Is Twitter going to turn your mundane messages about salads, cats, and Arcade Fire concerts into revenue dollars? Signs are pointing to yes, as oddball messages appended to Twitter's microblog "tweets" indicate that the company is dabbling in text message ads. Some other folks around the tech blog world are picking up on this, and they seem to be in agreement.
Like so many things, it all started in Gotham--and, in the interest of full disclosure, it involves yours truly. On Monday morning there was a bit of New York tech-scene chit-chat over Twitter, as local entrepreneur Nate Westheimer raised the possibility of forming a band called the "Silicon Alley Cats" and put out a call for auditions. I offered to play cowbell, since it's pretty clear that the world needs more cowbell.
A fellow New Yorker, Charlie O'Donnell, received my claim to musical talent on his cell phone and noticed something curious--a "tip" below my "tweet," utilizing the remaining characters of the text message length allocation to say "Wow, you look good." Curious as to what it meant, O'Donnell posted a screenshot online. (It's also a rare glimpse behind the velvet rope of my friends-only Twitter feed. Enjoy it while it lasts.) He speculated that Twitter is testing out the potential for inserting advertisements at the bottom of "tweets," a way to solve its somewhat pressing revenue problem and actually rake in some cash.
I've sent out a message to Twitter (through e-mail, not a tweet, mind you) in order to find out exactly what's up.
It seems a little invasive.
I have no idea why Twitter decided that I should be telling O'Donnell that he looks good when I can't actually see that and judge it for myself (though I'm sure he looked great this morning). Likewise, if it were an ad, I'd feel kind of uneasy about it. But if mobile advertising really is the gold mine that we're all hearing it is, we should probably get used to this sort of thing.
For the record, I don't actually know how to play the cowbell.