This is a follow-up to my last blog post on the unfriendliness of Twitter.
If we agree that programming and design interface changes are limited without income, there are four ways Twitter can make money, according to an August 2008 story contributed by Ben Kunz in Business Week:
• Twitter could ask users to pay. It’s been done before—competitor Pownce charges user fees for enhanced content—but is difficult to add fees once the service has been established as free.
• Twitter could get messages to pay. With millions of messages flying around, why not convince some to be “sold” as product placement? Blogger Steve Poland suggests that Twitter could insert text ads into every 10th or 50th tweet. But again, users would rebel.
• Twitter could extract money from user data. Millions of people now share intimate thoughts via Twitter. Think of the market research potential. Companies are already mining these huge swarms of data. Dell has enlisted Visible Technologies to learn what users are tweeting about its products. But if Twitter itself tried to monitor user data, privacy concerns could quickly alienate users.
• Twitter could sell ads. Twitter is already doing this in Japan.
If we agree that the first three bullets are not viable, why not the fourth? Why not Twitter ads? Why not Twitter.com ads?
And what about the second bullet about inserted messages? What if I could choose the message? More specifically, what if an external company approached me for a sponsored Twitter message and paid me $X for running it over Y frequency, with the caveat that I had to pay Twitter $Z in commission? Whereas sponsored blogging is a transaction between a company and a blogger, sponsored twittering could be between the company and the twitterer, with a portion going to Twitter.
The clarity of the issue for me is best asked as a question: We can suggest a million ideas to rehabilitate Twitter’s user interface and offer reasons why A is better than B, but until the company has an influx of cash, where’s the benefit of the wish list?