Twitter gets serious about getting paid

Micro-blogging site bans third-party ads in an effort to protect its Promoted Tweets platform.

Twitter has is banning third-party advertisements on its site in a move to control the monetization and integrity of the micro-blogging service. The company is spinning the move, saying it's building a firewall that blocks out advertisements that tarnish Twitter's coherent "timeline." But the real issue here is money, as always. Twitter wants your dough to support its Promoted Tweets platform, rather than allowing every straggler into the party.

"As our primary concern is the long-term health and value of the network, we have and will continue to forgo near-term revenue opportunities in the service of carefully metering the impact of Promoted Tweets on the user experience," Twitter COO Dick Costolo wrote in a blog post. "For this reason, aside from Promoted Tweets, we will not allow any third party to inject paid tweets into a timeline on any service that leverages the Twitter API."

Costolo further illustrates the reasoning behind this decision. Twitter wants to:

Preserve Twitter's unique user experience Focus on long-term monetization, rather than the short-term goals of third-parties Ditch covering all costs of maintaining its network -- third-parties apparently shoulder little responsibility

Twitter updated its terms of service to detail these new conditions. Here's the bottom line: "In cases where Twitter content is the basis (in whole or in part) of the advertising sale, we require you to compensate us (recoupable against any fees payable to Twitter for data licensing). For example, you may sell sponsorships or branding around gadgets or iframes that include Tweets and other customized visualizations of Twitter."

Unlike many TOSes, Twitter's is actually readable. Most of the language focuses on maintaining integrity and not confusing users -- a possible indication that it may not be all about the Benjamins.

All Things Digital scored an interview with Costolo wherein the COO broke down a few specifics and who will be affected:

  • Services that do not generate revenue, or do so without advertising (such as subscriptions), will not be affected.
  • To pay, groups can establish a revenue split with Twitter or agree to license their data stream. Using Promoted Tweets is encouraged.
  • The fine details -- such as minimum fees and revenue splits -- have not been established and Twitter is likely to implement fees on a case-by-case basis.

These new rules will hit the wallets of many big-name companies--like Business Insider and The Huffington Post--and could drive some independents totally out of business.

We'll see how the public reacts to this shift--or if it even notices. It could damage Twitter's relationships with developers in a big way, but that's probably not something ordinary users are losing sleep over. And while Twitter's dedication to preserving the site's integrity may just be a line to shield its reputation, it's a tasty cup of Kool-Aid.

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Brennon Slattery

PC World (US online)
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