Peter Kafka

Recent Posts by Peter Kafka

Twitter’s New Video Plan: Ads, Brought to You by Ads

Want to know what Twitter is trying to do as it pushes into video?

No need to wait: You can see it right now.

Here’s an example from earlier this month. It’s a highlight clip, embedded in a Tweet from the NCAA March Madness tournament. The video comes from Time Warner’s Turner cable network, and it’s preceded by a Coke ad.

Twitter didn’t make a lot of noise about this when they tried it out in the past few weeks, and most people who did notice it paid attention to the fact that Twitter was hosting the highlight clips in something close to real time. When it worked right, you could see a replay within minutes of the actual event. Pretty cool.

But it’s the ad model that’s more meaningful here: Content owner puts (a short) video on Twitter, a sponsor pays to promote/distribute the content on Twitter, and Twitter and the content owner share the revenue.

And that’s what Twitter is trying to build upon, as it talks to other TV networks and content owners about doing that sort of thing at scale, as Bloomberg reported last night.

So that’s a big deal — because if it works, it creates yet another revenue stream for Twitter, and pushes it closer to the TV ad dollars it (and every other digital company) pines for.

But it’s also not a really big deal — because it’s not much more than sticking an ad (for a product) on an ad (for a TV show).

And by the way — if a TV network wants to just put up a clip on Twitter, it can do that right now, without talking to Twitter about it at all.

So why bother working out a deal with Twitter? After all, the ad revenue that Twitter would get from this kind of arrangement will be much more meaningful to Dick Costolo and company than to the TV guys. And the TV guys have the content, so they’ve got the leverage, right?

Right. Which is why Twitter is telling the networks that this will be good for them, too: Their argument, according to people who have heard the pitch, is that Twitter can figure out how to display the networks’ content in front of Twitter users who might not know about their channels/shows, but might be inclined to like them if they did.

How can they do that? That’s the premise behind Bluefin Labs, the data startup Twitter bought earlier this year for $90 million.

Bluefin specializes in figuring out what people are saying on Twitter about TV, and what that means. And while that argument doesn’t convince everyone who hears about it — one executive I talked to today described it as “hocus-pocus” — it can sound convincing in the moment, at the very least.

Here’s the extended version of that pitch, via a 16-minute demo from Bluefin founder Deb Roy at our D: Dive Into Media conference in February. If you’re in a hurry, skip ahead to the nine-minute mark, where Roy starts talking about the kinds of people who like a particular Dodge ad that ran during the Super Bowl:


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