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March 17, 2009

Is Twitter Testing Ads?

A new feature appearing on Twitter has everyone.. well… Twittering today. A short time after Twitter posted about un-scheduled maintenance this morning, people started noticing in-line text *notices* appearing below their Twitter stats when they logged into the web based application (see example pictured).

For now, the so-called notices simply define a couple of Twitter services including Twitter Search and Twitter Widgets. The notices include a linked headline that takes people to the service being defined.

To my eyes, the notices looked very similar to AdWords style ads and I  immediately tweeted asking if anyone else was thinking what I was:

“Has Twitter decided to achieve monetization via Pay Per Click advertising?”

A quick Twitter search for *twitter ads* and *twitter monetization* confirmed others were thinking the same thing.

One by one, people began to notice the changes and started to tweet about them:

Twitter users and industry pundits have been predicting for months now that Twitter will roll out a monetization model. It looks like this is a sneak preview of that model, although there is nothing on the Twitter Blog announcing such a move. If they really are testing a PPC model, I think it’s a wise move.

I’m not sure how effective a single ad unit will be, but perhaps they will test and rollout multiple ad units in time. As for the ad channel content, no word yet whether the advertising will come from one of the major PPC providers or be a network of Twitter’s own making (although the former would be much more viable and less costly to implement). Perhaps Twitter is close to an announcement of a partnership with Google, Yahoo or MSN. I’ll be keeping a close eye on developments.

Update: A little birdie told me that Twitter Japan already displayed ads so I went digging and found this TechCrunch article confirming this little nugget of information. But I wanted to know if Twitter Japan was displaying the new information notices AS WELL AS the display ads. To check, I had to change my default language to Japanese and login to Twitter again. Voila! proof positive that Twitter Japan is publishing display ads in addition to these new notices. So perhaps Twitter.com will use display ads in the near future and leave the new text blurbs as information notices. It’s all speculation at this point.

In the meantime, what do YOU think? Do you think Twitter should be monetized? Is pay per click advertising a viable method for Twitter monetization? Please comment below.

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