The Delicate Balancing Act Of Monetizing Twitter

Twitter has rapidly become one of those social media applications that people can’t live without. Everyone may say what a waste of time Twitter is but truth be told, they really love using it (me being one of those people).

But the people who run Twitter have to eat and they have to pay their bills, just like everyone else. But ever since they started the micro-blogging platform a couple of years back, they haven’t made a single cent from it.

I mean, how could they? Where are their sources of revenue? They don’t sell advertising. They don’t have a premium service. So for the past couple of years, Twitter users have been getting a great service for zero cents. This is why I have often scorned people who have complained bitterly at Twitter downtimes – they have had no reason to complain because they are not paying for the service. If they were paying for Twitter then yes, by all means complain about the down-times. But if you’re getting a great service for free, then don’t grumble if it goes down for a while. Go and visit Digg and come back later. Or here’s a crazy idea – turn off the computer and go outside.

But could all that be about to change? Could Twitter be on the verge of putting adverts into the Twitter stream? If so, will this annoy users so much that they will turn their backs on the service? Will adverts dilute the Twitter experience? Will the world end and Daffy Duck rule the earth?

Due to a poll conducted by Techcrunch, the results so far seem to be narrowly divided between adverts and no adverts. But a third interesting idea has also frequently raised its head – a premium Twitter service. So there would be a free Twitter with adverts and a premium paid Twitter without adverts.

My own personal gut feeling is that having two Twitters would cause big problems from day one. A premium service would be like having first class and second class on a ship with the big egotistic snobbish guys and girls throwing out big bucks to have an exclusive Twitter all to themselves **cough** Robert Scoble **cough** while those that they see as the “riff-raff” get steered towards the “working class Twitter with adverts”. There would be an elitist “us versus them” attitude and I don’t think that would be very healthy at all.

Personally I would prefer one Twitter WITH sporadic adverts. If we have to read about the latest Walmart special “two-for-one” offer in between Tweets then so be it. But I don’t think having two Twitter communities – one paid, one not, is the way to go. People may detest adverts, they may call it spam. They may get into a hissy fit. But as I said, Twitter is a business and they need to start making money eventually. It’s Capitalism 101. If you don’t like it, find a communist country to move to. I hear North Korea is nice this time of year.

Written by Mark O’Neill

3 Comments

  1. My nose wrinkled when I first heard about Twitter incorporating ads. I guess I won’t mind if some show up when I’m reading my stream online or through a client, but if they start getting forward to my cell phone as extra texts I’ll get very annoyed. I do like the OPTION of being able to pay to be free of ads, but I’m not sure if I would use it or not.

    @wildhoney

    Rachel’s last blog post..World Without End

  2. With as many hits and users as twitter gets. Ads just seem to be natural. I hate to see it come to an end but was inevitable.