Twitter had its first language localization in Japan, its first ads (and profitable ones), its first groups (not exactly lists), and now, the “What’s happening” company is trying out a payment model.
“We are noticing more companies using Twitter and individuals following them. We can identify ways to make this experience even more valuable and charge for commercial accounts.”
DG Mobile, which already introduced twitvideo.jp and subsidiary of Digital Garage, the Joi Ito company responsible for Twitter’s foray in the Land of the Rising Sun, announced the advent of subscription models that will charge users to look at tweets and access links starting January 2010.
It is very interesting to learn that the model seems to have reversed the initial logic, as rumored plans did mention charging companies to tweet, not users to read tweets.
Twitter will remain free to use by everyone—individuals, companies, celebrities, etc. What we’re thinking about is adding value in places where we are already seeing traction, not imposing fees on existing services.
Yes, Biz Stone seems to be true to his words, tweets will remain partially free. The complex model will allow everyone to see partial texts, but links and images and selected texts will be behind a pay wall. Unblocking will come with the payment of a small fee.
The announced but yet to-be-confirmed monthly pricing model will range from JYP 100 to JPY 1,000 (USD 1.15 to USD 11.55 at today’s exchange rates), Twitter pocketing 30% on every transaction. It is however unclear how these amounts will be segmented exactly, either per tweet, per link, per group of images or else.
While the pricing structure is similar to what Apple applies for its App Store, it is evidently less clear how will the audience react to paid content, if, as Chris Anderson advocated it, content wants to be free. The Economist and other news structure have recently rolled back their pricing model to a premium one. They might be the ones first in line interested in activating a paid model for their real-time updates.
Brands who offer coupons -a widely successful model in Japan- and deals through the platform will certainly also look up to the new model as a way to gain more revenue, while hoping the users stick with them.
Payment will be done either by credit card, mobile billing or pre-paid cards, those already being a widely-used form of billing available through every convenient store in the country.
Here is one of Sugi-san’s slides providing a more visual look into the premium model (image from ITMedia.co.jp)
The question remains: is this model applicable anywhere else than Japan? Or, to put it bluntly, will the world and the USA in particular experience the same model in 2010?
Japan has a somewhat different structure in terms of its internet culture, with Japanese users being accustomed to pay for some content, such as mobile books or game applications through their keitai, the Japanese mobile phones, which is why I believe the system could gain some traction.
I wouldn’t however put my money on such a system elsewhere in the very short-term. While, on paper, it seems like an attractive model for brands willing to offer some business value through Twitter (again, those offering specials deals to the Twitter-only audience come to mind), users have yet to get used to pay for content, especially through mobile billing in many countries.
It is also unclear if the new Retweet API is adapted to these premium tweets and if people outside of Japan will actually be able to see those updates at all or have any way to access them.
Lots of questions, but this is surely an exciting experiment to follow. News organizations, brands and the Twitter competition should keep an eye on the story.
Let’s also see if Facebook, which will finally be opening offices in Tokyo in 2010, will follow suit and experiment different models.