Op-Eds Opinion

Yeezus, Kanye West and the Twitter IPO

Jake Nelson
Staff Writer



Twitter’s Costolo

Last year, Twitter CEO Dick Costolo told the Wall Street Journal that his platform is trying to go from a place where companies “build off of Twitter to a world where people build into Twitter.” Costolo, who appears to be an entrepreneur in the purest sense, makes quite an interesting statement.

Costolo is a 1985 University of Michigan graduate with a B.S. in Computer and Communication Services. After graduation, he had several offers from then Neanderthal-esque tech companies. He did not accept any offers and instead moved to Chicago to pursue a career in improvisational comedy.

After his comedic stint he began a career in technology that saw him bounce around to several companies. He eventually landed at a web feed management provider called FeedBurner (web feeds were essentially push-pull technology where a user is asked by a server if they have new content to display or they put the new content into the aggregator provided by the service and the content is then published within the network of related people) in 2004.

FeedBurner was acquired by Google in 2007, so Costolo worked at Google until 2009 when it was announced that he would join Twitter as the COO. Former CEO and co-founder Evan Williams went on what was supposed to a temporary leave (paternity) in 2010, and in his absence Costolo was appointed the interim CEO. Williams wound up leaving for good and Costolo has been gazing forward from the mast of Twitter ever since.


Kanye Omari West released his seventh (sixth solo) and quite possibly most controversial album Yeezus on June 18, 2013. West has over the course of his career been accused of being an attention-fiend and often completely out of control. In a lengthy New York Times interview just days before the new album released, West bluntly spoke his mind. In no uncertain terms he made it clear that he is the only true rock star in the world today. “I think what Kanye West is going to mean is something similar to what Steve Jobs means,” he said. “I am undoubtedly, you know, Steve of Internet, downtown, fashion, culture. Period. By a long jump. I honestly feel that because Steve has passed, you know, it’s like when Biggie passed and Jay-Z was allowed to become Jay-Z.”

 Mr. West has never been afraid to speak his mind. He is probably best known for storming onstage during the 2009 MTV Video Music Awards only to wrestle the award (Best Female Video) out of winner Taylor Swift’s hands and declare that Beyoncé deserved the award for having one of the best videos of all time (“Single Ladies”). He is not a man that makes bones about anything and steadfastly holds that he has never performed a publicity stunt in his life.

West is currently on tour with Kendrick Lamar (Yeezus tour) and it is certainly a sight to see. The tour is a full-blown production that features a two-story mountain on stage, a large orb resembling the moon that reflects his face throughout much of the show, multiple choirs of gospel singers clad in white robes, and even a Jesus look-alike that West shares dialogue with before he launches into his timeless, “Jesus Walks.”

I’ll be the first to admit that West is one of, if not my favorite artist. Period. I say artist because he is not a musician. He has directed several of his own films and short movies (see on YouTube: Runaway-full length), serves as aides to a multitude of fashion designers and is reportedly working on his own line. I well and truly believe that he is at least 20 years ahead of his time in an artistic expression and world views.

I recently exchanged text messages with a friend from home who also happens to be a big Kanye fan. Upon looking at the links I sent to my friend’s Twitter account detailing the stage art and sequencing of the first few shows on the Yeezus tour, he had this to say: “You know how you hear guys on ESPN say that a team played down to their competition? He doesn’t even adhere to competition. It doesn’t exist in his world. He’s just doing whatever he wants and feels is necessary to keep raising the bar. In the words of the aforementioned Jobs, ‘…because the ones who are crazy enough to think that they can change the world, are the ones who do.’”

The link-up

Kanye West has a Twitter account. So do I, and I bet you do as well. The universal connection between Kanye West and his unwavering ability to shove his artistic expression in the face of the world does not have much to do with the Twitter IPO. In a broader sense however, the two ideals seem to share inherently similar concepts.

Google Dick Costolo and his history as outlined above and you will find a slew of articles and opinion columns that show baffled words. These comments and sentences and paragraphs and articles (most notably several on Business Insider) talk about the surprise of Costolo. He came from a strong technological background, but none of the companies that he worked with pre-Twitter had anywhere near the same size or influence as the little bird. Costolo took over Twitter with his strong background in technology and of course his background in improvisational comedy. He is a smart, innovative and well-rounded professional. More importantly however, he is a creative artist with a vision that is not set in stone.

To say that the appointment of Costolo as the COO of Twitter was a reach would be a serious understatement. To say that his appointment as permanent CEO of Twitter was a reach would be a blatant lie. It was preposterous and many speculated cynically about the long-term future of the company. It’s been around two-and-a-half years since Costolo took over Twitter and the bird has not showed any signs of slowing its wings. Their approaching IPO is the most anticipated public offering since Facebook. They have begun to sell advertising space (it will come up with a white arrow inside a yellow box next to the words “promoted by…”) directly on user Twitter feeds and have only just begun to realize the power they have in regard to consumer interest and political affiliation.

In recent weeks there have even been rumors about a partnership with Comcast as a way to show free previews of shows on user Twitter feeds (40 percent of YouTube traffic now comes from handheld mobile devices). The overlying point is such: consumers lose faith in the traditional line of products because there is a fear that once a plateau is hit that the innovative practices have died. It happened with BlackBerry when they couldn’t rebound from their awful touchscreen on the Storm. Others speculate that it will happen to Apple within the next few years. Technological explosion has made the stock market more temperamental than ever. Once consumers are scared, they no longer want to buy, value goes down, and the factors compound upon each other and eventually the company has to pull out.

Technology is only as good as the next 15 minutes and Costolo, in the true fashion of an artist, realizes that in order to continue to push the boundaries of the consumer experience he and his company must take the bull by the horns. Much like Costolo, Kanye West does not wish to adhere to his industry “standards” or whatever that is one must encompass and exude to be considered a rapper. Twitter, by tapping into new markets and pushing the philosophy that they want to create “…a world where people build into Twitter” has the possibility to create something not yet seen by the world, a creation that only an artist has the ability to give to the world.

Twitter has been performing test openings for just over a week and the current IPO date is set for November 6. The offering price is speculated to open between somewhere between $17 and $22. As is the case with any “super valuable” social media instrument that ambiguously rakes in profits, Twitter will probably lose some of its expected value (Facebook lost just under $18 in trading price in the 67 days after its opening – it still raised the third most in U.S. history with an IPO at $16 billion), but I wouldn’t expect the service to go anywhere in the near future. As long as the true artists of the world continue to evolve, shock, awe and antagonize, we will continue to progress and push forward into the new age that awaits us daily.

I can’t wait to see Kanye West and Tweet about it.

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