Advertising on Twitter, kill or cure?

Any service needs a business model in order to survive, a social media site is no exception. Twitter has come in for some flack about not appearing to have one in the past so it was interesting to see the mistaken story that Twitter had been testing adverts during some performance issues last night.

A recent opinion piece on The Industry Standard website included twitter in their 10 net services that would probably fail, their thoughts:

"There's no compelling reason for most people to use it, and many existing services -- ranging from AIM to FriendFeed to social networks -- have overlapping functionality. And how is it supposed to make money?"

Twitter is growing quickly and has become ingrained in to many of our lifestyles so it is hard to imagine that a service this popular could fail, but this is still early days as it has yet to go properly mainstream. Does it need to?

The key to Twitter is its simplicity - it is one of the easiest ways to facilitate conversation but if it is going to survive then it must be sustainable - how else can this be achieved if not via advertising?

The poll on the TechCrunch story asking if we support ads on Twitter currently has the No's in the lead but I think it is both inevitable that ads will appear at some point - they must, however, be implemented correctly. Personally I voted Yes, I would support ads (under my proviso). We are so used to advertising in our daily lives that we have become accustomed to filtering it out.

In a way we are already being subjected to advertising on Twitter, albeit not in the traditional form. If you use a third party client or web service to post then this will be indicated by a link at the end of the individual tweet - isn't that advertising? As others have commented, any time we post a link to our content on Twitter we are advertising our wares. Users are creating profile background images which again advertise their sites etc. around the Twitter UI so are not traditional ads only a logical next step.

Your Take

Rather than ask again if you support ads on Twitter I would like to ask if you think something like Twitter needs a conventional business model. How else could such services raise the capital required to sustain themselves if they are going to remain free to the end user?

  1. Matt Hanson says: #
    Good writing. Keep up the good work. I just added your RSS feed my Google News Reader..

    Matt Hanson

  2. Matt says: #
    I think it’s a conversation worth having… the twitter thing. Most of “us” who are at this thing for a living are using it all day every day.

    I believe it’s worth noting that in the yes/no poll, there was a 3rd option (the one i selected) that basically fit the bill of “I would pay $ for premium/ad free version” … if you combine the “Yes, i support ads” with the “I would pay”, then the “No”s are losing. (at least as of the writing of this comment).

    It will be a fun scenario to watch play out… but the Twitter team has always been so cool and the people who love it reeeeeally love it, I can’t picture the thought of Twitter going away.

  3. Colin says: #
    Matt,

    Strickly speaking that’s not the case. All those who say they would pay for a premium service are saying that they “personally” don’t want ads and would therefore be willing to pay for the privilege of keeping them off of their feed.