<< by on December 23rd, 2009
Beginning this January, Twitter Japan is allegedly planning to charge micropayments for access to tweets from premium accounts. Users will be charged on a monthly basis, and the bills will potentially be attached to mobile phone bills. This is another way Twitter could generate profit, second to the deals with search engines like Google and Bing.
So who cares what’s going on with Twitter in Japan? Emma Barnett of the Telegraph wrote:
“The Japanese version of Twitter has acted as a testbed for the company having previously launched products, such as a video-sharing service, exclusively in that country.”
Now do you care?
It makes sense that Twitter would test such an endeavor in Japan, a culture that has a long history of mobile e-commerce, with more people using mobile Internet than wired. A CNN article also quoted a survey by Forrester Research saying, “15 percent of Japanese mobile phone users make payments and purchase products in stores with their phones.” Mobile micropayments won’t makes as big of a stir in Japan as they would in the US.
But, if this practice eventually crosses over to the US, what happens to real-time results in search engines? Would the premium accounts be blocked from results unless you paid for them? The Telegraph reported:
“Prices will range from $1.15 to $11.60 and will be dependent on the figures set by the charging account holders. Twitter will take 30 per cent of all fees generated.”
So if only 30 percent of the fees would be going to Twitter, does this mean the remaining money would go to the Tweeter? If this micropayment system is tested and successful in Japan and gradually moves to the US, there are many unanswered questions regarding integration for premium tweets. LinkedIn, Facebook, FriendFeed, Plaxo, Posterous, and Ping.fm (plus more) currently allow Twitter integration. But would the micropayment system block the ability to share premium tweets across multiple networks?
Micropayments could be a positive financial move for the company, but all other programs and developers will also have to adapt, yet again. Could that “kill” the current model of social media? And obviously micropayments wouldn’t be a forward step in the open source movement. I don’t think Chris Anderson would be very happy.
Premium Twitter accounts are offered to celebrities and large corporations. If the premium account holders are looking for exposure, won’t micropayments deter followers and create a barrier between them and their fans or customers? This barrier wouldn’t allow for open engagement and although it would benefit Twitter’s wallet, in my opinion at this early stage, it wouldn’t be in the best interest of users.
There are other alternatives for generating profit that need to be explored, ones that keep tweets open and sharable. Companies are sharing deals and coupons on Twitter already. When a brand tweets a deal, why not track conversions and use a PPC model?
Would you pay to read others’ tweets? Would a micropayment system fly in the US? Share your thoughts and concerns with me @reneerevetta on Twitter.