Saturday, January 26, 2008

My latest plan for Twitter monetization

(Note: this is my second post on Twitter monetization. I've written about this before, but that was in 2007 and this is 2008, where everything is new and different. So there.)

For some time I was playing around with an admittedly ridiculous idea, but then I decided to drop it.

Should have stuck with my original idea.

Shel Israel started the latest round of discussion. Cutting to the chase, this is what he said in an open letter to Evan Williams and Biz Stone:

You two are on a fast track, moving at a breath taking pace, but you've just come around a sharp turn and discovered you've hit a tough patch of mud. It can slow you down, cause you to slip and fall on your butts or even get you stuck. The patch is more dangerous than you think and it requires your immediate attention.

Social media people are a fickle lot. We are more loyal [to] each other than we are to the sites we visit. If some of us leave and find somewhere else to hang out there can be unexpected stampedes of friends. The good news, is that will ease the obvious strain on your current system. The bad news is you can very rapidly become yesterday's news.

Ev/Biz, people are talking. This last "scheduled maintenance schedule for prime time i your prime market, got moved and when you finally did it, the end result was that things were more of a mess than they were before. Tweeters are talking mostly about Twitter and they are not singing praise. Some folks say you should be bought, bring in adult supervisors to manage things or that maybe a circle of friends should go give Pownce a try. I do know of such a case, but I'll wager that somewhere this week a couple of young entrepreneurs started working on a business plan to replace you.

Israel suggested four action plans. This is the second:

Reveal monetization plan. If you have it, share it. We users need to understand how it will impact us. Biz, I loved the time we shared in Spain, but it disturbed me when you smiled and said, "there's so many things that we can do." Silicon Valley graveyards are filled with startup corpses, whose founders uttered the same words. My 25 years of consulting companies taught me the #1 cause of death is not lack of financing. Its lack of focus. I have heard so many gushes of what a startup COULD do. The trick is to figure out what you SHOULD do.

People read Shel Israel. Jeremiah Owyang built upon what Israel wrote. Here's part of what Jeremiah said:

The time for fun and games is over, Twitter needs to step and be the robust communication platform [its] fans are expecting it to be or users may end up leaving. The cracks are starting to show.

Jeremiah links to something that Allan Stern wrote on January 2:

As Twitter usage has grown, have they f'ed themselves out of a real, sustainable business model? And has Pownce done something right by launching with a business model?...

Pownce launched with a basic business model -- charging for premium messages and injecting them into a user's stream. I like their idea.

For the record, Biz Stone responded to Shel Israel's original post. Here is part of Biz's response:

With regard to revealing our monetization plans I can tell you honestly that we are far more focused on growth and reliability in 2008....[We are] adding great ideas to a list of revenue solutions which we will visit in earnest when we are ready.

I happen to agree with Allan Stern on this one. The monetization plan should be worked on hand in hand with the growth/reliability plan, if for no other reason than the fact that the monetization plan can affect the growth plan. Basically, a "$15/month/user monetization plan" will create a different growth curve than an "inject advertising" monetization plan.

Or my plan. I'll grant that I was being silly, but probably Walter Frederick Morrison (inventor of the Frisbee) was being silly too.

Think about associations such as the American Automobile Association and the American Association of Retired People. Now we tend to think of them as membership and lobbying organizations, but what are they really?

They're insurance companies.

Both the AAA and AARP offer insurance services to their members that are tailored to the organizational missions, with AAA offering car insurance (and other insurances besides) while AARP offers health insurance.


So I was going to propose that Twitter become an insurance company. But what type of insurance would microgeeks need? While carpal tunnel insurance seems promising, the one that appealed to me most was identity theft insurance. People who are online, revealing information about themselves, need to be especially concerned about identity theft, so the sales pitch would be a natural.

OK, let's hear it for LifeLock Twitter Incorporated. If they act on my wise suggestion, you may be seeing the following:

Hello, my name is Biz Stone. My social security number is...

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