chain is known for handing out free curly fries on Tax Day, April 15, and customers are lured with the promise of a free Roast Beef Classic sandwich if they’re willing to sign up to receive news about the latest Arby’s deals and promotions.

And these and other efforts to please the chain’s biggest fans and bring in new customers are part of a campaign introduced two years that included a makeover of the company logo, and its image in general. At the time, consumer surveys ranked Arby’s among the worst fast food chains. Arby’s has tried to revamp its reputation by spending millions on restaurant renovations and adding more than a dozen new items to the menu. The chain has also been attempting to get hipper, scoring a big social media success earlier this year at the Grammys, when the company Tweeted about Pharrell Williams “stealing” the oversized hat on the Arby’s logo, launching a million laughs and retweets.

Rolling out the occasional freebie should put smiles on people’s faces too.

TIME Television

Hello, Simpsons World. Goodbye, the Rest of Your Life

A sample screenshot from Simpsons World FX Networks

The biggest TV premiere of the fall season could be the one involving a 25-year-old show

Years ago, when I named The Simpsons the best TV show of the 20th century for TIME magazine, one of the reasons that I gave was its depth; it had a vast canvas and dozens, nay hundreds, of characters well-drawn enough to potentially carry a story. It “created worlds within worlds,” I wrote — and this October, it’s going to become a world.

Simpsons World, to be exact: the digital platform, unveiled for TV reporters in Los Angeles yesterday, that FXX network will use to take maximum advantage of acquiring the entire 25-season run of The Simpsons. Accessible on the web and through apps (you also need service from a participating cable provider), it will allow you to watch any Simpsons episode you want, any time.

So there are several years of your life gone right there. But there’s more. You’ll be able to search for episodes by themes, quotes, and characters: if you want to watch nothing but Artie Ziff clips, your dream has come true. You can pull up an extensive episode guide and scripts. You can build playlists or have them suggested for you. And most important: you’ll be able to find, snip and share Simpsons clips–currently made scarce by the long arm of copyright law–in social media.

You may never do anything else again.

The ability to watch all 552 episodes is staggering in itself. (FXX will also marathon the whole shebang Aug. 21 to Sept. 1.) But it’s the search-and-share functions that threaten to transform communication as we know it. I’ve long said that there is a Simpsons quote applicable to nearly every situation in life; now we will be able to prove that. Online comments arguments will become an endless stream of “HA ha” and “Eat my shorts” clips. No one will be able to publish a beer review or write about a celebrity-drunkenness incident without a clip of Homer saying, “To alcohol! The cause of — and solution to— all of life’s problems!” We may be on the verge of a Simpsons Singularity, in which all digital dialogue, and eventually all of human thought, will be expressed in terms of easily accessible Simpsons quotes. (Here, for instance, is where I would insert a clip of Homer saying, “Television: Teacher — mother — secret lover!” if only I could.)

More seriously, the venture suggests a new kind of future for TV, or at least for certain kinds of entertainments and franchises: one in which truly immersive TV is not just a show but an app, a platform, a medium. TV shows used to be on channels; now something like The Simpsons can be a channel. Earlier this month, South Park — long maintained with as much independence as possible by Trey Parker and Matt Stone — signed a different but related deal with Hulu, which gets rights to its entire catalog of reruns for over $80 million.

It’s not Simpsons World exactly — though South Park has long had an online home at South Park Studios — but it underscores a similar creative and business fact: a creative franchise evolving into something independent from, and in some ways greater than, any particular channel that happens to host it at the time.

Probably certain kinds of shows are more suited to world-ificiation than others: animated comedies like The Simpsons and South Park have vast room for invention, and large-scale world-building is part of their mission. But someday the same kind of strategy might be used by, say, a sci-fi or fantasy franchise or an immersive soap opera.

It’s partly a business phenomenon, in which digital opportunities allow already big franchises to become even bigger. But hopefully, there are creative implications here. What makes a Simpsons or South Park — or a Game of Thrones — great is its ability to create a vast imagined reality. If there are more ways to encourage that and reward the artists who create it, so much the better. The Simpsons, as producer Al Jean pointed out at yesterday’s presentation, predates social media (and it debuted on Fox the same year Tim Berners-Lee proposed the World Wide Web), but it was creating a virtual world even then. Now that world is inviting our world in.

I still say The Simpsons was the greatest TV show of the 20th century. It would be something if it helped redefine what TV shows are going to be in the 21st century.

TIME 2016 Election

Sen. Rand Paul Is Killing It On Twitter: 10 Tweets You Should See

Rand Paul's Twitter offers more than just politics. Here are 10 of the senator's best tweets, from selfies at Subway to Coolio's Gangsta's Paradise.

Presidential candidates simply need to tweet, but there has never really been one who knows how to do it well. Enter Kentucky’s Rand Paul, a United States Senator who calls himself #DJRandPaul on Twitter, who is already way ahead of the other prospective 2016 contenders in the Twitter primary.

In a world of staff run Twitter accounts overflowing with campaign promises and political jargon, he brings candor, absurdity and personality. Between the standard tweets about current events and congressional hearings, there are music videos, Subway photos and shots of his socks. Surely not every senator can be a DJ like Paul, but they can take note that sometimes a little entertainment value goes a long way.

For those who have not yet followed, here are some of Paul’s best Twitter moments:

He offers his unique interpretations of current events. The Kentucky senator tweeted his thoughts on the President and the NSA after Obama met with Pope Francis in Vatican City for the first time.

He snaps photos of his cardboard cutout self. Is that considered a selfie?

In his free time, when he’s not tied up with his senatorial duties, Rand is apparently a DJ – at least via Twitter.

The DJ does not rest, as evidenced by the ensuing slew of music videos posted on his Twitter feed.

Sometimes he combines his double lives, offering DJ picks with a political spin.

In one tweet, he dedicates Bon Jovi’s “Livin’ On A Prayer” to Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ), with whom he says he shares a “bromance.”

Cory Booker isn’t the only senator getting music video dedications though. Paul passively aggressively tweets not-so-subtle hints to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) about getting the vote over with already, in the form of a music video, of course.

Song lyrics never seem to be far from Rand’s mind when he’s tweeting, even at the Republican Party of Texas state convention.

But his Twitter account offers more than just music. There is also a blurry selfie at Subway, which Paul seems none too thrilled about. The other man pictured is Brad Woodhouse, the former spokesman of the Democratic National Committee, who now runs the liberal opposition research SuperPac, American Bridge.

And, the GOP socks. No words.

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