Five initial thoughts about the Twitter S-1By http://profile.typepad.com/1237764140s22740 // October 8, 2013 in Ad-Free Commercial Web, My Favorite Risk Factors, Twitter
I've read only the prospectus summary and merely skimmed the risk factors, so the following comments are preliminary.
- Respect for users. The drafting in the Twitter S-1 is careful to distinguish between content, which is always contributed by users, newsmakers or advertisers, and products and services, which are the contributions of Twitter, the company. This is important. It may reflect an embedded corporate culture that will save Twitter from Facebook's regressive indifference to user autonomy.
- Asymmetry and mass-reach. That said, products and services impact or potentially even drive what content is presented. The document is tense with conflict between respect for the originating asymmetrical nature of user interaction on Twitter, and an inorganic imperative to make Twitter an effective broadcast channel for brand marketers, political spin doctors, journalists and advertisers.
- Spam and advertising. The tension is especially evident in a risk factor about spam. The drafter provides a generic definition of spam that fairly and without irony encompasses promoted tweets.
- The revenue model overlooks two of three constituents. The prospectus summary speaks of three key categories of constituents: users, platform partners, and advertisers. The disclosure very nearly apologizes for not generating revenue directly from users or platform partners, but does point out that increased activity by the latter two constituents makes the system more valuable for advertisers.
- A hedge against advertising's decline. Question for Twitter: why not monetize directly from users and platform partners? If the fear is, many users and platform partners will not pay, then let those thrifty constituents continue to use Twitter for free, and advertise to them. Consider this move as extending to advertisers, too, Twitter's originating efficiencies of asymmetry: promoters will never have to pay for reaching people who have low tolerance for spam. This move would also be a hedge against the declining value of targeted advertising; and users and platform partners who pay can be charged at least the value they remove from the advertising network.