Associated Press stirs anger on Twitter with sponsored Tweets announcement

The Associated Press stirs up anger on Twitter over promoted tweetsThe Associated Press last night stirred up a small storm on Twitter as it announced that it will begin to run sponsored Tweets in the timeline of its main @AP Twitter account and signed Samsung as its first sponsor. The story has raised concerns among some journalists as to whether this would damage AP’s credibility as a news organisation. Some have gone as as far to say they were unfollowing AP, that it shouldn’t do it and that it devalues the brand (check out the Storify reaction below).

What these aren’t are official Promoted Tweets from Twitter, but rather promotional messages sent out as Tweets on @AP. Initially it plans to send out two a day this week timed with the 2013 International CES – the consumer electronics show — in Las Vegas. Hardly a huge deal.

Personally I find it really difficult to work out why people are getting so worked up about it? Why would you unfollow a great news source and brand that works hard to give you lots of content for free?

All we are talking about here is an editorial channel that is Tweeting two clearly marked ads a day. Most of its 1.5 million followers won’t even see them, but Associated Press will generate some much needed revenue and advertisers will be happy.

I really can’t see why anyone would be offended. Does it impact the quality of AP news? Of course not. Does it hit the integrity of AP journalists? Again the answer has to be no.

My gut reaction is that the wider world, and most of its followers, will be happy with the situation and consider a couple of well flagged sponsored Tweets perfectly acceptable (AP’s follower count is going up as I write and not down).

The Associated Press is not even the first to do this. The Washington Post’s online magazine Slate, for instance, has sent out a sponsored tweet promoting Samsung notebooks.

It is also something we have experimented with at Haymarket. We Tweet relevant jobs (no more than three a week) on our main @brandrepublic @MarketingUK accounts, which have several hundred thousand followers between them and continue to grow.

AP says the effort builds on its expansion into new advertising for mobile and social media and says the tweets will be labelled “SPONSORED TWEETS”. In addition the content for those tweets will be provided by Samsung and handled by staff outside the AP newsroom.

Lou Ferrara, the AP managing editor overseeing the newsroom social media efforts. Said: “We are thrilled to be taking this next step in social media. As an industry, we must be looking for new ways to develop revenues while providing good experiences for advertisers and consumers. At the same time, advertisers and audiences expect AP to do that without compromising its core mission of breaking news.”

Unlike some celebrities who do this, the AP is being transparent and open. This isn’t like Wayne Rooney, the England and Manchester United football star, pumping Nike on his Twitter account and getting slapped by the Advertising Standards Authority for doing so.

AP isn’t trying to pass off ads as news or genuine editorial Tweets as Rooney was doing and others have done before. This is all above board and something that other brands should try — they just need to ensure that the execution is good and that the frequency is sensibly capped.