Twitter ads and the end of mankind

The web comments about the announcement that Twitter will have ads on their searches (as a start) were about evenly split between “ho hum” and “disgust.”  This comment is pretty typical of the disgust category:

“Once Twitter starts inserting ads into my feeds will be the day I turn twitter off for good.” — “Nick”  NYT comment

I guess this is the opportunity I’ve been waiting for to pontificate about making money on the web …

Folks, it isn’t working.

Remember a time not long ago when people actually PAID for stuff?  Then the web came along and everybody ripped everybody else off.  Music, books, art, whatever. This used to be called a crime. Now it’s called sharing on the social web.

The ripping off became so widespread that it is accepted as fact, and a generation of people grew up feeling entitled to OFS (only free stuff).

But the Internet futurists told us back then, “Hey, everyone! It’s OK, because NEW business models will emerge to compensate all these companies, musicians and artists who are now forced to give away their goods and services without compensation.”  Well guess what?  It’s been about 15 years and it hasn’t happened. I’m pretty sure that means it isn’t going to happen.  And I think we’re in trouble.  Oh yes, I’ve read the book Free.  I still think we’re in trouble.

The only sanctified, protected work on the web today is advertising.  Rip off an ad, you’re in court. Rip off a music album, it’s cool.

So look, unless you want to have a paid subscription, stop whining about Twitter (and every other web platform that needs to advertise) and give them a break.  This is their only likely step toward a sustainable business.

We created this mess, now we have to live with it.  From now on, it’s an Ad, Ad, Ad World.

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  • I wasn’t surprised Twitter decided to go with ad revenue, although I was a bit disappointed. Not because of the ads themselves – on Tweetie they run ads every now and then but to be honest I never even see them. I’m blind to them.

    And I think that’s why I’m disappointed because they haven’t come up with anything really creative.

    From running Facebook ads, Google ads, and so on for companies, I really think the ROI is so low for online advertising.

    Digital natives are even blinder to ads.

    So, yeah, I can live with what Twitter are going to do. But more importantly, will they be able to live with it (i.e. make enough money to survive?) I’m actually not so sure.

  • I agree Jon, $100million and that’s the best they can come up with? I’m sure there is more coming but haven’t we learned anything about the value of advertising along this social media journey?

  • Mark

    Google became a public company in 2004 and is the fastest-growing corporation on the Fortune 500 list (it is already number 117 with $22 billion in revenue). In less than 10 years they have become the most recognized brand name in the world.

    Although they have launched a host of revenue-producing products, including corporate search engines, 99 percent of their revenue comes from advertising. I would say that model is a proven winner and love it or hate it, Twitter has absolutely made the right move.

    In the end, coming up with something new really doesn’t matter because targeted online advertising works. Unfortunately.

  • “Rip off an ad, you’re in court. …”

    What will happen when an ad agency gets it and licenses their ads Creative Commons? Derivative works OK or not, as they choose.

    Would we see viewer-curated spreading? More “permission marketing”, maybe?

    Did I miss a meeting?

  • Curious that you mention Chris Anderson’s “Free.” Few people do. It’s one of those SM books that was easy to forget. Conversely, many, many, folks still quote “The Long Tail”and consider it a seminal work in the 2.0 discussion. TLT’s focus: Making money on the Web!

    As you point out, the most profitable online experiments, Google, Yahoo!, Facebook, et. al., made their $$ with advertising, so we can’t fault Twitter for trying same.

    To Steve’s point: “Is this the best they could do?” Great question, but given that our Twitter streams funnel through so many different platforms, in-tweet ads appear to be the ONLY place to reach the entire audience. At least Biz Stone is taking a measured approach.

  • With everyone wanting what they want, when they want it, and not wanting to pay for it (a problem we’ve had in broadcast radio), it was inevitable that Twitter would choose an advertising model. Twitter, after all, isn’t a charity. Ultimately their mistake may well have been in not creating the Tweetdeck/Hootsuite/Seesmic designs themselves; now those using all of the third party tools won’t see anything but in-stream ads, which users will see as spam.
    No one is going to want to pay for Twitter (how many times have I seen the “80 million strong who will leave Facebook if we have to pay” groups?). So it is an interesting dilemna.

  • @Bill – I drop “Free” in there as often as I can without seeming to promote it 😉

    It’s almost as if Anderson skipped the chapter on how free isn’t sustainable. They’ll usually go only as far as the backers are willing to keep writing checks.

    I’m not as disappointed with Twitter’s choice as I am with thinking that ad revenue models have sort of lost their lustre.


  • I’m with you. I don’t mind Twitter serving some ads, and they seem to be trying to do it in the least offensive way you possible.

    I’ve written a couple of posts touching on this. If you love Twitter, then you need to accept the ads. Twitter won’t be here for long if it doesn’t find a way to make money. So, if we want to have our wonderful Twitter, we can’t begrudge them.
    That said, I do think there are other ways to make money besides ads. Ads are the low-hanging fruit. But there are subscription services that do make money. I use FeedmyInbox, SurveyMonkey, and several others every month. Low monthly fees for a service that others aren’t providing free (or are, but not as well) can work. Twitter’s plan to offer business features is right on target. It’s harder to get money out of end-users, but business users are more willing to pay for services.

    Also, I think there are various ways of marketing that both Twitter and Facebook could support and charge for that don’t involve advertising. Think of all the FB apps, and mobile apps, that brand companies are developing. Why not take it up a level and develop reusable platforms that other businesses could use to market via apps. You could charge for that. Wildfire already does for its Facebook campaign apps. Eventually, (in a long, long time) that model might rival ad serving.

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  • Mark

    Superb feedback from the community today. It seems we are basically in agreement on this subject. That might be a first! : )

  • It’s hard to disagree with making money. It’s keeps us “Free.”

  • Goodness, who IS that handsome man? Oh wait, I was distracted.

    Spot on. I agree, totally. Quit whining, folks, free shit is usually just that – shit. You get what you pay for, and all that stuff. How we managed to become a generation of folks who feel entitled to everything in the world, at top quality, without paying a cent, I just don’t know.

    Making money is good. Writing good posts is good. Keep it up, handsome 🙂

    Shelly Kramer

  • Mark, you know I totally agree with making money. You and I have sparred over the “free” topic lots of times. But, to me, advertising is such a “me too” thing and thus not at all exciting. Twitter is not “Google” and never will be. Its value proposition is so very different. I was just hoping they would come up with something more revolutionary to match their revolutionary service than just one more “eyeball” play. IMHO if they continue to follow the “user” leverage path and not do something extraordinary, they’ll never achieve their full potential.

  • Mark

    @Shelly Thanks for making my YEAR!

    @Steve I do love sparring with you! : )

    I actually have some faith that Google and Twitter are probably hiring people much smarter than me to do their marketing. Eventually, they may come up with something creative. But after operating for four years without a dime of income, it’s time to create some cash flow and I think the easy decision is the right decision in this case.

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