David Talbot

A View from David Talbot

EmTech 2013: One Way Twitter Could Make Money: Instant Replays (With Ads)

Twitter could make money by replaying TV content people tweet about, with ads.

  • October 9, 2013

As it plans for its first stock offering, how will Twitter make more money? One idea was revealed this morning at EmTech, MIT Technology Review’s annual conference on emerging technologies, during a talk by Deb Roy, Twitter’s chief media scientist. His MIT spinout company, Bluefin Labs (see “A Social Media Decoder”), was bought by Twitter this year.

Many people tweet about exciting moments during televised sports games, but people seeing the tweets might have missed the action on TV. In response to a question from Jason Pontin, MIT Technology Review’s publisher (and conference emcee), Roy replied: “In the example I showed you with ESPN and the basketball clip, a very natural thing one could do is insert a pre-roll piece of advertising [so that] along with a clip you just missed on TV, there could be a piece of sponsorship. That could be revenue shared between ESPN and Twitter.”

Already Twitter has been forging agreements under its Amplify program, which lets content owners distribute programming in Twitter feeds with ads embedded. Last month Reuters reported that the NFL was making a similar-sounding deal with Twitter, providing sponsored Tweets with sports highlights. And just today, Twitter announced a partnership with Comcast and NBC Universal, allowing users to click to tune into TV shows directly from tweets about the shows.

Presumably, as this strategy evolves, Twitter users could start to see very specific sponsored tweets closely married to a piece of TV content that someone they followed just tweeted about. The targeting of such sponsored tweets could be further refined using insights about the users’ interests, gleaned from his or her tweets, the profiles of people he or she follows, and other sources (see “A Taste of Future Twitter Technologies”).

But that’s just an educated guess. Twitter is in its pre-IPO quiet period, and we’ll have to wait and see what happens.

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