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Elusive 'Twitter ads' spotted in the wild...or not

Reports surface that the microblogging service is testing ads in its member feeds. Let's face it: Twitter needs to figure out how to make money before it becomes an endangered species.

This post was updated at 9:08 a.m. PDT to reflect the fact that Twitter has denied that it was testing advertisements.

If an ad shows up in a Twitter feed and no one's awake to see it, did it really appear?

Reports surfaced overnight on Monday that advertisements were appearing sporadically in some of the micro-messaging service's Web-based streams, suggesting that perhaps Twitter may be close to losing its punchline status as the Silicon Valley darling that hasn't earned a dime yet. A handful of blogs wrote about it, but it seems like most Twitter users have yet to see them. I didn't see any, but descriptions seem to indicate that they're interspersed in a user's friend-list feed much like the advertisements in Facebook's News Feed.

Twitter has denied that these were advertisements, suggesting that the blog tipsters were mistaken in the first place.

We had a false alarm with Twitter ads once before, when entrepreneur and blogger Charlie O'Donnell noted that"Twitter Tips" were appearing in the whitespace of mobile posts that were shorter than the 140-character maximum. He speculated that they were perhaps a test for advertisements, but nothing has come out of it.

Either way, given the economic climate these days, it's about time Twitter made a buck or two. Third-party clients using the service's API, like Twitterrific, are already pulling in ad revenues, and the tech industry nerd-herd is already addicted enough so that they probably wouldn't jump ship if a few ads appeared here and there.