Twitter altered its Terms of Service Friday, as a precursor to monetization. Erik Sherman has the scoop:
# “Twitter is explicitly saying that content can and will be shared with others that “partner with Twitter for the syndication, broadcast, distribution or publication of such Content on other media and services, subject to our terms and conditions for such Content use.” Use of content can be made without any compensation to the people who created it. Given the ecosystem of add-on services that Twitter doesn’t make money from, you can understand the approach. But it also opens the door for the company to monetize content in a number of ways, including publishing collections of tweets on a subject or even analyzing content of tweets and making them available to companies that might wish to know what people are doing or saying.”
# “Twitter notes that it has always kept the door open for advertisements, but the old TOS simply didn’t mention the term. Now it seems that the “Services may include advertisements, which may be targeted to the Content or information on the Services, queries made through the Services, or other information.” Other information is certainly going to include profile data for behavioral targeting. In addition, “… you agree that Twitter and its third party providers and partners may place such advertising on the Services or in connection with the display of Content or information from the Services whether submitted by you or others.” If they’re going to include ads, I can see how this would be necessary. But should they go that route, it’s going to potentially upset the millions of users who have been accustomed to getting a free lunch.”
Twitter is bound to lose customers if it takes the wrong approach to monetization. Who wants their tweets sold? And who wants to see more ads? And whose business, at this point, actually depends on Twitter for revenue? When all is said and done, it’s a relatively easy service to replace or ditch.
Twitter needs to do more to make itself irreplaceable to customers before it starts trying to monetize through ads or selling tweets. Why not license Twitter software? Or sell out to a bigger company, where it can become part of a broader multimedia strategy? Trying to monetize off consumer information and inserting ads will only alienate users.