November 23, 2009

Would you pay for Twitter?


Paying for content or online services that were previously free has become a recurrent theme of late.

Rupert Murdoch is determined to make people pay for his newspapers, and has even threatened to pull content from Google.

The threat has presented Microsoft’s search engine Bing with an opportunity to move the needle in terms of market share, according to today’s reports.

Unsurprisingly, the idea of Microsoft tying up exclusive deals with publishers has been met with hoots of derision from bloggers.

At the same time, Twitter has announced plans to charge people for corporate accounts. Before you start worrying that you may start getting a bill for your current Twitter activity, do not fear as Twitter in its current form will remain free.

The micro-blogging service wants to charge for as yet unannounced extra services. In other words, it’s going to roll out a freemium model.

It will be interesting to see what Twitter is planning to introduce in terms of additional paid-for services. It would be good to see more creative commercial opportunities that enable brands to use the platform in a more lateral, dynamic, engaged way, other than just having a straightforward account that performs a customer service interface function.

Last week, Twitter rolled out a new retweet function. It’s gone down like a cup of cold sick. Personally, I prefer the old way of retweeting, which allowed a user to add their own editorial to the update. Here’s hoping that Twitter’s paid-for services add more value than this recent attempt to develop the service.

Meanwhile, the way in which the clash between traditional and new media is playing out in the press everyday has become fascinating to watch. It’s becoming very heated and something has got to give in the not-too-distant future as it’s clear the current business model is not sustainable for some.

Jeff Jarvis has waded into the debate, with a thought-provoking blog post that argues the future of business is in ecosystems.

Jarvis argues that within ecosystems networks can thrive. He says: “It is still necessary to gather the smalls together into bigs: audience brought together so advertisers can buy access to them more easily; purchasing brought together to get better prices.”

The very same logic underpins the Viral Ad Network, which works on the basis that agencies and brands can get access to a large inventory of publishers at no great cost and with maximum efficiency.

At the same time, publishers both large and small (from Daily Motion to an independent blogger) can generate revenue by hosting relevant ads, which entertain and inform their audience.

It’s all based on the big seed theory, which dictates that online ads have the chance to go viral if seeded to a relevant but wide seed base.

It’s a win-win for all concerned, but whether old media can happily apply this model to news and make a big enough chunk of change to keep the likes of Murdoch sleeping soundly at night remains the $64,000 question.