My Open Letter to Twitter

To the good people at Twitter, I have one thing to say: Know and accept who you are!

I say this because of your recent decision to begin placing ads on your Twitter sites. I know you’ve stated that you won’t put ads on Twitter.com, but I believe that like I believe Ralph Nader has a real shot at the White House. Money talks in business and if your test runs in Japan and elsewhere show some promising signs of bringing in the dough, I am sure we are going to see some backtracking that would make Deion Sanders proud.

Listen, online destination sites use online advertising as a main revenue stream. Online services do not. Online services use usage fees. Twitter is not an online destination; it’s an online service! Let me repeat. Twitter is not an online destination; it’s an online service! Granted, I understand that the average length of a Twitter visit is about 8 minutes but with tabbed browsers, page visit length data is all suspect. Who are you trying to kid? Do you expect me to believe that a site that doesn’t use Ajax to update the homepage dynamically and in real time is somehow so compelling that people just sit in front of the computer in awe? Of course not, no one is just hanging out on Twitter.com. People go to Twitter read the updates, click on links, and then go read, listen and/or watch content elsewhere, come back to Twitter, respond or update and then repeat. If you place an ad above the user information in the sidebar, no one is really going to pay attention to that. I mean the few times I go on Twitter, I hardly look in the sidebar’s direction, I’m there strictly for the content.

One of the reasons for the absentee users is that people are increasingly using desktop apps to interface with Twitter. Since I opened my account in 2006, I’ve gone from using GTalk to Twitterific to Twhirl and that’s not counting the Twitterbar add-on for Firefox (for quick posts with links) and the Twitterific app for the iPhone (for mobility). Now I’m using Ping.fm via GTalk and iPhone! That means I spend even less time on Twitter than the average person. I go to Twitter, follow the people I want to see and then I’m done! Most people who use Twitter are on the go like me and don’t have the time to sit in front of a webpage clicking CTRL + R. The great thing about these apps is that they work around me and my schedule. Twitter has become an invisible, albeit important, middleman in the grand scheme of it all.

When you add this to the service outages and issues, I have to wonder what the heck is going on over there. I have seen a lot of lazy thinking coming out of Twitter and I expected better given the leadership and the genius of the Twitter service. So not to be that guy who just brings up the problems but offers no solutions, let me toss out a couple of ideas on how you can make money.

  1. Twitter Packages: It’s time to create and introduce Twitter Packages. You’ve already started down this road by recently restricting the amount of followers a person can now have to 2000. Take it to its logical extension. Create a Twitter Premium and Pro; charge about $25 and $50 a year respectively. Obviously newspapers, online magazines and blogs with big Twitter followings are going to sign up and for $25 or $50 a year, it would be a steal.
  2. Ala Carte Features: Yes Twitter, it’s time to move beyond just the basic updates and microblogging that made you famous. Features like file sharing and streaming would draw musicians to a great degree that would use Twitter as a distribution channel. As a musician, I would love to have the ability to put music on my Twitter feed so my followers can listen and send me instant feedback. I would definitely pony up the cash for that kind of service. Developers would jump on the bandwagon and upgrade their apps to allow for the streaming to come to the desktop and mobile devices.

Want more ideas? Talk to your team, I’m sure they are bursting with ideas.

Look I’m a fan and at the end of the day, I want to see you guys do well, but I’m not married to you. On the Internet, competition is a click away so get it together over there.

— Douglas

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