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As its mid-November IPO approaches, Twitter is losing money at an accelerating pace. The company’s amended filings show that last quarter it approximately doubled revenues to $168.6 million compared to a year ago, while its net loss more than tripled to $64.6 million. Fortune’s Stephen Gandel digs into the new numbers, and how Twitter changed the way it's booking revenue:
Twitter derives most of its revenue from advertising. Most of the deals it strikes with advertisers are not fixed upfront... Twitter says that in most instances it only counts the revenue from a deal after the services have been delivered and the company knows how much it will get paid. But it says in some more complicated deals, it resorts to estimating what it might get paid.
Tax experts, Gandel reports, say that Twitter wouldn’t have changed its language on this topic without the SEC raising an eyebrow. Twitter is also looking to diversify its sources of revenue by mining its user data to help sell ads on other sites, the FT reports. (Twitter does not disclose how effective its own ads are). Selling ads across the web would put them in direct competition with Google’s Adsense, which dominates online ad buying. Facebook's ad sales, in contrast, are limited to Facebook alone.
Losing money at such a growing rate, especially relative to revenue, diverges from models set by companies like Facebook, Zygna, or LinkedIn. Each of those companies, the WSJ points out, were each profitable before going public. The WSJ quotes analyst James Gellert characterizing Twitter as “more like a venture growth company”. Investors, Gellert says, are betting on Twitter’s “ability to achieve things in the future, rather than a historical demonstration of that ability”.