Twitter looks to brands for revenue

CANNES - Biz Stone, Twitter's co-founder, wants brands - which are increasingly using Twitter to communicate with customers and prospects in real time - to start paying for the unique service that the site provides.

Speaking to Media at the Cannes International Advertising Festival, the 35-year-old serial entrepreneur said he had ambitious plans to transform the microblog into a successful, ubiquitous and profitable company.

He said revenue generation was about more than just survival. “It would send out a signal that we’re building a company of enduring value,” Stone commented. That signal, he explained, will help attract more developers to create apps that will broaden Twitter’s appeal.

“The idea is that the commercial users pay for extra value. So they can still get the basic service for free, but if they want more, they pay,” he said.

Twitter’s hype far exceeds the 140-word character limit of a tweet. The microblog has more than 17 million users, and judging by comScore figures is set to exceed even this mass adoption.

Indeed, internet giants such as Apple, Google, Facebook and Microsoft have all reportedly been prepared to swoop on the fledging business — even though it does not have a commercial model and is not currently making any money.

Stone said Twitter’s most active corporate users were Dell, JetBlue, and Whole Foods, with almost one million followers.

He said a priority for Twitter was to help companies understand the potential value of Twitter. Initially, Stone admitted, “We focused too much on tweets.”

“People would say, ‘What the hell is a tweet?’ and so we switched Twitter’s pitch to companies and we began saying to them, ‘Look, here’s everything people are saying about your product’ and they couldn’t believe it.”

On expansion in Asia, he said: “People keep telling us we need to be in China. We’re working that out right now. We’re a small company still and it may not be the right time now for us to add that layer of complexity. There will always be copycats and I’m never surprised that’s the case anywhere. But we look beyond the markets to look at where it makes sense for us to go next.”