Twitter’s business model (or rather lack of one) is a topic of endless debate. Like many successful startups that came before it the company has been successful in getting users and usage when it doesn’t charge a cent. But ramping up revenue is a different matter. And Twitter is now in the process of doing just that.
Most startups in this position simply sell themselves before it becomes too much of a problem and let their new parent deal with it (see YouTube). A nice side benefit of having no revenue is that the MBAs can’t use your actual financials to determine your valuation.
Twitter is likely to do the same, but these uncertain financial times mean Twitter can’t count on a definite exit anytime soon (although I’d bet money Google buys them within six months).
When I interviewed CEO Evan Williams last July he gave a few hints about what Twitter might eventually do to monetize:
MA: What is your revenue model? Do you know yet? Have you thought about it?
EW: We’ve though about it. We had to do some thinking about that to raise a bunch of money, but it’s not actively in development right now. The broad strokes on the matter are obviously Twitter is being used for a lot of commercial purposes right now, in addition to social purposes. We think that works pretty well. We think there’s a lot of companies that we’ve talked to that seem to be getting a lot of value out of it. If that continues, if that becomes a rich world for users and the companies, we think we can extract some revenue from that.
MA: It might be difficult to define commercial activity versus not, right?
EW: It might in some cases, but in a lot of cases it will be really clear. I mean Woot.com is selling stuff. So maybe we just say, this is commercial usage and you need to pay for that and maybe there’s some features you get on top of that, that wouldn’t be as meaningful to personal users. There’s other cases, like yours, is that commercial or personal?
But now’s obviously the time. Twitter recently posted a Product Manager job description at Jobscore.
The primary responsibility: “Define products and feature sets of commercial-oriented Twitter applications.” The description goes on: “As Twitter’s first product manager focused on revenue generation, you will play a defining role in the formulation of Twitter’s business. Your job will be to lead the definition and execution of the products and features that will lead to monetization of the Twitter platform.”
Got an idea as to how Twitter can turn on the cash spigot? Send in your resume.