The Case for In-Stream Advertising

Posted on Nov 22, 2009 | 84 comments


in-stream advertisingThe topic of whether in-stream advertising has heated up.  I just read well written pieces on the topic by Ross Kimbarovsky, Robert Scoble, Paul Carr and the NY Times.  I myself recently covered the topic when I spoke about why GRP Partners invested in Ad.ly.

Let me lay out my defense of In-Stream Advertising because I believe the topic is really important.

1. People feel angst about advertising in any form – I feel the same feeling about advertising as most consumers.  I feel it’s a necessary evil.  Yes, I often skip commercials when I watch on my DVR.  But I also accept and appreciate the ads in Hulu because I know that I’m watching shows for free.  I know that advertising is important to inform consumers of offers – the same reason many tech companies use SEM.

2. This debate is awfully familiar - This debate is so familiar to me.  GRP Partners invested in GoTo.com which rebranded as Overture.  At the time Google said it was against sponsored links because it confused the person searching for content – one of the main arguments people are again using about in-stream advertising. John Batelle profiles this well in his book The Search.  Our portfolio company did so well that Google copied this approach and out executed Overture.

It was still a great financial result for us but we clearly didn’t become Google.  But our investment and the thesis of the team led to huge leaps of innovation that all consumers now benefit from.  It led to the creation of Google Maps, Gmail and many other projects that without ad dollars wouldn’t exist.  Are you horrified when you search for an address in Google Maps and ads pop up?  Why not?  Probably because it has become the norm over time and it is handled in a tasteful and acceptable way.

3. In-Stream rewards the content producer, Contextual just the technology provider – The funny thing about contextual search like that in Google is that it benefits the tech company and NOT the  content producer at all.  Think about this – bands and stars helped bring people by the millions to MySpace.  Having amassed a following they realized that MySpace was able to put ads everywhere and make all of the money.  Some goes with Google.  All of us bloggers and journalists create content that gets indexed and allows Google to serve up ads alongside us that we don’t benefit financially from.  When a content producer promotes an ad in-stream the revenue flows mostly to the person who published the content.

4. Transparency, authenticity and quality are what matters – So should everybody be sending out loads of Tweet Ads?  I would argue that they already do.  What does it mean when Michael Arrington sends out a link driving you to his latest article on TechCrunch? That’s not a “conversation” – it’s content driving you to his website where he monetizes based on the number of eyeballs he drives there.  You could argue that his banner ads are transparently advertising and are therefore OK. But people complained as loudly about HotWired when they started with banners (they were the first website to do so in 1994 – 15 years ago. This industry is now worth $24 billion / year.).  Here’s a piece in the New York Times questioning, “An Ad (Gasp!) in Cyberspace?” written in 1994. People complained about contextual search when Overture (then GoTo.com) innovated the model. And now everybody is laying into in-stream advertising.  The more things change …

At Ad.ly we believe that in-stream ads need to be as transparent as banner ads.  So we mark everything clearly.  We restrict the number of Tweets so that we can control quality.  We encourage publishers and advertisers to match based on authentic promotions.  If Robert Scoble sent out a Tweet that is clearly denoted talking about RackSpace would  people really be offended?  Should he remove the RackSpace logo from his Twitter picture or is that type of advertising OK?  Who decides?  I find it totally acceptable because I believe Robert has high integrity and manages church / state issues himself.  If he didn’t, I would unfollow him.

When Jason Calacanis opens his TWiST show talking about his sponsors to you gag and stop watching?  No.  You think, “I get it.  He needs to speak about these guys to fund a show that is seriously high quality so I’ll put up with ads.”  Why is that acceptable but Twitter isn’t?  I assert it’s just because Twitter advertising is new and we’re trying to sort out the norms.

When Brad Feld lists a book on his blog with an affiliate link that he monetizes is that wrong?  I don’t think so.  We all know and trust Brad to be authentic.  How is that different from an ad in the Tweet stream?  Should affiliate links to Amazon be acceptable in a blog but not in Twitter or Facebook?  Why?  Why not?

When Facebook puts contextual ads on your pages is that wrong?  Oh, I see, it’s Ok because it’s not in-stream.  So only the technology companies can make money from ad links and not the creators of content?  I think we need to be careful that any in-stream links are clearly marked as an ad – but reject them all outright?  Seems an arbitrary demarcation to me.

When TechCrunch 50 has sponsors and those people get to speak on stage does that mix church & state?  It sure pushes the boundaries.  But we all accept it because  we know that it is the norm for conferences.  No prizes for checking the correlation between panelists and TC50 and sponsors.

Again, I personally trust Michael and Jason to manage this quality.  If they crossed the line we’d stop attending.  If Twitter publishers cross the line we’ll stop following them.  But if they mark a Tweet as an ad I can choose to click the link or not.

5. In-stream does not equal spam – I sometimes get @ replies from people unsolicited with a link to an ad.  That is spam – full stop.  I haven’t chosen to follow this person.  But if someone that I have chosen to follow has an ad I am ok with that if it’s labeled.

6. Let innovation happen and the market decide -  I don’t how all of this will end up.  I’m hopeful that Ad.ly will be a prosperous addition to the Internet ecosystem.  But it is very important that we let young companies like this experiment.  I assure you Ad.ly will take the high ground and control quality.  We care deeply about that.  I have a vested interest – not just due to an investment in Ad.ly but also because I care deeply about innovation and the evolution of the Internet.  Rejecting new business models for pushing boundaries does not encourage innovation.

If the market rejects in-stream then the market wins.  I’m fine with that.  But let’s have an honest discussion about the topic.  Vitriolic attacks on in-stream advertising obfuscate the issue.  And if the market rejects in-stream then we still win.  Strike one up for entrepreneurship, innovation and pushing the boundaries.

And before you attack me in the comments as some people feel compelled to do when the topic of advertising comes up, please have a quick read of Seth Godin’s latest post on how to win an online argument.  I am absolutely open to debate and have enjoyed reading most of the counter articles on the topic thus far.

  • http://twitter.com/justyn Justyn Howard

    Point 3 is the one I hope everyone embraces. Why shouldn't the content producer, the one who has earned the following and providing value to their users be allowed to monetize? Twitter (the technology company) will eventually be making money on the content anyway, and I haven't heard anything to suggest they will be sharing it with the users.

    I think the obscene amounts that the celeb-utants from the Suggested User List are getting for ads is fueling most of the opposition, and I share that frustration. But that's something that Twitter broke, it doesn't mean the concept as a whole is broken.

    The other thing worth considering is if Twitter had already released their Ad strategy (whatever that might be), there would be a large group insisting that the authors and personalities be cut in on the action. This is preemptive.

    Anyhow, I'm not passionate in either direction, but I believe the users who I get value from should be able to monetize that. If it's abused, I'll stop listening.

    And if you're following Kim Kardashian, the ads might be the only meaningful thing in that stream.

  • http://uniquevisitor.net Jeff Pester

    Somewhere along the line a segment of the Twitter community decided amongst themselves what was, and what was not, acceptable use of the platform. Their interpretation that ads are a cancer to the corpus is rooted in the belief that promotion (in the form of ads) goes against the founding principles. What's most interesting (and humorous) to me is that the Twitter founders have NEVER said any thing of the sort.

    I agree with you – Let innovation happen and let the market decide.

  • http://giffconstable.com giffc

    I'll toss an opinion out as a twitter user: I read Carr's piece earlier today and while his analogy to the cocktail party conversation is compelling to a point, the fact is that twitter is not an in-person conversation, it is a technology from a company that I would like to see stick around, which means a business model. I guess that means I'm more willing to put up with ads enabled by Twitter than a third party but it all comes down to how it manifests itself in reality.

    I think in-stream ads can be mentally parsed and as long as I have the ability to cut someone out of my stream, that control should be enough. I *am* worried about abuse of ads + the new RT function, which inserts people you haven't curated into your stream, but have faith that would be corrected if a problem. As you say, it's all about how this plays out in practice.

  • TimSchulz

    I had the chance to hear Paul Carr explain his viewpoint further while I was at the Realtime conference on Friday. His argument seems to be that stream is a conversation, and as such it would be wrong to pollute it with advertisements (he then sparred with Ad.ly's CEO, which I'm assuming prompted your well-written rebuttal).

    I'm still neutral on this topic, but I would like to hear Paul defend his stream = conversation assumption further, especially when it comes to celebrities using Twitter.

  • http://seekingventurecapital.com jasonspalace

    it seems people view the stream as sacred since so many are arguing to protect it. i foresee twitter ads being as annoying as 3rd party facebook news feed app updates – it's' a whatever, i am not going to ever unfollow you for it. but i am hoping they spend some money to woo these eyeballs and create crazy hd 3d copy. if it sucks, at least we'll know. good luck, innovate on, hope you're timing the market right.

  • http://www.madmagz.com Youssef Rahoui

    Interesting. In my view, as long as I'm be able to detect and parse those ads, it does not bother me that much. To sum it up: let it play but let also play filters and ad blockers.

  • http://twitter.com/Justyn Justyn Howard

    Point 3 is the one I hope everyone embraces. Why shouldn't the content producer, the one who has earned the following and providing value to their users be allowed to monetize? Twitter (the technology company) will eventually be making money on the content anyway, and I haven't heard anything to suggest they will be sharing it with the users.

    I think the obscene amounts that the celeb-utants from the Suggested User List are getting for ads is fueling most of the opposition, and I share that frustration. But that's something that Twitter broke, it doesn't mean the concept as a whole is broken.

    The other thing worth considering is if Twitter had already released their Ad strategy (whatever that might be), there would be a large group insisting that the authors and personalities be cut in on the action. This is preemptive.

    Anyhow, I'm not passionate in either direction, but I believe the users who I get value from should be able to monetize that. If it's abused, I'll stop listening.

    And if you're following Kim Kardashian, the ads might be the only meaningful thing in that stream.

  • http://uniquevisitor.net Jeff Pester

    Somewhere along the line a segment of the Twitter community decided amongst themselves what was, and what was not, acceptable use of the platform. Their interpretation that ads are a cancer to the corpus is rooted in the belief that promotion (in the form of ads – but curiously, not in the form of self-promotion) goes against the founding ideals. What's most interesting (and humorous) to me is that the Twitter founders have NEVER said anything of the sort.

    I agree with you – Let innovation happen and let the market decide.

  • http://twitter.com/atul Atul Arora

    It will interesting how the in-stream advertising plays out. It will be interesting to see if we are going to see an update from Firefox extension AdBlock Plus folks that will implement the logic to remove tweets if one starts viewing them in twitter.com and other web clients. Right now if there is an ad and it is marked as [Sponsored] or (Ad) or [Ad] one can simply use something like TweetDeck to filter these out. It will interesting to see if Tweetdeck ads the ability to filter by Twitter client. Just a few thoughts that companies building advertising system on Twitter need to think about (and are probably already thinking about).

  • http://giffconstable.com giffc

    I'll toss an opinion out as a twitter user: I read Carr's piece earlier today and while his analogy to the cocktail party conversation is compelling to a point, the fact is that twitter is not an in-person conversation, it is a technology from a company that I would like to see stick around, which means a business model. I guess that means I'm more willing to put up with ads enabled by Twitter than a third party but it all comes down to how it manifests itself in reality.

    I think in-stream ads can be mentally parsed and as long as I have the ability to cut someone out of my stream, that control should be enough. I *am* worried about abuse of ads + the new RT function, which inserts people you haven't curated into your stream, but have faith that would be corrected if a problem. As you say, it's all about how this plays out in practice.

  • atul

    It will interesting how the in-stream advertising plays out. It will be interesting to see if we are going to see an update from Firefox extension AdBlock Plus folks that will implement the logic to remove tweets if one starts viewing them in twitter.com and other web clients. Right now if there is an ad and it is marked as [Sponsored] or (Ad) or [Ad] one can simply use something like TweetDeck to filter these out. It will interesting to see if Tweetdeck ads the ability to filter by Twitter client. Just a few thoughts that companies building advertising system on Twitter need to think about (and are probably already thinking about).

  • http://twitter.com/timschulz Tim Schulz

    I had the chance to hear Paul Carr explain his viewpoint further while I was at the Realtime conference on Friday. His argument seems to be that stream is a real-life conversation, and as such it would be wrong & improper to pollute it with advertisements (he then sparred with Ad.ly's CEO, which I'm assuming prompted your well-written rebuttal).

    I'm still neutral on this topic, but I'd love to hear Paul defend his stream = real-life conversation assumption further, as well as hear more of your reasons behind point #5 above in light of Robert Scoble's Super-Tweet idea.

  • http://uniquevisitor.net Jeff Pester

    Paul Kedrosky (@pkedrosky) sent out a tweet this evening (below) that may help put things in some perspective ala initial reluctance to any form of advertising on the net. I realize the counter argument that will be made that ads adjacent to content and ads as content are fundamentally different. Execution and form factor will likely determine the eventual success of any initiative.

    On the whole I'm in favor of content creators being given opportunities to monetize their efforts, which in many cases is substantial.

    From Paul: Given the kerfuffle over ads on Twitter, it's time to revisit the arrival of Internet ads back in April of 1994 http://bit.ly/5pOHXM

  • http://twitter.com/davidsmuts David Smuts

    You make a fine argument in defence of in-stream advertising. To be honest, it's all in flux right now so only time will tell if this is something which users grow to tolerate or which they reject outhand. For me personally, I can accept such advertising from followers and people I'm following, so long as the ads are appropriate in context. Let's give it a try and leave the verdict open!

  • http://www.jasonspalace.com/ jasonspalace

    it seems people view the stream as sacred since so many are arguing to protect it. i foresee twitter ads being as annoying as 3rd party facebook news feed app updates – it's' a whatever, i am not going to ever unfollow you for it. but i am hoping they spend some money to woo these eyeballs and create crazy hd 3d copy. if it sucks, at least we'll know. good luck, innovate on, hope you're timing the market right.

  • http://twitter.com/brij Brij Singh

    I never get tired of using a variation of this sentence:

    'And if the market rejects in-stream then we still win. Strike one up for entrepreneurship, innovation and pushing the boundaries.'

    Just the fact that people are opinionated about this feature means we may end up seeing something worthwhile. I am surprised in-stream idea took this so long to arrive. I briefly commented on the Tweet-Adsense comparison in 2007 – http://www.onemoreidea.org/why-twitter-matters/

    Brij

  • http://www.madmagz.com Youssef Rahoui

    Interesting. In my view, as long as I'm be able to detect and parse those ads, it does not bother me that much. To sum it up: let it play but let also play filters and ad blockers.

  • http://arnoldwaldstein.com awaldstein

    Great discussion Mark.

    In a mostly free content world, where individual popularity and trust are always in flux, commercializing trust is what makes new markets and new business models so fascinating and unpredictable. It's the mark of genius in today's paradigm to build economic models that sit on top of free content and freely given and taken trust.

    My opinion is that in-stream has a chance. As you say, we are all doing it in some way today.

    Your community will vote with its ability to un-follow quickly so there's no mystery in knowing what the market thinks.

  • http://bothsidesofthetable.com msuster

    It's funny to me that people's argument is always that the technology company rather than the content creator should be in charge of ads. Think about the power that Google now has over online business (actually ALL business) due to their control over the flow of information online through their search algorithm and paid search. Finding a model that benefits both content producer and tech company seems like a reasonable approach.

  • http://bothsidesofthetable.com msuster

    Thanks, Jeff. Yes, I tried to lay off the self promotion argument but it's obvious. So I'll use myself as the example. When I Tweet about my blog – is that a conversation or an ad for my blog? True, I don't have advertising on my blog once I drive you here but many do. So …

  • http://bothsidesofthetable.com msuster

    Thanks for the input. Yes, I would rebel against ads inserted into my stream by someone I didn't choose to follow in the same way I rebel against ads by somebody @ replying me unsolicited with an ad. I think Twitter spam filters will solve the latter case and I've seen a few already.

    As for Twitter monetizing, yes, I'd like to see this, too. But not to the point that they become the dominant market force that Google became. I think many people don't realize the hold that Google has over business and I suggest to any and all to read the prescient book by John Battelle called “The Search” to understand this.

  • http://bothsidesofthetable.com msuster

    Yes, I'd welcome Paul's comments. If I understand his argument with Sean at the conference it was that Twitter is a “conversation” and Sean argued it was “content.” I haven't seen the footage but I spoke with Sean afterward. I made the point that I thought they were both right. I use Twitter as IM and as a chat service (e.g. the big cocktail party) on a regular basis. And I love this about Twitter.

    But I also use it to promote my new blog posts or those that I find interesting from others (e.g. link sharing). Twitter is unique – it is both content AND a conversation.

  • http://bothsidesofthetable.com msuster

    Thank you. It's funny because as a consumer I care as much as the next guy about reducing ads and certainly keeping the quality of the ad content high. So I'm with everybody there and I know the whole Ad.ly team is as well. That's why they limit the frequency of paid Tweets and take other measures to improve quality. But I think trying to innovate is a good thing, which I embrace. And Ad.ly is certainly innovating.

  • http://bothsidesofthetable.com msuster

    Couldn't have said it better. Agreed. Thank you.

  • http://bothsidesofthetable.com msuster

    Thanks, David. We'll see. I agree that all ads must be clearly marked.

  • http://bothsidesofthetable.com msuster

    Thanks, Arnold. As you say, there's no mystery. We'll see how the market votes.

  • http://twitter.com/davidsmuts David Smuts

    You make a fine argument in defence of in-stream advertising. To be honest, it's all in flux right now so only time will tell if this is something which users grow to tolerate or which they reject outhand. For me personally, I can accept such advertising from followers and people I'm following, so long as the ads are appropriate in context. Let's give it a try and leave the verdict open!

  • http://twitter.com/rebounces C Fletcher

    Read this while jogging today … good quick read and I agree completely with the concept of the 'artist / writer' getting paid for what they create.

    Question/Thought I've had for a long time is everyone assumes Twitter will come up with a revenue strategy (and I'm sure they have several smart people working on it)… it just doesn't appear on the surface that there is actually a revenue strategy, especially when someone like ad.ly comes along and now monetizes Twitter's service. Twitter now isn't getting a cut from ad.ly — chicken and egg I guess. It just doesn't seem that there has been a clear strategy for monetizing Twitter's stream of information — perhaps it was just to license the data to Google, Msoft, et al.

  • http://markgslater.wordpress.com markslater

    i have said this before – and i will say it again. Ads t hat are pushed – no matter what the source, or 'authetic' you want to dress it up – are still instances that i have not implicitely asked for, and are therefore- to me – strategically flawed. your examples too – are very confusing – Brad feld is Not advertizing a book – he is referring a book and there is a big difference. Brad actually takes first person action to mention a book (good or bad) and let the viewer decide on whether to take action – he does not have a 3rd party dynamically insert an 'authentic' or 'contextual' ad.

    i dont reject this model for pushing new boundaries as i dont believe it truly is pushing new boundaries. Its taking a new platform (twitter) and applying an onld set of rules – this is why its flawed in my view.

    Truth be told i am influenced by Umairs work – where he called out each silo and explained why its broken. This includes the entire notion of unsolicited ads. essnetially placing the power of control in the hands of the consumer, and juxtaposing with the implicit choice of 'no ads' if possible – i see this as strategically flawed.

    the bottom line is the vast (and i mean vast) majority of people – if given the choice – will unsub any ads. Its been proven across all silos.

    Now if you were to read an article – and tell me it was good, and provide me with a link – then that in my view is not an ad – its a referral – its wholly authentic – and its not intrusive. I get these from people all the time.

  • http://markgslater.wordpress.com markslater

    it has a chance if i initiate. It does not if i don't implicitly ask for it.

  • http://arnoldwaldstein.com awaldstein

    No argument.

  • http://arnoldwaldstein.com awaldstein

    Well argued.

    Push advertising is as old as the world. Sticking it on top of a stream is only a transport innovation. True.
    Mark says people will tolerate.
    You say no way.
    I'm not sure about people, but I wouldn't once annoyed.

    The thing that you've spurred me to think about is the lack of new business models. Affiliate works. Subscription works. Premium bump up charges work. Microeconomies in games work. Advertising based models for big brands to sit on top of our Facebook feeds will work.

    Those who figure this out win. Not hard to understand the dynamics of the social web. Creating value and a model when all is free is what we are talking about.

  • http://bothsidesofthetable.com msuster

    No, I think they will have several strategies including ads. Dick Costolo (the COO) even hinted at ads last Friday. Watch this space.

  • http://bothsidesofthetable.com msuster

    Gotcha – thanks for the input.

  • http://arnoldwaldstein.com awaldstein

    Great discussion Mark.

    In a mostly free content world, where individual popularity and trust are always in flux, commercializing trust is what makes new markets and new business models so fascinating and unpredictable. It's the mark of genius in today's paradigm to build economic models that sit on top of free content and freely given and taken trust.

    My opinion is that in-stream has a chance. As you say, we are all doing it in some way today.

    Your community will vote with its ability to un-follow quickly so there's no mystery in knowing what the market thinks.

  • http://alanpritt.com/ Alan Pritt

    Adverts are almost universally annoying in a stream of content because they interrupt what you're interested in. I think for that reason they are more acceptable in magazines or websites because you can skip over them far more easily. Many websites place an ad bang in the middle of content and that is irritating. Some create a splash page and force you to look at them before you reach the content; that usually sends me to the back button unless I'm pre-sold on the content. Animated ads also distract me from content, so they are particularly annoying. The more an ad interrupts the more annoying it is. Ads in the Twitter stream will interrupt to a certain degree. And to a certain degree they will be annoying.

    Ads on video shows are also annoying. When Jason Calacanis stops This Week in Startups to 'thank the sponsors' I understand and accept it. He does it in a reasonably interesting way and is pretty quick. But I'd prefer the adverts not to be there. I just get so much value from the content that ads are something I'm willing to watch to pay for the great content. If he had 20 sponsors, I'd probably get annoyed and switch off. If he had no sponsors, the show probably wouldn't exist. The value/annoyance balance feels right.

    For ads on Twitter the value/annoyance ratio strikes me as a little more difficult to balance. But perhaps the value is not there because nobody can afford to produce anything too valuable on a Twitter stream because there is no income available from doing so. Thinking it through, there are probably things I would accept adverts for. In fact, straight away I'm reminded of the Twitter feed my train service operates. I thought it would be useful to let me know about delays, but it covered too many routes so the noise ratio made it annoying. If they could provide me that information, but tailored specifically for the route I took, I'd be quite happy to have some ads on that. The key is that they would be providing me with genuinely valuable content in return

    Why do I follow people on Twitter if they don't give me valuable content? Because most of it is not content; it is a conversation. I think the line between content and conversations has become so blurred that people are starting to think of them as one and the same; or are at least arguing which is which. Usually on your blog I would consider the post to be the content and these comments to be a conversation. In the case of this post I would say everything is a conversation, although that is surely debatable. I'm not quite sure how I would make the distinction, but perhaps the difference is that content stands by itself and a conversation has to have context to make it valuable. Just because our words are written down and put on the internet doesn't turn them into valuable content. I worry that some people won't grasp that and will put ads on their conversations. This will ruin the conversations.

    Yes, many people promote their own work on Twitter but that's different to an ad. When I follow someone, I've already decided I'm interested and want to know what they are up to. It can also be irritating if they do it too much, but a certain amount garners genuine interest. Ads are different. You put up a link to your own blog post, and I'm likely to click. You put up a link to Paul Carr's post and I may click. But if Paul pays you to link to his post, the link will instantly lose its credibility, I won't click and it will be viewed as an interruption. Same link, but you've ruined the credibility of the link because I can no longer trust if it is worth looking at or not. Self promotion and ads are psychologically different.

    I come down close to Paul Carr's view that Twitter is more of a conversation with little to no content. However, I think ads will encourage more content to be produced. The reason I feel a little less enthusiastic is I think that also risks devaluing the conversation side. I don't know if the net gain will be a better or worse Twitter. We will see.

  • http://bothsidesofthetable.com msuster

    Thanks for your contribution, Alan. I understand your logic. I can't say that there is a clear case of how all of this will break and what will be acceptable and what won't. But in the end the market will speak and norms will set. From there I think there will still be an in-stream ad business but we'll see.

  • http://bothsidesofthetable.com msuster

    It's funny to me that people's argument is always that the technology company rather than the content creator should be in charge of ads. Think about the power that Google now has over online business (actually ALL business) due to their control over the flow of information online through their search algorithm and paid search. Finding a model that benefits both content producer and tech company seems like a reasonable approach.

  • http://bothsidesofthetable.com msuster

    Thanks, Jeff. Yes, I tried to lay off the self promotion argument but it's obvious. So I'll use myself as the example. When I Tweet about my blog – is that a conversation or an ad for my blog? True, I don't have advertising on my blog once I drive you here but many do. So …

  • http://bothsidesofthetable.com msuster

    Thanks for the input. Yes, I would rebel against ads inserted into my stream by someone I didn't choose to follow in the same way I rebel against ads by somebody @ replying me unsolicited with an ad. I think Twitter spam filters will solve the latter case and I've seen a few already.

    As for Twitter monetizing, yes, I'd like to see this, too. But not to the point that they become the dominant market force that Google became. I think many people don't realize the hold that Google has over business and I suggest to any and all to read the prescient book by John Battelle called “The Search” to understand this.

  • http://bothsidesofthetable.com msuster

    Yes, I'd welcome Paul's comments. If I understand his argument with Sean at the conference it was that Twitter is a “conversation” and Sean argued it was “content.” I haven't seen the footage but I spoke with Sean afterward. I made the point that I thought they were both right. I use Twitter as IM and as a chat service (e.g. the big cocktail party) on a regular basis. And I love this about Twitter.

    But I also use it to promote my new blog posts or those that I find interesting from others (e.g. link sharing). Twitter is unique – it is both content AND a conversation.

  • http://bothsidesofthetable.com msuster

    Thank you. It's funny because as a consumer I care as much as the next guy about reducing ads and certainly keeping the quality of the ad content high. So I'm with everybody there and I know the whole Ad.ly team is as well. That's why they limit the frequency of paid Tweets and take other measures to improve quality. But I think trying to innovate is a good thing, which I embrace. And Ad.ly is certainly innovating.

  • http://bothsidesofthetable.com msuster

    Couldn't have said it better. Agreed. Thank you.

  • http://bothsidesofthetable.com msuster

    Thanks, David. We'll see. I agree that all ads must be clearly marked.

  • http://bothsidesofthetable.com msuster

    Thanks, Arnold. As you say, there's no mystery. We'll see how the market votes.

  • http://markgslater.wordpress.com markslater

    here is another problem – the difference between being part of a delivery payload – and being THE delivery payload. web banners – are b and large ancillary to the page (the payload) while in stream ads – are themselves a 'payload'. thats a major problem. Its not like i can tweet and have it 'brought to you by XXXXX” – that might just get by – but being the primary payloads is the major problem here that only implicit requests will solve.

  • http://bothsidesofthetable.com msuster

    I get the “payload” problem. However, the only solution would be for Twitter to allow an API that allows for ad insertion below the payload like you can say which Twitter client it is. I get that this would be less intrusive. But it would surely be controlled 100% by Twitter thus tipping the balance to monetization by big tech cos rather than content producers.

    I know we won't see eye-to-eye completely on this and your arguments have merits. At some point in the next 24 months norms will form and we'll see where it ends up.

  • http://markgslater.wordpress.com markslater

    well i can see this in some way working on twitters web side – but the SMS delivery platform should remain no ad as it is. i could see a web tweet appended, not a text

  • http://arnoldwaldstein.com awaldstein

    Mark and Mark

    My favorite discussion so far on this blog because it is both not resolved, can't be by us. And has far ranging effect.

    In abstract Marks's arguments are irrefutable. If you can't 'sponsor' you can't separate yourself from the ad. Msuster's say, the road is only so wide and that is the only way to play.

    On first blush, I'd say that a fallback to what human nature tolerates is more powerful than what the pipe will allow. That being said, human nature in relationship to new technologies is changing.

    Good use of my time, thanks.

  • http://twitter.com/rebounces C Fletcher

    Read this while jogging today … good quick read and I agree completely with the concept of the 'artist / writer' getting paid for what they create.

    Question/Thought I've had for a long time is everyone assumes Twitter will come up with a revenue strategy (and I'm sure they have several smart people working on it)… it just doesn't appear on the surface that there is actually a revenue strategy, especially when someone like ad.ly comes along and now monetizes Twitter's service. Twitter now isn't getting a cut from ad.ly — chicken and egg I guess. It just doesn't seem that there has been a clear strategy for monetizing Twitter's stream of information — perhaps it was just to license the data to Google, Msoft, et al.