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商业 - 科技

Twitter有望扛起新一轮互联网IPO大旗

Don Reisinger 2012年10月24日

Facebook公司的IPO大热倒灶,引起的喧嚣至今仍然没有完全平息。不过,现在有些业内分析人士认为,Twitter的IPO更重要,将成为当代互联网公司的一个标杆。原因在于,这家公司的影响力堪与Facebook比肩,但商业模式更可靠,业绩表现更出色。

    今年5月Facebook进行了IPO,相关的宣传铺天盖地。几乎每家投资银行都吵吵着要拿到这家公司的股票。分析师们断言,这一事件将定义新一轮互联网IPO热潮。有人预测在Facebook公司IPO之后,数不尽的互联网公司将加入上市热潮,纷纷发售股票。供奉英勇战士的瓦尔哈拉殿堂就在眼前。

    不幸的是一语成谶。就像用蜡和羽毛做翅膀的伊卡洛斯,因为离太阳太近,最终翅膀融化而坠海,Facebook的股价也从发行价38美元一路跌到了20美元左右,此后就一直徘徊不前。其他原本打算上市的互联网公司自然也冰封了相关计划。但更糟糕的可能是,这场IPO原本被视为吹响互联网新时代的号角,将迎来社交网站、新闻聚合网站和定位资讯服务网站的迅猛发展。结果,Facebook的IPO成了一发哑炮。(Facebook将于本周发布第二季度业绩。)

    不过,互联网行业或许还有一家公司值得期待,那就是Twitter.

    Twitter已成为最重要的社交网站之一:虽然没有像Facebook那样有多达10亿的用户,但也已奠定了其作为全球性、不间断、持续活跃的国际论坛形象。想想看:去年奥萨马•本•拉丹被击毙时,就是一名在巴基斯坦的Twitter用户首先发布的消息。这样的例子举不胜举。

    所有这些都推动了Twitter用户访问量的激增。今年5月,皮尤研究中心(Pew Research Center)的报告发现,过去两年Twitter的总体用户访问量增加了一倍,有15%的网络用户会访问Twitter。一个月后,Twitter首席执行官迪克•科斯特洛透露称,公司每日的微博量达到了4亿条,大大高于11个月前的2亿条。即便公司的收入模式仍待完善,这样的增长仍然促进了财务收益。据研究公司eMarketer的数据,Twitter今年的收入可能达到2.883亿美元,随后在2013年跃升至5.452亿美元。到2014年底,这一数字将激增至8.075亿美元。

    与Facebook不同的是,Twitter已经找到了从移动用户身上赚钱的办法。这种所谓的赞助微博——由广告商付钱发布的信息——更易呈现在小巧的手机屏幕上。据eMarketer称,到2014年,Twitter将从智能手机和平板电脑上获得4.441亿美元收入。相比之下,Facebook的移动业务模式仍然没能赢得投资者的信赖。Twitter也不像一度大热的科技股Zynga,它不依赖其他社交媒体公司来获得一大块收入。(Zynga的问题是另一码事。)

    说到底,这就是为什么Twitter或许能成为这一代网络公司的标杆。这家网站的公众吸引力不输于Facebook,可以讲给投资者听的财务信息虽然少点,但表现更好。

    问题是,Twitter似乎没有上市的欲望。在近几个月的一系列采访中,Twitter的最高层管理者表示,没有在不远的未来进行IPO的计划。事实上,今年早些时候,Twitter首席执行官迪克•科斯特洛就告诉彭博社(told Bloomberg),公司IPO仍“很遥远”。9月份他重申了这一观点,在接受CNBC电视财经频道采访时表示,Twitter“希望、同时也相信自己能成为一家成功的独立公司。”

    当然,它将来总有一天会上市。早期支持者和员工们被初创企业吸引,可能都是冲着丰厚的股权激励来的。IPO是最好的套现途径。Twitter已拿到了相当多的风险投资——最近一次公布数额已超过10亿美元。等到将来上市时,预计情形将与Facebook不同。Twitter有更稳定的商业模式,有更高的用户访问量和参与度。这家社交网站与热点事件紧密相连,而不是特别依赖合作伙伴来取得成功。Facebook作为全球最大的社交网站可能吸引了所有的注意力。但谈到定义这一轮互联网IPO,可能还要看Twitter。

    译者:早稻米

    The hype surrounding Facebook's initial public offering in May was overwhelming. Nearly every investment bank was clamoring to get its hands on the company's shares. Analysts were calling the event the defining moment of a new Internet IPO movement. After Facebook's offering, some said, countless Web companies would join the stock frenzy and start offering their shares. Valhalla was in sight.

    Unfortunately, reality hit. Like Icarus, Facebook's (FB) share price tumbled down from its $38 opening price to around $20. There it has lingered. Naturally, other Web companies that might have gone public put their plans on ice. Perhaps worse, the IPO that was to be a clear clarion call defining a new Web era marked by massive growth in social networks, news aggregation, and location-based services. Instead,, Facebook's IPO became a black mark. (Facebook will announce its second earnings this week.)

    But there might just be a saving grace out there: Twitter.

    At this point, Twitter has become one of the most important social networks on the Web. The site doesn't have Facebook's 1 billion users, but it has cemented itself as global, always-on, always-active global forum. Consider this: When Osama Bin Laden was killed last year, it was a Twitter user in Pakistan that broke the news first. Examples like this abound.

    All of that has helped Twitter usage soar. In May, Pew found that overall usage has doubled over the last two years, with 15% of all online users surfing to Twitter. Just a month later, Twitter CEO Dick Costolo revealed that his company had hit 400 million tweets per day, up from 200 million just 11 months earlier. That growth has prompted financial gains, even as the company's revenue model remains a work in progress. According to research firm eMarketer, Twitter's revenue will likely hit $288.3 million this year, and then jump to $545.2 million in 2013. By the end of 2014, the figure will soar to $807.5 million.

    Unlike Facebook, Twitter has found a way to monetize mobile users. So-called sponsored Tweets -- messages paid for by advertisers -- are more easily present on tiny cell phones screens. By 2014, it could generate $444.1 million from smartphones and tablets, according to eMarketer. In contrast, Facebook's plan to make money from mobile users has not convinced investors. Twitter doesn't rely on other social companies to generate a large chunk of its revenue the way another once-hot stock Zynga (ZNGA) did. (Its woes are another matter.)

    Ultimately, that is why a Twitter might be the validation this generation of Web companies need. The site has the same public appeal as Facebook, with a better -- if smaller -- financial yarn to spin investors.

    The niggling problem? Twitter seemingly has no desire to go public. In a host of interviews over the last several months, Twitter's top executives have said that they don't see an IPO in the near future. Earlier this year, in fact, Twitter CEO Dick Costolo told Bloomberg that his company's IPO is still "way out." He echoed that sentiment in September, telling CNBC in an interview that Twitter has "every hope and belief that we will be a successful -- independent -- company."

    It will happen some day. Early backers and employees alike are attracted to startups by possibly lucrative equity. An IPO is the best way to cash out. Twitter has received significant venture-capital investment -- over $1 billion at last count. When that happens, expect a different scenario to play out than that what happened with Facebook. Twitter has a more stable business model that combines heavy usage with strong user engagement. The social network is woven into the events of the day, and doesn't rely so heavily on partners to succeed. Facebook might get all of the attention as the world's largest social network. But it might just be Twitter that comes to define this wave of Web IPOs.

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