April 12, 2010

promoted tweets and platform reach

I'm sure Claire Cain Miller's piece in the New York Times about Twitter's ad program will be combed over by, well, thousands and thousands of experts with fine-toothed combs. I'll just comb over this particular paragraph.

Once Twitter figures out how to measure the number of people who read posts other than on Twitter.com, it will also allow third-party developers to show ads and share revenue.

I bet we hear more about this piece of the puzzle this week at Chirp. The strength of Twitter is in its reach as a platform...but from an advertiser's perspective the weakness of Twitter is in the (current) inability to measure the actual reach (vs. potential reach) of a message. So if I'm reading Miller's paragraph correctly (and she's transmitting correctly), the bargain for third-party developers is pretty clear: you share stats about who's seeing what tweets when and where, and we'll share ad revenue with you.

And you know what? This is just like every other online ad network. And this is a good thing; it's a value exchange that's easy to understand. Take AdSense, for instance. Every microsecond of every day publishers give Google real estate on their sites. Google gets to learn all sorts of things about their traffic patterns -- who reads what pages when and from where; in return the publisher gets a cut of the advertising revenue that Google generates in that real estate. Data for revenue.

I also think this puts the Blackberry and iPhone client moves last week in context. Now that they have Twitter-branded clients on two large mobile platforms, they have healthy chunk of owned & operated mobile inventory. Which means they don't need to negotiate the revenue cut with any third party developers for the initial launch, and they can take a while to learn -- gather data, observe the user experience, gauge advertiser reaction, etc. And it will give them an opportunity to develop a set of best practices for clients about how to report this kind of data back to Twitter.

They're doing this right. The tweet's a natural ad unit, and they're finding the right ways to introduce them into the user experience. Search first, tweet stream on their own O&O properties next, then out through third party clients. Evolve the right way to make it a net positive for the ecosystem. Evolve the "resonance" algorithm. Get a handle on the reach of the platform. And all the while encourage new types of applications.

Here we go.