Would you pay to use Twitter? Some say they would
Revered American film critic Roger Ebert asked his 196,838 followers if they would be willing to pay to use Twitter — 20% of them said that they would cough up for the privilege as the debate about how will Twitter make money continues.
Ebert was move to ask the question after a piece of US research found that absolutely zero US tweeters would be prepared to pay for Twitter. A study by the Annenberg School for Communications said that 0.00% (yes, not just 0, but 0.00) of the 1,900 people who took part in its survey would not fork out for the social network.
Ebert, a one time Twitter sceptic, and now a prolific tweeter clearly smelt a rat – describing that 0.00% as “improbably low” – and conducted a survey asking his own followers whether they’d be prepared to pay. Okay, so 80% said that they wouldn’t; but that left a not-insignificant 20% who said that they would.
Writing on his new blog, he said: “I tweeted with the same question to my 196,000 followers on Twitter, asking them not to forward or link so that the sample would be reasonably pure.
“They’re not great figures for Twitter. But they must be surprising news for Annenberg, suggesting their survey was seriously flawed. If almost 20% of Twitter users would pay something (no amount was specified), I leave it to statisticians to calculate how much higher that number is than 0.00%.”
His piece attracted some interesting comments; not least one from Raaawb which reckoned that both surveys’ findings might be valid: “I’d bet that for the other survey, folks participating probably wouldn’t have wanted to encourage Twitter (or anyone) to think they could initiate a payment system for such a service, whereas here you have indicated that you find a particular value you yourself would pay for — and presented that way, I’d think that some would agree on that level.”
Overall, Ebert’s followers who were against payment argued two things – that Twitter’s strength relies on its universality and that a lot of people who use Twitter are predominantly ‘followers’, rather than tweeters.
I side with the anti-payment camp. Twitter’s not going to make money by charging, because it would lose so much of its membership base were it to, that it would become a less attractive prospect for brands. And surely it’s brands and that will generate money for Twitter (once it gets round to exploiting its commercial potential, that is).
Even Ebert asked that perennial question – how can Twitter make money?
“I have no idea how Twitter can pay for itself,” he said. “I wouldn’t mind a reasonable number of ads in my stream. There are ads on almost every other site or service on the web. If software analysed my (public) steam and targeted ads I would theoretically find interesting, that would make sense.”
He doesn’t have the answers, he added (although the ad suggestion makes sense). But he did prove that the Annenberg research was dubious. The irony is that while his own research discredits that 0.00%, it reinforces the same argument: that unless Twitter wants to haemorrhage users and thus jeopardise its commercial potential, it should remain free.