Curious case of lawsuit over value of Twitter followers is settled

PhoneDog sued ex-employee Noah Kravitz, alleging he took 17,000 of its followers -- which it valued at $2.50 each -- with him when he left. Now, the two sides have settled their dispute.

Daniel Terdiman Former Senior Writer / News
Daniel Terdiman is a senior writer at CNET News covering Twitter, Net culture, and everything in between.
Daniel Terdiman
2 min read

For those who would have liked to know the value of a Twitter follower, you'll have to wait for another lawsuit.

Noah Kravitz

Last December, the mobile phone site PhoneDog sued former employee Noah Kravitz when he left the company, alleging that he took as many as 17,000 of its Twitter followers with him. PhoneDog estimated each follower was worth $2.50, money it wanted back.

The case drew national attention because it was the first with the potential to put a monetary value on an individual Twitter follower. As an employee, Kravitz had produced video blogs and reviews for PhoneDog and had tweeted as @PhoneDog_Noah, building up a following of about 17,000. When he left the company, he switched handles to @NoahKravitz, but took the followers with him -- with PhoneDog's blessing, he has said.

Now, the suit has apparently been settled. In a statement today, Kravitz announced that he and PhoneDog have reached an agreement under which Kravitz will get to keep his Twitter account -- and his followers. Unfortunately, for those wishing to see a value established for a follower, and thankfully for those who shuddered at the notion, no other terms of the settlement were disclosed. That means the question of how much a follower is worth remains unresolved.

"When I started with [PhoneDog] there was no Twitter and we didn't have a YouTube channel," Kravitz wrote. "In retrospect I'm sure we all wish we'd been able to foresee what was coming and negotiate specific terms ahead of time. But sometimes in this industry you have to move quickly to seize opportunities and that's what we always did. As a result, we had to sort through some things after the fact, and I'm glad we were able to."

PhoneDog could not be immediately reached for comment.

Although there is nothing in Kravitz' statement that addresses the financial element of the settlement, his language suggests an amicable conclusion to the dispute. It's also, it seems, a teachable moment.

"If anything good has come of this," Kravitz wrote, "I hope it's that other employees and employers out there can recognize the importance of social media to companies and individuals both. Good contracts and specific work agreements are important, and the responsibility for constructing them lies with both parties. Work it out ahead of time so you can focus on doing good work together -- that's the most important thing."

Today, @NoahKravitz has 23,378 followers.