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Is there life after Twitter? Here are 2 guys who hope so

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The S.F. Chronicle ran this story, courtesy of the Associated Press:

Top media execs wonder how Twitter will make money

At a top media summit held up in Sun Valley (how come I never get invited to these things?), some of the shrewdest financial minds in the country held a workshop on how Twitter is supposed to make money. Twitter’s co-founders, Evan Williams and Biz Stone, were there.

According to the article, the prognosis for profit is bleak. “I just don’t think [Twitter] is a natural advertising medium,” said Barry Diller. John Malone, the chairman of Liberty Media, expressed similar doubts. The article paraphrased him as saying that “Twitter will be hard-pressed to sell advertising…without alienating users.” It’s “best bet,” Malone supposedly said, “is to simply get people so addicted that they might eventually pay fees.” The A.P. reporter concluded, “Twitter hasn’t attempted to profit from its popularity yet, leaving everyone guessing about how the 3-year old startup intends to pay its bills after it exhausts its $55 million venture capital.”

The A.P. reporter tried to get Williams or Stone to comment, but “they didn’t speak up when other executives expressed doubts about Twitter’s revenue prospects.”

twitter

Those Twitter guys

[Later that night, at Sushi on Second, a popular hangout in downtown Ketchum. Two despondent guys are on their fourth round of sake.]

Evan Williams: Did you hear what that schmuck, Diller, said? “I don’t think Twitter is a natural advertising medium.” Like, what the hell does he know about ‘natural’?

Biz Stone: Yeah. [laughs bitterly] Everybody knows why he married Diane von Furstenberg.

EW: And that creep, Malone. He talks like we’re drug pushers. Jeez. ‘Addicted.’

BS: We’re creating twaddicts.

They order another round.

BS: Do you really think we could sell ads?

EW: [shrugs] Dunno. Shinkle said we could, on The Ticker.

BS: Yeah, I read that. But he said they’d have to be “unobstrusive.”

EW: What the hell does that mean?

BS: Well, if Google can do it, why can’t we?

EW: [brightens] Yeah! [lifts glass] We can do it! Here’s to Twitter ads!

BS: Twads!

[both drink]

EW: Maybe Malone has a point. The kids are addicted to Twitter. They can’t live without it.

BS: [making a menacing face and clutching his hands] Ve hef cree-ay-ted a generashun uf dope eddics!

[both laugh]

EW: Do you think they’re really hooked, though? I mean, if we suddenly, like, overnight launched a fee. How many would leave?

BS: I guess all of ‘em, except the truly hooked.

EW: We could call ‘em the twooked!

BS: Twaddicts!

EW: Twunkies!

BS: Twasted!

[both are in hysterics]

EW: You gonna finish that California roll?

BS: Twat’s that you say?

EW: [sighs] There has to be another way besides advertising and subscriptions. I mean, both are risky…

BS: Twisky.

EW: [takes another sip] Remember when we realized this could be huge? I was living in Berkeley–

BS: Right. And I was up in Sonoma, drinking wine.

EW: Pinot Noir, if I recall correctly.

BS: Right! And getting a massage. What was her name, anyway?

EW: You twitted me about it, and I thought, Day-um, this isn’t just about communicating, it’s about having fun!

BS: And getting rich!

EW: [hoists his glass in the air] Here’s to getting rich! L’chaim!

BS: Tw’chaim!

One hour later

EW: Hey, you know what’s really funny? If we can’t make money off Twitter, how are all these people who use Twitter gonna make money?

BS: lol, dude.

EW: Page and Brim had a billion before they were 30.

BS: Yeah. [both lapse into silence]

BS: You know what? I have an idea.

EW: Can you tell me in 140 characters?

BS: Seriously.

EW: What?

BS: Lemme whisper it in your ear. You don’t think I’m gonna say it on Heimoff’s blog?

EW: Why not? Everybody thinks he just makes this shit up, anyway.

Or does he?

dr_evil

  1. Clearly, Twitter has value. You can send out a short message to a whole lot people that are interested in what you do. Perfect for the short attention span. Businesses should see value that they are willing to pay for. Price it by how many are watching. Though, if they can’t figure out a revenue stream, then a buyout will happen (ala youtube by Google).

    I should’ve tweeted this…Oh, I forgot….nobody is watching me!

  2. I think BradK is on the right track — many of those who have taken the time to build up big Twitter followings clearly see it as a great tool for building their brands. This is where the revenue will come from — from the Lance Armstrong (Lance/Nike/Livestrong) brand with its 1.3 million followers, and the wineries with 2K followers heading toward 10K before the end of the year — not from advertising, and not from the casual user with 73 followers and an average of 3.6 updates per day….

  3. Lisa Mattson says:

    If you give me the rights to retweet this story, I will pay you (raising pinky finger to corner of mouth), ONE MILLION DOLLARS! Whoa hah ha ha ha!

  4. Please rush the check, I can use the money.

  5. Once people begin to view Twitter in the same way as they do radio and TV, I think they will become more accepting of ads. The main difference between Twitter and radio/TV is that with Twitter, the “viewer/listener” is creating some of the content, viewing the rest, which has also been created by a different consumer.

    With radio/TV, we’re more passive. It’s not our programming. We have less say in it. So I think there’s some resentment on Twitter (it’s “ours!”) about having ads infiltrate “our” content, “our” thoughts, “our” tweets. The truth of the matter is, once you tweet, that tweet is no longer yours. And Twitter has every right to get an advertiser to help them bring you “your” tweet.

    This is not a free world. I’m all for Twitter advertisements.

  6. Laurie, what would you think if you opened Twitter and there was a popup video from (say) some bank with a talking head telling you how great their interest rate is and you can’t shut if off until it’s finished.

  7. Hi Steve

    Honestly, my initial reaction would be, “Ugh. What the heck is that? Turn that thing off!” But if it were the only pop-up video I’d see for the day, I suppose I would be alright with it. I guess I’m just saying we need to be prepared for the inevitable.

    I don’t think Twitter can survive without paying advertisers, so I expect paid ads to one day be the norm on Twitter. However, knowing how many people are against ads, I think that Evan and Biz will take those protests into consideration and only place the most non-obtrusive ads on the site. Oxymoron, I know.

    Laurie

  8. I suppose one direction could be to create a more efficient search which advertisers must pay for in order to manage their brand interactions on Twitter. That way they receive value in exchange for the service and customers are not bombarded in way which is unfitting for the medium.

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