By CLAIRE CAIN MILLER July 19, 2011, 8:48 PM
ASPEN, Colo. — Twitter is facing a federal government investigation, competition from Google+ and the departure of two of its founders. But Dick Costolo, Twitter’s chief executive, has a message for the naysayers: the business is growing just fine.
“We’re growing faster than we’ve ever grown,” Mr. Costolo said Tuesday at the Fortune Brainstorm Tech conference in Aspen, Colo.
People send a billion Twitter posts every five days and 400 million people — not counting Twitter apps — visit its Web site each month, he said.
Still, Twitter is in the early days of turning all that usage into revenue. Advertising on Twitter is growing rapidly, Mr. Costolo said. Last year, Twitter had advertisers in the low hundreds, and that number has increased sevenfold this year.
Mr. Costolo declined to provide any advertising revenue figures or to say whether the company was profitable. Although he is also an improvisational comedian, he was unusually straight and on-script at the conference. At one point, he said he was under strict instructions not to break news onstage.
But Mr. Costolo did say that Twitter might have another revenue source: commerce, which it once tried with daily deals but later shut down. Google and the San Diego Chargers have both made quick money selling tickets to a developers’ conference and a football game by posting discount codes on Twitter, he said.
Twitter did not make money from those sales. But it could by making it easier for companies to sell things without making the buyers visit a new site, Mr. Costolo said.
“There’s a commerce opportunity there for us to take advantage of,” he said.
Mr. Costolo also addressed the most recent challenge that Twitter faced.To compete with Google+, Google’s new social network where people post to Twitter-like streams, Mr. Costolo said Twitter had to stay focused.
Since Jack Dorsey, a Twitter founder, returned to the company to lead product strategy, he and Mr. Costolo developed a clear mission for the company: “We want Twitter to be the world in your pocket,” Mr. Costolo said.
Twitter pays attention to what its competitors do, he said, but won’t try to copy them.
“When you look in the sideview mirror and you say ‘Twitter’s going to be the world in your pocket, now with video chat,’ you lose your way,” he said, referring to the video chat on Google+.
The Federal Trade Commission poses another challenge, as it investigates whether Twitter’s relationships with third-party developers are anticompetitive. Though Twitter has not previously commented on the investigation, Mr. Costolo did Tuesday.
“It’s something we have to engage them with and we’ll do that and we’ll provide them with all the information they want,” he said.
When asked about the fact that two of Twitter’s founders, Evan Williams and Biz Stone, recently left the company to work on a new start-up, Obvious Corporation, Mr. Costolo shifted the focus.
“The media has focused on the founders coming and going, but what has really happened within the company is we’ve been building out the management team,” he said. That includes Mr. Dorsey and executives from Google, Pixar and Palm.