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A Non-Sucky Twitter Business Model

Dave Winer posted today about how much the #dickbar sucks, and more importantly, how rudderless Twitter seems to be in finding a solid business model.

Well I've got one, and it's quite simple.  Allow accounts to charge to be followed. A one time fee, or a subscription.  Twitter takes a cut, say 30% like the Apple app store.  

This is ideal for a platform as it creates new business opportunities for Twitter users.  eBay created all kinds of small businesses, as has Amazon, Etsy, Google, etc.  

The most obvious uses at first would be things like stock picks or selling subscriptions to digital goods. 

It could also be used by sites as a very lightweight payment mechanism.  Follow this account (Twitter handles payment) and you then get access to an app or website which is using the Twitter API.

It would also be a way for people to support things they care about in a public way.  I can follow the paid account for a band I like, which gives me special access, exclusive mp3s maybe, but it also puts an icon on my profile showing that I support the band.  There's a lot of social/karma/reputation value in that.  Similarly, it could be used by non-profits as a way to raise money, maybe Twitter would even waive the fees.

If done correctly, it would be the simple micropayments and subscription mechanism people have dreamed about for years but no one has ever been able to pull off. Twitter is in the perfect position to do it.

UPDATE:  A few more thoughts based on great feedback:

I'm not too concerned about retweets. New-style retweets could just be disabled for accounts that require payment, just like protected Twitter accounts already have retweets disabled. Old style RTs could be identified a good portion of the time via algorithms, not unlike how Twitter has to deal with spam.  If YouTube can identify copyrighted content in videos, Twitter can certainly identify it in 140 chars. Google has to deal with click fraud, every business model like this needs anti-fraud measures.

Some have brought up how easy it would be to repost content on external sites, but people already do that for every type of digital content available, and it's not the end of the world, so I don't think it matters.  iTunes sells plenty of music and you can still download all of it on the Pirate Bay.

This could be as simple as clicking the "follow" button and confirming the charge.   People would keep their credit card information on file (like they do with iTunes), so Twitter would have to tighten up security and make sure people trusted them with that info.  They are already adding HTTPS support, so they are well on their way.

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Showing 120 reactions


@twiterbloggerd tweeted link to this page. 2011-03-25 21:40:51 -0700
A Non-Sucky Twitter Business Model - 3dna: Allow accounts to charge to be followed. A one time fee, or a subscri... http://bit.ly/fJzxlS
@twiterbloggered tweeted link to this page. 2011-03-25 21:40:51 -0700
A Non-Sucky Twitter Business Model - 3dna: Allow accounts to charge to be followed. A one time fee, or a subscri... http://bit.ly/fJzxlS
@getpaidontwiter tweeted link to this page. 2011-03-25 20:37:41 -0700
A Non-Sucky Twitter Business Model - 3dna: Allow accounts to charge to be followed. A one time fee, or a subscri... http://bit.ly/fJzxlS
@jessatinsiteful tweeted link to this page. 2011-03-25 14:57:30 -0700
RT @socialmedia411: A Non-Sucky Twitter Business Model (Jim Gilliam): http://bit.ly/eAsBbC [Yes, definitely a viable revenue stream]
@Vish8185 tweeted link to this page. 2011-03-25 13:43:17 -0700
RT @socialmedia411: A Non-Sucky Twitter Business Model (Jim Gilliam): http://bit.ly/eAsBbC [Yes, definitely a viable revenue stream]
@HadiShafie tweeted link to this page. 2011-03-25 13:35:08 -0700
RT @socialmedia411: A Non-Sucky Twitter Business Model (Jim Gilliam): http://bit.ly/eAsBbC [Yes, definitely a viable revenue stream]
@markdrasutis tweeted link to this page. 2011-03-25 13:21:09 -0700
RT @socialmedia411: A Non-Sucky Twitter Business Model (Jim Gilliam): http://bit.ly/eAsBbC [Yes, definitely a viable revenue stream]
@StevenDuque tweeted link to this page. 2011-03-25 13:05:46 -0700
RT @socialmedia411: A Non-Sucky Twitter Business Model (Jim Gilliam): http://bit.ly/eAsBbC [Yes, definitely a viable revenue stream]
@LCoates1 tweeted link to this page. 2011-03-25 13:02:55 -0700
RT @socialmedia411: A Non-Sucky Twitter Business Model (Jim Gilliam): http://bit.ly/eAsBbC [Yes, definitely a viable revenue stream]
@SocialMedia411 tweeted link to this page. 2011-03-25 13:00:35 -0700
A Non-Sucky Twitter Business Model (Jim Gilliam): http://bit.ly/eAsBbC [Yes, definitely a viable revenue stream]
commented 2011-03-25 08:51:42 -0700
Yes @NewEnglandMultimedia. I assume that people will still want to have their normal accounts, but that they might create another account which required payment. So @justinbieber is free, but @justinbieberfans might have exclusive content, early access to ticket sales, that sort of thing.
@knightopia mentioned @ link to this page. 2011-03-25 07:36:59 -0700
Should Twitter Charge Businesses To Be Followed? @jgilliam Says Yes: http://ht.ly/4mjT5 (via @socialtimes) /// WDYT?
@Twisness tweeted link to this page. 2011-03-24 13:31:28 -0700
Web| A Non-Sucky Twitter Business Model - 3dna: Dave Winer posted today about how much the #dickbar sucks, and m... http://bit.ly/gMVJr1
@renitschki tweeted link to this page. 2011-03-24 05:54:22 -0700
RT @some_comm: Würdet Ihr dafür zahlen, jemand anderem zu folgen? http://bit.ly/eo7SPZ #fb
@thalertom tweeted link to this page. 2011-03-24 03:45:20 -0700
@some_comm Erinnert mich ein wenig an Verlage, die für online Artikel Geld nehmen (oder es zumindest versuchen) http://bit.ly/eo7SPZ
@some_comm tweeted link to this page. 2011-03-24 03:37:35 -0700
Würdet Ihr dafür zahlen, jemand anderem zu folgen? http://bit.ly/eo7SPZ #fb
@newsee tweeted link to this page. 2011-03-22 12:21:22 -0700
Surely WHEN not IF??! ... What if Twitter allowed people to charge their followers? http://t.co/u12lN4H
@islandlibrarian tweeted link to this page. 2011-03-21 17:51:48 -0700
RT @alexgrech: A Non-Sucky Twitter Business Model. No ads and lots of apps. http://r2.ly/brnf
@TeaWithCarl tweeted link to this page. 2011-03-21 13:00:33 -0700
Liquid error: incompatible encoding regexp match (UTF-8 regexp with ASCII-8BIT string)
@jmandia tweeted link to this page. 2011-03-21 11:35:15 -0700
“@davewiner: A Non-Sucky Twitter Business Model. I like it. No ads and lots of apps. http://t.co/lBh4CIk” interesting idea +1
@Mike_Seery tweeted link to this page. 2011-03-21 11:17:42 -0700
RT @mathewi: interesting idea -- what if Twitter allowed people to charge their followers? http://t.co/u12lN4H /via @davewiner
@xeroksUK tweeted link to this page. 2011-03-21 10:37:58 -0700
RT @mathewi: interesting idea -- what if Twitter allowed people to charge their followers? http://t.co/u12lN4H /via @davewiner
@bschmeck tweeted link to this page. 2011-03-21 10:04:00 -0700
RT @davewiner: A Non-Sucky Twitter Business Model. I like it. No ads and lots of apps. http://r2.ly/brnf
@MarkJCNY tweeted link to this page. 2011-03-21 09:51:48 -0700
RT @mathewi: interesting idea -- what if Twitter allowed people to charge their followers? http://t.co/u12lN4H /via @davewiner
@brimanning tweeted link to this page. 2011-03-21 09:43:40 -0700
RT @jamieforrest: Interesting idea for a Twitter business model, but would it sully the ecosystem just a bit? http://t.co/NFO6vYW via @d ...
@brandoncondict tweeted link to this page. 2011-03-21 09:30:02 -0700
A Non-Sucky Twitter Business Model - 3dna http://j.mp/gY6wQU
@ginacooper retweeted @ 2011-03-21 08:59:29 -0700
updated my pay-to-follow @twitter biz model post with how to handle RTs, the primary critique http://t.co/nzy7A1m
@observaitress tweeted link to this page. 2011-03-21 08:31:44 -0700
RT @mathewi: interesting idea -- what if Twitter allowed people to charge their followers? http://t.co/u12lN4H /via @davewiner
@StephenEdgar tweeted link to this page. 2011-03-21 08:17:38 -0700
RT @jessenewhart: A Non-Sucky Twitter Business Model http://goo.gl/sqaAu by @slowdive
@jgilliam tweeted link to this page. 2011-03-21 07:54:38 -0700
RT @davewiner: A Non-Sucky Twitter Business Model. I like it. No ads and lots of apps. http://r2.ly/brnf
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