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Should Twitter Charge Users, Pay Them—or Both?

Should Twitter Charge Users, Pay Them???or Both?
Photograph by Meredith Winn/Getty Images

Twitter’s emerging business model continues to be a hot topic in social-Web circles, including the debate over whether the company is taking the wrong path by trying to control more of the content that flows through the network in order to monetize it through advertising. Entrepreneur Dalton Caldwell is busy trying to create a version of the service that is funded by users, and marketer Seth Godin argued recently that this is by far the best approach for Twitter to take as well—rather than chasing the Holy Grail of advertising dollars. Blogging pioneer Dave Winer, meanwhile, makes a somewhat different argument: He thinks Twitter should pay certain users for the value they create within the network. The two ideas have more in common than you might think.

In Godin’s post, the author and marketing guru says that the world Twitter is choosing to enter by making advertising revenue its primary concern—over and above the interests of its users—is the same world that TV inhabits. The real customers for a TV network or channel, he says, aren’t users but the advertisers who pay to produce the content. The same dynamic is present in the newspaper industry as well (which is one reason why the switch to being funded primarily by readers could be so disruptive for that business, as I argued in a recent post about the Financial Times and the New York Times).