Sharp spike in daily users hasn't translated into stellar ad sales for Twitter. Image Credit: iStockphoto

New York: Twitter Inc. has more users than ever - but its advertising business was hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic at the end of the first quarter.

The social-media company reported revenue of $808 million, ahead of Wall Street estimates of $773 million. From March 11 to the end of the quarter, sales were down 27% year-over-year. The decline was particularly pronounced in the US, Twitter's most valuable market.

Twitter now has 166 million daily users, up from 152 million at the end of 2019. That's the fastest growth since the company started reporting the metric in 2016. More users did not lead to a similar increase in sales, which rose just 3 per cent year-over-year.

Part of that was the result of an industry-wide ad slump as marketers pull back on spending. But Twitter has also struggled to build the kinds of ad products that have enriched competitors including Google and Facebook Inc.

Twitter reported a net loss of $8 million, its first unprofitable quarter in more than two years. The company previously announced it was cutting full-year guidance and expected an operating loss in the quarter. 

Top priority

Twitter said Thursday that improving its ad products "has been elevated to our top company priority," and direct response ads are at the top of the list. In a letter to shareholders, Twitter said these marketing spots could "increase our addressable market, with more access to advertising demand that may be more resilient through an economic downturn."