Peter Kafka

Recent Posts by Peter Kafka

As Promised: Here Come the Twitter Ads

Twitter’s status as an ad-free service is just about over.

Starting today, the company will run ads–it prefers the term “promoted tweets”–on its Twitter.com site. Down the road, the ads will show up in the third-party software many Twitter users rely on to access the service.

As I reported in March, Twitter is rolling out the service, modeled on Google’s (GOOG) AdWords, in conjunction with a presentation COO Dick Costolo is giving at an Ad Age conference in New York today. Topic of his keynote address: “How brands can work with Twitter.”

And as I reported in February, Twitter’s ads will initially show up only in search results. That’s a tactic that both limits their reach and the possibility that they’ll upset users who are used to an ad-free stream.

But depending on which report you read, Twitter is debating whether to move the ads into users’ regular streams (Ad Age) or has already decided to do so (New York Times).

The latter makes a lot more sense to me: If Twitter only showed ads to searchers, it may have a very difficult time reaching most users.

That’s in part because Twitter’s search results are pretty lousy–if you don’t believe me, go ahead and try it yourself. And it’s in part because Twitter isn’t a search engine; it’s a media company that will make money by rounding up eyeballs and showing them marketing messages.

That’s an important distinction, and one that Twitter itself has been loath to acknowledge. But you can see the company grudgingly accepting that reality now as it moves to control more of its platform.

At the same time, Twitter needs the biggest possible audience for its ads. Which means it has to court the ecosystem of third-party developers it has encouraged over the years so that they’ll run the ads as well.

That romancing got a lot more difficult last week when the company scared the beejebus out of its developers. And it got more difficult yesterday with the launch of TweetUp, a rival ad platform backed by serious players.

So Twitter’s team has a lot of selling to do. That effort starts with advertisers in New York today, then switches to programmers in San Francisco on Wednesday. We’ll be covering both pitches, so stay tuned.


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I’m a giant vat of creative juices.

— David Pogue on why he’s joining Yahoo