Enjoy It While It Lasts.

May 9, 2009 at 1:03 pm (By Amba)

All of it — Twitter, YouTube, Facebook.  Because it all could end.  Why?  Not because of a solar storm, terrorist attack, or other grid-busting catastrophe.  Because none of the above are making money.  Venture capitalists are keeping them all going, while entrepreneurs with a late-’90s, free-lunch fantasy hangover aren’t scratching their heads hard enough about how they could be monetized.  But everyone’s having such a good time!

Would you pay a penny a tweet?  Or, say, $6.95 a month?  Would it cramp your style?  Or would it be as bracing as the 140-character limit?



  1. wj said,

    I’d be more likely to pay a penny to NOT tweet. (Or be tweeted at.)

    If I’m going to be subject to interruption, I want to at least get something that is long enough to tell me something interesting or useful. 140 characters might be enough for an alert in case of a real problem. But not to communicate anything else.

  2. Randy said,

    No, I probably would not. There have been rumors that the founders (& venture capitalists backing them) turned down upwards of $1 billion for Twitter. As they obviously haven’t figured out how to make it pay, and there are only so many brain-dead deep-pockets to go around, I think that was a mistake. (BWDIK?) How long can Google, for example, keep funding Blogger? I realize they derive ad revenue from many blogs that participate in Ad Sense but I wonder if the income comes anywhere near to paying the bills. For that matters, who is funding WordPress?

    This, I think is Rupert Murdoch’s point: ultimately someone has to pay something or no one is going to be able to access anything.

  3. reader_iam said,

    A penny a tweet? Probably not–but then, despite my recent low output, I’ve racked up 2,950 tweets in the past three months and have read way, way, way more than that. But $6.95 a month? Sure. Quite more than that, even. Theoretically, the same goes for Blogger, though since I don’t blog and read so few blogs anymore, I’d likely not bother right now. However, if the interest in reading blogs and commenting on them rose again, sure I’d pay $6.95 a month; I’d pay more like 2-3 times than that. (If the interest in maintaining a blog publicly resurfaced AND I wanted actual traffic, I’d pay even more; however, to be truthful, for a private, small blog without ads etc., I’d just set one up on one of our servers rather than give more than a token sum to someone else; otherwise, should they monetize, I’m giving ’em content for free & just paying for platform when I don’t have to. I can write for cheap in the real world.)

  4. reader_iam said,

    I think consumers have gotten the idea that writers, musicians & etc. do what they do for the joy of it and ought to be grateful there’s an audience. I think that’s why it’s going to be difficult to find a solution… at least one that can support a reasonable staff while still making one or more people uber-rich, which is what, I think, a lot of entrepreneurs think is their due, based on how things went in a particular, extended bubble of time in our recent era.

    Sometimes I wonder, with amusement, if those now struggling with how to make a sustainable, self-sufficient (that is, off the VC [often vanity] teat) buck from their businesses regret their earlier support for illegal music downloads, sharing of software w/o paying licenses, knockoffs etc. etc. etc. etc. (I know not all did, but a LOT of techie types sure as hell did, and do). They directly participated in managing a set of expectations, on a mass scale among consumers, that have come home to bite them in the ass. Perhaps you’ll excuse a bit of smugness, or perhaps not: But I always decried that, never participated in any of it (where pay or licenses were due, I paid, always, as opposed to gaming or ducking), and what I thought would eventually come to pass, has.

    So now what? Haven’t a clue. It does seem pretty clear to me, though, that’s it’s easier to create a better mousetrap than to recalibrate consumer expectations, especially when they’re not only used to free, but have come to believe its an entitlement.

    So now what? It’s easier

  5. amba12 said,

    Marvelous points, and a really knotty problem. We think of this stuff as being like air, free for the breathing. (And it isn’t, anymore, either. It has some “externalities.”)

  6. reader_iam said,

    Sorry for the extraneous sentence. I thought I’d deleted it all. But then, I also thought I’d put an apostrophe between the “t” and “s” in that painful “its”. Meh.

  7. Maxwell said,

    To me the interesting issue here has more to do with consumer perceptions. As the article points out, text messages are a highly profitable arm of the cell phone industry. Yet users generally don’t perceive themselves as paying for the service, either because the price is bundled with other services, or because the price is so low per message (10 cents or whatever) that they write it off. I know I do, and have been surprised in the past when I spent $5 or more on texts in a month – probably a pittance compared to what some of my younger friends and associates spend.

    On a very basic level, I think the “socialists” over at Facebook, etc. are going to figure out very soon that this is only the business model that can work for them, especially with Google dominating the advertising-revenue sector as it does. If they don’t figure that out they’re going out of business. The key is that (many) people will pay a bit per tweet or whatever, just so long as they don’t have to actually go through a discrete transaction every time they do so.

    There’s a lot of disturbing ethical and cultural implications of this. In particular, it’s going to lead to increasing vulnerability of the online payment systems, as people spread their credit card and other valuable information across more vendors – often without even realizing it. That means ever increasing security risks and ID theft, etc. There could also be a net _loss_ of pricing information throughout a large number of markets, leading to increased opportunities for gouging. Simply put, consumers who don’t mind paying as long as they don’t have to think about it are going to be increasingly vulnerable and have a continually weaker negotiating stance. You reap what you sow (And yes, I am bothered by the fact that micropayments for such services don’t bother me either, at least not enough to more effectively guard against them).

  8. Maxwell said,

    Incidentally, I think the article’s “poor them” attitude with regard to internet VC’s is ridiculous. They knew exactly what they were getting into, time and time again. And anytime they want to force the entrepreneurs to make a different decision, they can do so.

  9. reader_iam said,

    Maxwell: Exactly. And also, I think sometimes it really is a “vanity” investment (thus my reference above to “VC [vanity] teat.” I don’t mean that pejoratively with regard to the VC’s (at least if it’s their own money or, if a pool, all proper disclosure takes place). I’m thinking of how rich people through time immemorial have chosen to subsidize things of interest to them, or for reasons of pride, or out of charity, or whatever motivation–the Arts, sports, voyages of discovery, educational institutions, newspapers (yup! them too!), libraries, monuments etc. etc. etc. etc. The “things” might change, but not necessarily the human nature involved. Does this make sense?

  10. Maxwell said,


    While that’s true, I think it’s considerably less true of VC’s than it is of angel investors. VC’s are in it to support entrepreneurship, but they definitely want to make money as well, and structure their approach to risk and management in such a way as to produce a fairly reliable return. Which is to say: I don’t think Facebook, etc., would have been able to raise all that VC money without the funders actually believing there would be a payoff, and relatively soon.

  11. mileslascaux said,

    People pay $15 a month or so to have an account to play MMORPGs. I suppose that’s a good model. On one account you can create dozens of characters. If you hit a tight patch financially, or you know you’ll be away from your computer for a stretch, you can let the account lapse. Months or years ater, you can go back to it.

    The trick, I suppose, is to bundle as many of these services as possible under one or a few entities — which is sort of happening nowadays. So you don’t have to pay $15 a month for each and every goddamn thing on the Net.

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