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What Twitter Revenue Model, for Democracy's Sake ?

A man is silhouetted against a video screen with a Twitter and a Facebook logo as he poses with an Dell laptop in this photo illustration taken in the central Bosnian town of Zenica, August 14, 2013. REUTERS/Dado Ruvic (BOSNIA AND HERZEGOVINA - Tags: BUSINESS TELECOMS) - RTX12L7W

What Twitter Revenue Model, for Democracy’s Sake ?

21 février 2017
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After being a major tool for recent democratic revolutions worldwide, Twitter is dying from not generating profits, say all the media outlets, from the New Yorker to the Wall Street Journal, to TechCrunch. Why isn’t anyone offering options for a Twitter revenue model to ensure its future?

It seems all journalists are mesmerized by Facebook‘s business model, one based on attracting an ultra wide audience (1.7 billion, per Facebook) and monetizing it through an exceptional ad targeting and community management tool. Their conclusion is Twitter has failed at copying this model. Hell, yes! Good on Facebook, advertisers and shopping. Now to a more intellectual challenge…

Twitter is, among the Californian social media networks, the one for brainier types. Yes, you’ve heard the media talk about the sexist trolls using it to molest celebrities. But if, like me, you use Twitter to connect in a meaningful manner with experts of all sorts, interact with companies for customer service and get your daily news fix ( other than the latest star-studded buzz), they don’t affect you much.

Don’t be Shy Twitter: You’re a Selective, ‘Public Service’ Communications Tool

Twitter helps activists- or simply concerned netizens – organize ( through its hashtag- based trending topic feature). For this reason, it should:

  • Stop trying to emulate Facebook’s media, video-focused advertising model and find its own revenue model.
  • As a tool for democracy and client service, add some much needed privacy-focused & curation functionalities
  • Open its governing team to women and the rest of the world to escape from the tunnel vision it’s stuck in.

 

Finding a Twitter Revenue Model for a Selective Media :

Twitter should adopt one, or a mix of these alternative revenue models, as a selective rather than a mainstream media outlet:

  • The Wikipedia Foundation Model :
  • Wikipedia is now (almost too) comfortably funded through donations from its users: $15 on average in fact, that raised $72 M in 2015. Certainly, Wikipedia has more users than Twitter and has most likely helped out more individuals in search of information. The latest number circulating is about 410 million unique viewers per month in May 2014 on Wikipedia. Twitter’s latest number is 300 million MAU (Monthly Active Users).

 

  • Get Its Ambassadors Involved, à la Wikipedia :

 

  • Twitter generates the same passion amongst its supporters (journalists, thinkers, politicians, activists, and geeks) as Wikipedia. So why not involve them more in monitoring Twitter? Wonder how many New York Times Journalists are on Twitter? Here’s a list of 722 of them!
  • As an alternative to donations, a Twitter revenue model could leverage, in part, Individual (independent from organizations) Ambassador Twitter accounts, that for $25 a year ensure all the person’s tweets will be shown. And give these premium accounts a say on how Twitter is run. Here’s a link to San Francisco Consult‘s poll on the idea, launched February 3rd 2017.
  • Why not make a splash (as well as good business decisions) by inviting these ambassadors to vote, through its poll feature, on how much Twitter should charge for sponsored tweets from various celebrities so the Dalai Lama could get a break versus you know who. 😉

 

  • Purchase by a group of Media Companies:

Once the valuation has gone down a tad more, it could be bought up by a group of forward-thinking news companies across the world. They would consider Twitter as a tool to protect freedom of speech and the quality of their reporting, as well as a way to reach those educated information junkies I’m a part of that don’t subscribe to their online or offline publications anymore.

  • Impose Sponsored Tweets to Commercial Accounts, à la Facebook Fan Pages:

Much like Facebook, a Twitter revenue model could include charging personalities or companies who manage accounts with massive followers, arguing they are commercial in nature and have no reason to use Twitter free of charge! Facebook, since 2015, has kept fan page creation free, but it effectively charges fan pages owners to truly reach the audience they paid to attract in the first place… It seems Twitter has just started implementing this by the way judging from the screen shot below! 

Adding Functionalities to Fit a High End, ‘Public Service’ Communications Tool:

It can (surprisingly, yes) take a lesson or two from Facebook on functionalities that users would really appreciate though. Rather than keep a silly focus on video as the holy grail, it should add the following functionalities to improve on its strength as a democratic tool:

Sophisticate Twitter Privacy Settings up to Facebook Standards:

  • Enable, much like Facebook, users to determine if a tweet will be private or public when they wish to, thereby keeping its use as a public communications tool but protecting its use as a private organization tool, if need be, on the same account.
  • Enable individuals to subscribe to an individual’s public tweets. Today, one can only subscribe to all of a person’s tweets, which are either all private or all public
  • Enable users to hide any elements of their profiles to the public they wish to protect from spying eyes in the US, Russia, and elsewhere…

Help Twitter Users Better Curate Content and Have Conversations:

  • Trying to keep track of a conversation on Twitter is prone to giving major headaches. Show me a good olde forum thread if you need to, but keep it simple!
  • Enable users to save tweetsin an truly useful manner. Nobody understands the functionalities behind Faves or those weird Lists on Twitter.

Treat Twitter Users Like Intelligent Adults again:

It should go back to its previous algorithm that showed users ALL the tweets of those we followed, (well, especially the Ambassador accounts and the sponsored tweets from Commercial accounts suggested above) not some Facebook-like selection based on engagement – a dangerous metric encouraging irrational, sensationalist content. I’m on Twitter, treat me like an intelligent adult!

A few more adjustments could most likely be made to improve on this unique democratic tool to keep its function as a network for people around the world in a meaningful manner while keeping abusers at bay.

Such a powerful tool as Twitter should not be held by one single entity anyway, it should be owned by a diverse group of interests. Who knows, depending on finding a viable Twitter revenue model, we might see the dawning of the United Nations 2.0 – or of Journalism 2.0?