WSJ today reported that China has blocked Twitter.com, preventing its 1.3 billion citizens from potentially accessing the site. Iain Dodsworth, developer of TweetDeck, was quick to point out however (which I noticed on FriendFeed ironically) that his service is still reportedly accessible in the Mainland. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again – Twitter, you need your own desktop client!
With everyone up in arms over how Twitter will monetize and when it will happen, there has been one obvious missing link from the start. Twitter has never had control over how Tweets get to the users. They themselves have admitted the API gets used much more than their own Twitter.com site gets used, showing, to me, that there is a way, currently, Twitter could be monetizing. Twitter has made it clear they do not intend to advertise through Tweets, which would almost certainly be rejected by their current user-base, already annoyed by the abundance of spam on the site. What Twitter could do however, that is assuming they have control over the main methods users receive Tweets, aka their desktop clients, is insert ads into such a desktop client and their own website, unobtrusive to users. Users will probably not even care at such ad placement, considering Google gets away with it, Yahoo and Microsoft do within their own search products.
Other Monetization Strategies
According to a recent TechCrunch article, Iain Dodsworth himself is already looking to monetize via this method. His method doesn’t even involve advertising, and maybe, in a world where advertising is beginning to prove ineffective, his method has even more potentially lucrative than the one I mention. His method is, according to TechCrunch, to charge developers looking for integration into TweetDeck for integration into the product. I think this is a great idea, and something that, with the popularity of TweetDeck, will prove quite profitable for him in the end.
Twitter could be doing this as well and perhaps even more effectively with the strong developer platform they have built. Add to that ability to integrate directories of applications into such an application enable featured app listings, along with perhaps an advertisement here or there Twitter could very quickly become profitable just by having control of such an application.
Why TweetDeck is a Good Choice
This isn’t meant to begrudge any of the other apps I enjoy and use. The fact is that TweetDeck is the most popular and most used Desktop app for Twitter right now (even though we can’t prove that at the moment thanks to Twitter API issues). It has the most users and most adoption – it would be the quickest barrier to entry, and clearly has features their users like, as they seem to continue using the app.
Considering deals are already being made to monetize the application, and considering, based on the recent investment of $500,000 into the company, comparatively speaking to the amount of money Twitter claims to have, TweetDeck shouldn’t be that expensive for Twitter to buy at the moment. Now’s the time Twitter. I wouldn’t wait much longer, as TweetDeck is about to become a whole lot more valuable.
More Distribution Options
Considering the recent issues in China, were Twitter to own the distribution channel, let’s imagine it’s TweetDeck, they would still have control of what goes out to China, and how to monetize off of those users. Currently, TweetDeck, and any client for that matter, have no devotion to Twitter – it’s just the first service they’re servicing in a long line of other services they’re also adding to their clients. Twitter should own this opportunity, and where they are claiming to be the next “AP”, if they’ve learned anything from the News organizations (I’ve worked in this industry), they need to control the distribution and not just the content.
I think Twitter is giving up an important opportunity by not having control of the desktop. I could probably say the same for the mobile phone (especially the iPhone). Perhaps their fear is that it would introduce unfair competition for the other desktop clients out there, but I don’t see any reason the other clients can’t compete as well, if not more than Twitter would provide anyway. This simply provides an important distribution platform where they would be provided many more monetization opportunities. I think it’s win-win.