I like Twitter. I hope it lasts. So I want it to have a business model. This week, I was in a discussion on that subject with really smart people, some even with useful experience. Afterward, I had a really radical idea for a business model: Ask people to pay for using it. Read on for discussion, and a survey.
But First... · Twitter is going to have to make their service about as reliable as the Web in general, so it’s there whenever you have something to say, and people who care what you say will hear it PDQ.
Here’s a bold prediction: Twitter will do this, and will do it soon.
All the Tweets You Can Eat: $5.00/month · Given a snappy, reliable, Twitter that has a community of a few hundred thousand, including some combination of the people you want to track and the people you want to reach, would you pay a few bucks a month for it? I would, in a flash.
Twitter is called a “microblogging service”, and while you can blog for free, people who take it seriously mostly don’t. I don’t hear much complaining about the cost of blogging.
Variations · Yes, a charge-to-Twitter would be a barrier to entry, which my pony-tailed CEO is at pains to say is bad, and he’s right. So, here some introductory offers:
Screw it, Twitter has already proven its value. You wanna use it, please cough up $30 first for the next six months.
No charge for reading the Web interface, but you have to pay for anything involving push.
Grandfather in everyone who’s already Tweeting on the day the charges start; anyone who starts after that has to pay. That’s a very Web-2.0 of leveraging a community, n’est-ce pas?
Slight variation: Grandfather in the existing user base, but only for six months.
Free for everyone, but only for the first month.
... or, but only the first 25 followers or followees.
... or, but only the first two tweets per day.
Not For Everyone · Making Twitter a commercial service would limit its ubiquity. But here’s the secret: I personally don’t think Twitter will ever achieve the ubiquity of web browsing or even blogging. You gotta be a pretty deranged info-junkie to find it worthwhile in the first place. Fortunately, between the worlds of technology, politics, and finance (just the ones I know about), there is a pretty big population thus deranged, and they are the kind of people who are most likely to pay anyhow.
Yeah, you won’t get the penniless high-school students. That doesn’t feel like a fatal flaw to me.